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Dancing dress: Experiencing and perceiving dress in movement

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Clothing design for dance is an area that has been little documented, particularly in relation to the experience and perception of the dancer. Contemporary dance and clothing can both be understood as fundamentally phenomenological and as such there is further potential to investigate the lived experience of wearing clothing in dance. This article approaches dress in the context of the moving and dancing body, and it aims to develop an understanding of the role of dress in dance by focusing on the sensory, embodied experience and perception of the performer. It addresses questions of how clothing is perceived in movement by the performer, how and if clothing’s design intention, materiality and form motivate physical response, and what conscious or unconscious cognitive processes may be at play in this interaction between the active body and clothing. The intention is to propose developed methods for designers across clothing disciplines to contribute in a meaningful way to the overall dance work. The article draws on an analysis of my practice-led research that employs embodied experience of dress to inform the design and development of clothing as communication and performance. The research has involved close collaboration with a dancer, analysis of recorded interviews, and visual documentation of design and movement. The research has produced data on the dancer’s experience and perception of garments in performance and this is discussed here in relation to writings on perception, performance, the body and cognition. The research is approached through theory and practice and draws on interviews, observation and lived experience. This article is developed from an earlier conference paper that investigated the role and developed potential of clothing in contemporary dance that was presented at the 4th Global Conference: Performance: Visual Aspects of Performance Practice, Inter-Disciplinary.Net, held in Oxford on 17–19 September 2013.
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Keywords: active perception; cognition; design for dance; design methods; embodied design; sensory perception

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: RMIT University

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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