Constant and Simultaneous Reflexivity as a Dance Professional Competence. Discovering, locating, seeing, visualizing and evaluating the dancing body and its parts
Sociology and Social Research University of Trento Trento, Italy
The paper focuses on the particular reflexivity requested to professional dancers and on the ways in which it comes progressively learned and evolves during dance training.
The paper derives from my multisite ethnography on the professional world of dancers. Data include interviews as well as fieldnotes and video-recordings of the everyday activities of two Italian dance companies and related schools, where - in order to better understand dance training a/effects - I also enrolled in dance courses.
What professional dancers must be able to do is to look at their moving body as external observers, not as integrated beings, and to evaluate it. They have to do so (a) constantly - during theatre performances, rehearsals, lessons, exercises - and (b) at the same time they are moving and dancing, while usually we lack reflexivity when we are engaged in practical courses of action.
As the paper shows different resources are exploited - and taught to exploit during dance training - to this end: proprioception, self-perception/vision and self- imagination/visualization. The first one is physical, corporeal, and implies gradually discovering one's own body and its parts; learning to allocate pain in it/them; learning to perceive its/their position in space, as well as their mutual position. The latter two are visual: whereas musicians can hear the sound of their playing, dancers can only re-view their work by performing and looking at their own moving body reflected in a mirror and/or visualized in their mind. While self-vision - with the issues that it implies about perception of identity/otherness - brings to a reflected (moving) image, self-visualization - through the use of metaphors, the personification of body's parts and the attribution to them of an intentionality that normally pertains to the subject as whole - brings to an ideal one.
Finally the paper focuses on the ways in which these reflexive resources assume different relative relevance in different situations (sinchronically) and times (diachronically), interact and mutually evolve - together with one's own body conception - until allowing the performing professional to know if the ideal image corresponds to the one s/he could see in a possible mirror.