Sunday, 16 October 2022

On 'theories' and frameworks...

Some interesting thoughts shared around frameworks, and some fears recognised around 'theories' in our discussion group today. 

I noted that there felt some comfort in talking about frameworks, a kind of being held, supported, with words such as GROUNDING and RITUAL, coming through. There was also the discussion of frameworks being useful in shared work, a way of communicating, or setting the tone/scene for collaborative exchange. Matthew referred to Katie Mitchell's 'The Directors Craft'  as providing something of a framework in his practice. Honor spoke of being introduced to the notion of complicit√© in improvised performance and how that offered a different space/sensation/meaning to interact with  Honor also offered a great articulation of how citing others work provides a framework as a way of signposting to others in the field. I shared 'Between Us' by Bob Whalley and Lee Miller, as an example of practitioners drawing on philosophical theories 'qualia' to illuminate and expand upon their discussions of perception in audience/performer relationships.

Mitchell, K., 2008. The director's craft: A handbook for the theatre. Routledge

Miller, L., 2017. Between us: Audiences, affect and the in-between. Bloomsbury Publishing



proved quite a stumbling block to discuss. I would invite you through your blogs to simply list the theories/theorists you are engaging with right now in your module of study/practice as a starting point. Then look at the concepts you are using in your practice - Imogen referred to 'witnessing'. Taking this as an example, witnessing as a practice has been theorised in the field of Authentic Movement Practice and therapeutic dance/healing processes of Dance Movement Psychotherapy, so there is scholarship to expand discussions around witnessing that began in practice.

Try to think about the frameworks present within your practice - Cassie mentioned external frameworks of curriculum as an example, a framework that is already established and within which you move/teach. What are the frameworks in your practice, how do you navigate them, what theories (established concepts, ways of thinking, strategies of movement) do you use? 

What are the relationship between these theories and frameworks? 

I wrote in my own PhD about theorizing the bodily.... (in the context of improvised dance performance-making)

'Through engagement with scholarship in the field of dance and somatic practice I have been drawn to approaches to movement research which reside within feminist phenomenological perspectives of the body (Sheets Johnstone, 1999, 2015, Barbour, 2011, Fraleigh, 2018). Fraleigh suggests, ‘phenomenology keeps us curious about somatic contexts for creativity and learning, and it outlines ways of describing experiential values of dance and performance’ (2018:37). The various threads of phenomenological perspectives offered through Fraleigh’s writing and those of others in the field are implicit in this research. To be open to the possibilities of transformation of my experiences in practice I theorise experiential learning further through a transactional lens, illuminating transactions with the environment as key to the concept of embodiment (Dewey, 1980, Sullivan, 2001).

In theories of transaction, there is no separation between self and environment unless we impose dualist binaries in the articulation of our experiences. In Living Across and Through Skins: Transactional Bodies, Pragmatism and Feminism (2001), feminist philosopher Sullivan offers a transactional phenomenology which bridges a gap in some ways between Dewey’s pragmatism and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. Sullivan leans on both to present an alternative feminist approach to bodily-lived experience and corporeal habit and it is my reading of this that more appropriately contributes to shaping my own embodied framework for this research'.

Kindred, H. 2021. dancing the in-between-ness: (re)articulating Bartenieff Fundamentals through improvised dnace performance-making, London: Middlesex University, (unpublished PhD thesis)


In this process I was looking for ways to expand and contextualise the articulation of my felt, embodied, experiences in movement. I found a great deal of writing from phenomenological perspectives within the dance scholarship I accessed, these worked for me to an extent, but my lived experience felt more that the relationships between 'things' (body, space-time, environment) was significant and so theories of transaction seemed to more appropriately articulate this. Transaction as a conceptual theory (Dewey) was not then fixed as a framework for my research, but was a theory which contributed (largely through the work of Shannon Sullivan, After Dewey), to my embodied feminist framework.

Please do use your blogs to share your thinking aloud, as it comes, onto the page !!



  1. Thank you for this Helen. I couldn't make the session yesterday sadly, but this is really useful to read. I am in the process of discovering where my practice and writing fits and interacts with existing theory and will blog about this.

  2. It's re-assuring to see that you drew on a few different view points and frameworks when speaking about the same topic. I am finding as I move through theories that I am getting pulled in many directions, and that I am the sum of many different theories, so it's nice to see that writing in this way of comparison or taking from one as well as a different one that is seemingly unrelated, you are coordinating or comparing those thoughts. Thank you for sharing!