Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dance, embodiment, and cultural ecology: The reflexive relationship between bodies & space
by Baines, Lauren, M.F.A., Mills College, 2015, 38; 1590230
Abstract (Summary)

There exists a dynamic, reflexive relationship between bodies and space as humans both respond to and mold the world around them — and vice versa. Bodies and space cannot exist without one another. Through movement, humans not only perceive and engage with the world, but also shape abstract space into the places of their lives as activities affect the characteristics of, perception of, and future interactions with a place. Conversely, the characteristics of a place (whether physical features or societal customs and expectations associated with a place), inform perceptions of and interactions with that place, influencing the behaviors of those who occupy it. Dance, thus, exists not simply as a body moving in space, but as a body in deep, nuanced interaction with space — an interaction that affects both entities. Investigating this body-space relationship as it pertains to site dance, we see more clearly how the body not only occupies space, but also activates it.

Performed outside of traditional performance settings such as theatres and studios, site dance places dance directly in lived space, with specific attention in this paper to dances staged in public spaces. These dances engage not only with the site’s physical characteristics, but also various aspects of the site’s history, its current import to a community, or its potential usages. By situating dance directly in the lived experience, interacting with the places of daily life, site dance possesses the ability to change how people see and experience both dance and place. Removed from the conditioned interaction with performers on a formal stage, site dance allows more inference between spectators and performers as both have the opportunity to recognize, experience, and engage with the same phenomena. And in its honest exchange between dancers and site, the intricate body-space relationship is made tangible to viewers who may see themselves reflected in the actions of the dancers. Through its untraditional, unconventional, and at times transgressive relationship with place, —and its intentional evocation of the history, memory, or function of a specific site,— site dance illuminates the powerful, dynamic relationship we have with our environment and empowers audiences to recognize their role as active agents shaping the non-static entity of space. Through its heightened phenomenological engagement and embodiment within sites for performers and audience alike, site dance affords a new perception of place at a deep experiential level. When dancers occupy, literally or figuratively, the places that humans typically do not, or cannot, physically occupy, and/or engage in behaviors that one might not anticipate in a particular setting, audiences can perceive these sites in new ways which may in turn inform their future interactions with said places. As such, site dance holds potential for affecting change and activation of community and public space which needs further attention in the current trend of creative placemaking and other programs designed to revitalize public spaces, deepen community engagement, or bring attention and/or action to a community concern.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Murphy, Ann
Commitee:
School: Mills College
Department: Dance
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 54/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Dance
Keywords: Activating public space, Bodies and space, Community engagement, Embodiment, Phenomenology, Site dance
Publication Number: 1590230
ISBN: 9781321791198
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