Knowing in the body: A dancer's emergent epistemology




Wilson, Margaret A.

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The purpose of this study was to explore how knowing in the body develops when dancers translate and integrate detail and sensory information about the structure and function of their bodies, both through movement exploration, and in their dancing. In this research I asked how the body both can be a site of knowledge and how this knowledge develops and emerges. I reflect on the implications of this research as it pertains to pedagogy, and throughout this document I describe a pedagogy that puts the body (back) at the center of teaching in dance.

Four courses which blended anatomic information with experiential application, both in terms of improvisation and exploration and within a structured dance technique class, and two biomechanical studies generated data for analysis. The data collected reflects different research and pedagogical approaches which provided multiple sources of information. A case study methodology allowed me to look in depth at each group and grounded theory methodology allowed me to integrate multiple sources of data for analysis.

Framing the data within a larger milieu, created through a review of literature in ecological affordance, embodied cognition, phenomenology and embodiment, I detail how dancers are Bodies-in-the-World, who through research, exploration and integration of information about all bodies, explore more deeply their understandings of their own bodies. When dancers integrate knowledge of the body with knowledge of their dancing, this knowledge acts as an attractor that leads to the development of an individual physical knowledge—a knowing in the body. Each dancer has an individual epistemology that develops from her experiences and her expectations. This epistemology, knowing in the body, develops in action and is influenced by many different sources.

Understanding how dancers develop knowing in the body presents a new paradigm for pedagogy. Placing the body back at the center of dance, a bodily centered pedagogy creates a different paradigm for teaching dance. In addition to learning about movement, a bodily centered pedagogy teaches dancers how to access a knowing in their bodies when they are dancing.



Communication and the arts, Body, Dancer, Epistemology, Knowing