Composing in dance: thinking with minds and bodies
This study examined how choreographers compose in dance. It extends research on distributed cognition, perceptual problem solving, and written composition to investigate how choreographers and dancers together construct art from movement.Participants in the study were ten professional dancers and choreographers in contemporary dance. Each participant was videotaped at work in rehearsal and/or class; data include video records, ethnographic field notes, collected artifacts, and transcripts of interviews in which participants reflected on selected clips from the studio tapes. Data were analyzed for major tasks involved in composing dance, and how the roles of choreographer and dancer, the structure and nature of rehearsal activities, and the discipline-specific ways of knowing and representing knowledge contributed to the accomplishment of these tasks.Findings from this study suggest that choreographers engage in the same general activities that writers engage in when composing---they plan, generate material, and revise multiple drafts---though in dance these are largely social and embodied processes. The core chapters in this dissertation describe how choreographers and dancers jointly engaged in generating movement material, "setting" movement, developing material, organizing the dance as a whole, and finally, polishing the dance for performance. In each phase in the process, rehearsal activities were structured to help participants reflect on and coordinate both kinesthetic and visual perceptions of movement. By sharing, interpreting, and negotiating these perceptions, choreographer and dancers established mutual understandings of the evolving dance. While choreographers typically set goals, directed rehearsals, and made final compositional decisions, dancers, too, directly and indirectly influenced the composing process. In the end, I show how dancers extend the meanings of a dance by performing their own interpretations of movement, developed through rehearsal.In the final chapter, I describe how this study adds to our understanding of distributed cognition, embodied knowledge, and the co-construction of creative work. I argue that the relationship between choreographer and dancers represents a unique model of collective learning, one that is currently underrepresented in schools and other institutions. I conclude by describing implications of this study for education and cognitive research.
- Education - Seattle