Dancing bodies and sensing place — ASN Events

Dancing bodies and sensing place (14641)

Michelle Duffy 1 , Paul Atkinson 2
  1. Federation University, Churchill, VIC, Australia
  2. Monash University, Caulfield, Vic, Australia

Derek McCormack (2013) suggests that the recent emergence in human geography of approaches such as non-representational theory encourage us to explore the ways in which space and place are constituted through practice and experience. ‘The important question,’ he argues, ‘is how to cautiously reaffirm experience as a source – however modest – of conceptual, empirical, and ethico-political experiment’ (2013: xi). We argue that dance is such an ethico-political experiment, significant to understanding the processes of moving, sensing and dwelling, because its subject is the gestural, rather than spatial, organisation of place. Examining the dancing body reveals, in practice, an unspoken corporeal knowledge that subsists in our engagement with the everyday world. As Nigel Thrift argues, these dancing bodies tell ‘of living as a succession of luminous or mundane instants ... of movement as a desire for a presence which escapes a consciousness-centred core of self-reference’ (Thrift, 2008: 7). The corporeal aesthetics of dance is a means of shifting the focus of socio-cultural engagement from the optical and discursive to the rhythmic, affectual, and dynamic potential of the body in motion. Dance’s aesthetic, cultural and bodily gesturing of space invites us to become attuned differently to place-making. In this paper we will examine a range of modalities of the dancing body, in particular effort and rhythm, in order to understand the role of corporeal and sensual movements in conditioning spatial and affective relations.