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Researching Dance

Researching Dance: Evolving Modes of Inquiry

Sondra Horton Fraleigh
Penelope Hanstein
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Researching Dance
    Book Description:

    InResearching Dance, an introduction to research methods in dance addressed primarily to graduate students, the editors explore dance as evolutional, defining it in view of its intrinsic participatory values, its developmental aspects, and its purposes from art to ritual, and they examine the role of theory in research. The editors have also included essays by nine dancer-scholars who examine qualitative and quantitative inquiry and delineate the most common approaches for investigating dance, raising concerns about philosophy and aesthetics, historical scholarship, movement analysis, sexual and gender identification, cultural diversity, and the resources available to students. The writers have included study questions, research exercises, and suggested readings to facilitate the book's use as a classroom text.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7195-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Part I. Context, Process, and Theory

      (pp. 3-21)
      Sondra Horton Fraleigh

      Anything (material or nonmaterial) can be the object of our awareness, attention, or questioning mind. Whenever we ask “what is this?” we enter into an inquiring frame of mind. When we research something, we formalize this intuitive process to establish a definition for qualitative discourse or quantitative testing. We define the thing we seek to know more about. Then we have a basis for communicating the findings. The results of the research will rest on our basic understanding and definition of the thing we are investigating. The activity of defining underlies all other aspects of research.

      Naming things is at...

    • 2 FROM IDEA TO RESEARCH PROPOSAL: Balancing the Systematic and Serendipitous
      (pp. 22-61)
      Penelope Hanstein

      Research is a confusing term; it has so many meanings and applications that it is difficult to understand precisely what we mean when we speak about research in a scholarly sense. We all have done research of one sort or another—looked up the date of the first performance of a favored dance work, sought pedagogical information by asking several experienced teachers about the best way to present material in a choreography class, or consultedConsumer Reportsto select the best VCR to purchase. All of these activities do indeed involve research, but are they research as scholarship?

      Consider your...

    • 3 MODELS AND METAPHORS: Theory Making and the Creation of New Knowledge
      (pp. 62-88)
      Penelope Hanstein

      New knowledge may take many forms, ranging from art works to personal narratives to mathematical theorems to scientific findings. Such knowledge emerging from the research process is most often in the form of theory. Theory, like research, has many definitions and applications. Some of these are narrow and restrictive, requiring a theory to be derived from quantifiable data and capable of being tested. Other definitions are more inclusive and consider a theory to be a systematically organized set of statements that analyze and explain the nature and behavior of a specified set of phenomena. This understanding includes those theories resulting...

  2. Part II. Modes of Inquiry and Dance Research Methods

      (pp. 91-123)
      Jill Green and Susan W. Stinson

      Often, when people think of research, they think of the tradition of the natural sciences that began during the Enlightenment: an attempt to go beyond the word of God, tradition, folklore, and other nonempirical sources of knowledge. Scientific research is based on an assumption that the world is a predictable place, if only we can determine the laws by which it operates. Most of us were introduced to the guidelines of such research in secondary school, and they were elaborated in each science course from then on, as well as in most graduate research courses. We learned that good science...

      (pp. 124-161)
      Steven J. Chatfield

      The history of science is replete with experimentalists who, like the princes of Serendip, “were always making discoveries, by accident or sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”¹ Because of its conventional presentational format, scientific experimentation might appear to some to be an extremely orderly, even formulaic sequence of steps that all experimentalists follow in their efforts to contribute to the smoothly cumulative, linear advancement of scientific knowledge. However, in an analysis of the history of science it becomes apparent that many great discoveries were happy accidents discovered by creative and perceptive workers through absorption in inventive experimental...

      (pp. 162-187)
      Joann McNamara

      Consider how meaning and its interchanges with interpretation thread through the following dance moments:

      A researcher reads two different books about the meaning of dance and tries to make sense out of the conflicting interpretations.

      Discussing the Judson Church Dance Theatre in a dance history class, a student wonders: What was it like to dance in New York in the early 1960s, and to be part of the social milieu of that time?

      Observing a cross-cultural dance, an audience member grapples with its meaning.

      Talking in the dressing room after a contact improvisation performance, dancers are struck by the diverse...

      (pp. 188-224)
      Sondra Horton Fraleigh

      Do frogs jump high because they have great hip extensors? Do they jump high because of some reflex stimulus? In order to experience themselves in the jump? For fun? For food? For protection? Or is the jump an incredible air moment in a dance, a sprightly surprise contrast to unblinking stillness? If this were true, the height of the jump might find its reason in human delight.

      The latter does not speak to the frog’s point of view, but rather to a matter ofhuman perception. Accordingly, it poses an aesthetic question. Are frog jumps delightful to humans especially on...

    • 8 THE SENSE OF THE PAST: Historiography and Dance
      (pp. 225-248)
      Shelley C. Berg

      In her novel,To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf allows her character, Mrs. Ramsey, a flash of unusual insight and illumination; the past is shaped by the present and the present is reshaped by the past. At any given instant, we both live history and live in history. For the dance historian, struggling with questions of historiography, the relationship of past and present is doubly complex. Theories of writing about history become more problematic in light of the ephemeral nature of what theater historian Joseph Roach calls the “transcendental signified”; the act of performance.¹ Because dance history is both enacted and...

    • 9 DANCE ETHNOGRAPHY: Tracing the Weave of Dance in the Fabric of Culture
      (pp. 249-280)
      Joan D. Frosch

      Depending upon the weaver of the tale, the story of the study of dance in cultural context is woven of varying threads. This version is a discussion of the practice of dance ethnography within the weave of history, method, and current concerns.¹

      A caveat … “Is the concept dance useful in studying either our own culture or others?”²

      Historically, the very concept of dance has been a thorny theoretical patch in the practice of dance ethnography. What do we mean when we call a movement behavior “dance”? How do the researcher’s assumptions embedded in “dance” help or hinder ethnographic studies?...

  3. Part III. Research Tools and Issues Specific to Dance

    • 10 EVERY LITTLE MOVEMENT HAS A MEANING ALL ITS OWN: Movement Analysis in Dance Research
      (pp. 283-308)
      Mary Alice Brennan

      To state that human movement is the basis of dance is not a revelation. What is surprising is that its detailed study has not more fully permeated all areas of dance research and that a conceptual framework and systematic approach of movement analysis applicable for inclusion in varied research designs is still not widely accepted. Attention to the analysis of dance movement is not new. For centuries people have given verbal descriptions of steps, drawn pictures or symbols of dance, and eloquently detailed in words the poetry of dance movement. Through these efforts present-day scholars have clues to what dance...

    • 11 ENGENDERING DANCE: Feminist Inquiry and Dance Research
      (pp. 309-333)
      Jane C. Desmond

      In its broadest contours, feminist scholarship investigates the historical constitution of gender as a category of social differentiation and analyzes the effects of this epistemological divide in all realms of human endeavor including economics, the arts, public institutions, popular culture, and the daily experiences of individuals and groups. It also investigates how ideologies of gender difference operate to naturalize such concepts and their material effects so that they appear normal and inevitable.

      Gender systems are always political in the most fundamental sense of articulating a division of power. They operate in complex and often contradictory ways and intersect with other...

      (pp. 334-351)
      John O. Perpener III

      Dance history, like other academic disciplines, is influenced by contemporary trends in education and the new directions in scholarship that those trends produce. For more than a decade, the reassessment of research goals has been influenced by issues of multiculturalism and diversity in American education. As university curricula continue to be restructured in acknowledgment of the diverse roots of America’s intellectual and cultural heritage, scholars from various disciplines are searching for ways to include traditionally disenfranchised voices in their discourses. Such developments have increasingly influenced dance history scholars to recognize that diverse and historically marginalized groups have made profound contributions...

    (pp. 352-354)
    Sondra Horton Fraleigh and Penelope Hanstein

    Swing from the rope that hangs from the grid, holding the loop at the end. Since we first began to understand it as more than taps and steps or swinging from ropes, more than glitter and goo, more than skipping or running in the breeze (holding our mothers’ curtains aloft), more than leaping in splits or tangling ourselves around other bodies, more than contact or giving and taking weight, even more than pulsing with drumming or floating with butoh-white shadow bodies, dance has become a field, more than its descriptive parts, yet all of them, still more.

    Its identity is...