From dance to text and back to dance: A hermeneutics of dance interpretive discourse
McNamara, Joann M.
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The recent publication of numerous and diverse dance interpretive texts has influenced developments in dance performance, choreography, research and education. Through the writer/scholar's arrangement of theory, language, writing style and so forth, these interpretive texts provide coherent perspectives which deeply enhance our understanding of the nature of dance. Although these texts are making significant contributions to the discipline of dance, there has not yet been an analysis conducted about the diverse theories and practices presented by the wide range of approaches currently employed. The purpose of this study was to examine how meaning has been constructed in seven different dance interpretive texts published between 1983 and 1993, and what, collectively, these texts suggest about contemporary notions of the meaning of dance. Hermeneutic phenomenology, a tradition capable of embracing distinctly different perspectives, provided a holistic lens through which interchanges among the various dimensions of dance interpretation, common to each one of the seven texts, were examined. Grounded theory and inductive reasoning were essential to the initial organization of this study, and provided direction to the selection of emerging premises. The seven texts selected for investigation presented distinctly different approaches to the interpretation of dance. These included dance analysis, semiotics, post-structuralism, phenomenology, feminism, ethnography, and hermeneutic phenomenology. Construction of meaning in each of these dance interpretive texts was discovered to emerge from the processes of several different realms of the interpretive situation. It was suggested that the question is no longer, What is the meaning of dance, in general? but rather, From the numerous meanings that are possible, which best suits the essence of this particular dance, at this time, for this population, given the interpreter's own preunderstandings and preferences--and how can that interpretation be constructed? Toward this end, a process-based dance interpretive model was developed, presenting a flexible blueprint from which an interpreter can arrange an approach for her or his particular interpretive situation based upon an informed understanding of the interactions among dance interpretive processes.