Dancing the Thesis : Potentials and Pitfalls in Practice-led Research

Stock, Cheryl F., Phillips, Maggi, & Vincs, Kim (2009) Dancing the Thesis : Potentials and Pitfalls in Practice-led Research. In Re-searching Dance: International Conference on Dance Research, Jawaharalal Nehru University, Dance Alliance-India, India International Centre, New Delhi, pp. 53-59.

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Practice-led or multi modal theses (describing examinable outcomes of postgraduate study which comprise the practice of dancing/choreography with an accompanying exegesis) are an emerging strength of dance scholarship; a form of enquiry that has been gaining momentum for over a decade, particularly in Australia and the United Kingdom. It has been strongly argued that, in this form of research, legitimate claims to new knowledge are embodied predominantly within the practice itself (Pakes, 2003) and that these findings are emergent, contingent and often interstitial, contained within both the material form of the practice and in the symbolic languages surrounding the form.

In a recent study on ‘dancing’ theses Phillips, Stock, Vincs (2009) found that there was general agreement from academics and artists that ‘there could be more flexibility in matching written language with conceptual thought expressed in practice’. The authors discuss how the seemingly intangible nature of danced / embodied research, reliant on what Melrose (2003) terms ‘performance mastery’ by the ‘expert practitioner’ (2006, Point 4) involving ‘expert’ intuition (2006, Point 5), might be accessed, articulated and validated in terms of alternative ways of knowing through exploring an ongoing dialogue in which the danced practice develops emergent theory.

They also propose ways in which the danced thesis can be ‘converted’ into the required ‘durable’ artefact which the ephemerality of live performance denies, drawing on the work of Rye’s ‘multi-view’ digital record (2003) and Stapleton’s ‘multi-voiced audio visual document’(2006, 82). Building on a two-year research project (2007-2008) Dancing Between Diversity and Consistency: Refining Assessment in Postgraduate Degrees in Dance, which examined such issues in relation to assessment in an Australian context, the three researchers have further explored issues around interdisciplinarity, cultural differences and documentation through engaging with the following questions:  How do we represent research in which understandings, meanings and findings are situated within the body of the dancer/choreographer?  Do these need a form of ‘translating’ into textual form in order to be accessed as research?  What kind of language structures can be developed to effect this translation: metaphor, allusion, symbol?  How important is contextualising the creative practice?  How do we incorporate differing cultural inflections and practices into our reading and evaluation?  What kind of layered documentation can assist in producing a ‘durable’ research artefact from a non-reproduce-able live event?

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ID Code: 29413
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: dancing thesis , practice-led research , embodiment, documentation, cultural difference
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Dance (190403)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 The Authors
Deposited On: 23 Dec 2009 04:38
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2014 22:27

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