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Interpreting embodied dance practice

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This article discusses the experience of learning dance practice in a UK University in the context of phenomenological hermeneutics. The ironies of dance as an embodied practice against requirements of assessment from a higher education institution will be discussed. The research has been gathered through practice-based reflection and investigation, contextualized with information published on reflective practice and phenomenological hermeneutics. This context is essential to understand the observations made in practice and inform pedagogic developments integral to this research. This article is also informed by research concerned with assessment and autonomous learning in dance within a UK higher education context. The article outlines the particular issues of learning and assessing dance as an embodied practice and considers them in the context of phenomenological hermeneutics as described by Gadamer and Koegler. This consideration has contributed to the construction of an autonomous learning framework that acknowledges the uniqueness of dance as an embodied practice. An evaluation of the framework is presented through an analytical discussion of student feedback. The outcomes produced for the assessment of dance practice in UK higher education institutions are largely ephemeral and embodied; therefore representations of these outcomes are captured though film, discussion and writing to support students’ reflection and personal development of dance practice. However, these representations are unable to capture students’ embodied reflections and experience in their entirety in the context of a conventional, hierarchical position of the lecturer’s subjectivity. Phenomenological hermeneutics is concerned with understanding the process of interpretation and therefore provides an appropriate philosophical framework with which to reconsider the experience of learning dance in higher education as an embodied practice. Philosophical notions of dialectic interchange and temporal distance enable lecturers and students to reconsider their relationship with the ephemeral and embodied assessment outcomes of dance practice in a UK University. Assessed embodied dance practice can then be positioned outside of a subject–object interpretation that is unable to relate to the self that produces the work. The conclusion of the article is that engagement with a variety of dialectic interchange and temporal distance enables lecturers to provide a framework for students to reflect on and develop their embodied practice, approach to learning and knowledge of themselves. This can be achieved by the techniques of questioning and disclosure offered through phenomenological hermeneutics.

Keywords: assessment; autonomous learning; dance practice; dualism; hermeneutics; interpretation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: De Montfort University

Publication date: 2012-04-27

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  • This journal focuses on the relationship between dance and somatic practices, and the influence of this body of practice on the wider performing arts. The journal will be aimed at scholars and artists, providing a space for practitioners and theorists to debate the work, to consider the impact and influence of the work on performance, the interventions that somatic practices can have on other disciplines and the implications for research and teaching.
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