Sunday, 1 May 2016

Plurality of meaning...

It was good to hear from Alanna and April in this morning's Skype call, both at different places (geographically and in the MA) finding connections through notions of teaching and learning, values, motivations and expectations.  It is always something of a 'push' I think to be asked to articulate to others your research in order to begin sharing it, and this push was well met this morning.

Something that arose for me during the discussions was the idea of plurality.  The idea that there are, and there should be, space for multiple methods, perspectives, meaning, not only in dance but in the world.  There is a need to make this space more visible through research, to experience is one thing, but to be aware of it moves it.  We talked a little about polarities, distinctions around what we are not, but the danger of then 'fixing' of limiting what we are as a result, about different perspectives as we reveal the many voices to our research.  So in attempts to promote a move away from a culture of either / or and advocate instead for multiple alternatives, I am going to share here some research around the practices and philosophies of improvisation in dance. 

"All binaries need now investigating not for their deceptively reassuring ability to be collapsed into stable - and static - units, but the very opposite: that all binaries are 'really' hidden - and dynamic - triads. Because any two terms necessarily postulate the notion of 'relationship' as the necessary - third - factor which simultaneously separates and joins any two related forces or factors ... The crucial factor here is not how many ways two different units can relate to each other, but recognition that this 'third element' is not a unit but an axis, not an entity but a state of being, less a relationship than an act of relating"    (George, 1989: 71-85)

Writing on ambiguity in performance David George posits the need for an investigation of binary terms, a need to acknowledge and I would argue, to value the fluidity of the space between polarities.  In the practice of Improvisation it is in this between space that things happen. The Gap as Nancy Stark-Smith refers to it, between the conscious and the unconscious, the place where you do not know where you are, where frames of reference (of normality, of practice, of visibility) are suspended - this is the place in research, investigation of any kind that you need to experience and to be aware through reflection that you are experiencing it.  It is only through suspending what you know, that you can be open to acknowledging the value in what you do not know.  

The nature of dance improvisation being that you are making choices in the moment of movements arising in relationship to your self, others and your environment necessitates for me a relinquishing of control, a letting go of fixed ideas around this or that and a move towards taking pleasure in the multiplicity of options available to you.  The body as a site for investigation is infinite in its possibilities.  The ability to play between inner and outer spaces (Bartenieff), offers in itself a site for exploring beyond the binaries of mind and body, body and environment. If we can accept that our self is not limited to a fixed notion of mind and body (as two entities) but take pleasure in negotiating, re-articulating our sense of self through an exploration of the relationships between the two we may move through our research with a similar acceptance of plurality.  

One research question will usually grow to give voice to several other questions (I thought I was looking at one colour, but now I'm aware of the whole rainbow!).  These questions in turn will be addressed through a number of methods as feels appropriate to your field of practice and the context of your research.  The methods used will in turn gather data which is unlikely to offer a singular meaning.  Whilst multiple voices to your research (yours, those of the literature, the participants to your research, the context of your practice) may present conflict and this tension may throw into question what you thought you knew, your sense of stability (we very much hope it does!) the acknowledgement of these pluralities is crucial to change and development.  

April spoke this morning about her research making space for new learning, offering alternative experiences of dance for young children in the primary school where her research js based.  I think it is the responsibility of the researcher to make visible the spaces for alternatives.  If we move away from a need to be this or that, to align with this theory or that one, to see dance as entertainment or education, we are able to offer a voice to many possible meanings.  Making space for alternatives is necessary if we are to give value to the plurality of meanings and reduce the privileging of one over another.

What spaces have been made visible through your research?


  1. This is so helpful Helen. Lots of links created today, thank you.

  2. Sorry I missed the Skype calls yesterday, had to work an event all day. Really useful to read through some blogs to hear what was discussed and follow up on some of the thoughts...head down and trying to make sense of my thoughts today. Thank you for the added motivation!

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