Dance and Academia: Dance Body and Identity

Saturday was the latest annual dance and academia conference organised by Miranda Laurence and held at Oxford’s Old Firestation during the last weekend of Dancin’ Oxford.  This year’s subject was ‘Dance, Body and Identity’.

The morning began unexpectedly and most welcomely with a physical workshop led by choreographer Rosie Kay.  Making ’embodiment’ and the use of the body to communicate through dance a reality.  In this ‘potted’ version we were invited to express  a range of emotions individually as part of a group.  From this we picked our own 3 to ‘dance’ and then communicate/share with a partner (without words) and then with another pair and finally discuss.

This was an introduction to the project she is embarking on with Karin Eli, Caroline Potter and Stanley Ulijaszek which will seek to bridge the gap between anthropological research and contemporary dance practice .  We heard from the team about their aim to create a new methodology using dance and the sensory to communicate with and research people with eating disorders.  Developing  a method of interviewing the body, allowing  participants to create different narratives of illness and finding ways to translate the sensory in to words.

Still in its preparatory stages the project elicited a range of questions both theoretical and practical from the assembled conference goers.

After lunch Rachel Gildea gave a presentation on ‘Dancing to revolt: Women performing the grotesque in 1970’s Britain. With reference to the x6 group and the New Dance movement she described the challenge to notions of the female body and sought to link this with the political and social context of the time and wondered whether artists today, such as Liz Aggis operating in a different climate are a legacy of that spirit of revolt and how much the meaning and reception of the grotesque is changed by the different context.

This led to a discussion facilitated by Luke Pell on Thresholds of Understandings.  The proximity of the historical period chosen in Rachel’s presentation led to some reflection about  the writing of history past and present and also the differences between then and now in terms of documentation and visual records. The place of dance in society as well as (not) in university was also discussed.

As with all workshops and conferences much of the value of the day was also in meeting new people with shared interests from different backgrounds as well as seeing familiar people in a different context.  I look forward to the next mix Miranda brings together with dance and Academia.


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