Caroline Potter (School of Anthropology) gave a thought-provoking account of her ethnographic study of professional dancers, taking a phenomenological approach to learn about their perceptions of the mind-body relationship. Contemporary literature rejects the Cartesian mind-body dualism, yet these categories persist in the way dancers describe their experiences. Caroline presented several examples where such categories prevail in the training of dancers: the notion of the ‘centre’, both as a material and physical centre of gravity, and as imagined: a centre of attention and intentionality; in the concept of ‘bodily control’, where abstract imaginations foster greater bodily focus; and the perception of the head which serves as both a bio-medical basis for thought and a bio-mechanical tool. The following discussion touched on a number of topics, including the embodied nature of the development of expertise in other practices; and the quality of ‘groundedness’ in contemporary dance in comparison to other dance forms such as ballet and Japanese Butoh, as well as wrestling and martial arts. Methodological issues were considered, such as the cultural context of the study; and the potential limitations of capturing dancers’ impressions of their practice through interview rather than a more visual method such as video recording (which itself can present its own challenges).
Embodiment and Materiality
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