2013 Editors’ Introduction

It is with great pleasure, excitement, and pride that we welcome readers to the inaugural edition of the Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship (JEDS). In this first 2013 journal are 16 articles representing diverse geographies, interests, and trajectories for where and how dance will be practiced and analyzed in the future. The numerous articles originally submitted for review were all double-blind reviewed by dance artists and scholars with noted expertise and practices in diverse fields of the dance discipline. All authors for this journal are in higher education graduate programs or are within 5 years of graduating from these programs. The journal was developed through the sponsorship of the World Dance Alliance to support emerging dance scholars as they become important and necessary forces for dance in the 21st century.  Most importantly, all authors represent new ideas, new insights, and new imaginings for how possible pathways may be forged for artists/scholars embarking on their future dance journeys. To navigate through the articles, please read the brief descriptions of the articles and themes below and then click on the links to each theme to find detailed abstracts of each article, biographies of the authors, and the full text.

As editors, we intentionally chose not to limit this initial journal to any themes or specified boundaries for submission; instead, we wanted to see how and where the submissions might take us.  After working with the final submissions chosen by the reviewers as most ready for publication and as showing the most original research, we found that the articles divided themselves into four themes.  Within each theme, however, each author creates differing perspectives on how dance praxis (connections between theory and practice) might be re-envisioned.  Our hope is that as JEDS continues, more editors representing diverse locations and languages will join our efforts so that the rich voices and movements of these dance artists and scholars can be shared around the world.

The 2013 edition of JEDS was organized around the four following areas:

Dance as Shifting Curricula and Learning/Teaching Possibilities

Rainy Demerson opens this section by introducing the readers to a re-imagination of dance curriculum in public education.  In her article, “Teaching Dances of the African Diaspora:  An Emancipatory Intercultural Approach,” Demerson discusses how dance can help students discover their own cultural identities through culturally-based movement experiences from a global perspective.  She further offers examples of engaged classroom activities for modeling responsible intercultural education as community building. Within these activities, important questions concerning what values are being taught in current dance curricula are raised with further insights into how these values can become inclusive rather than exclusive.

The paper “Eclectic Lessons from Taiwan: Hard-working Dancers at Tsoying High School” by Ellen Gerdes describes the structure of dance education at Tsoying High School Dance Division. It further reviews the pedagogy of the dance curriculum and the importance of the individualized process of training to inspire and excite students who will make up the next generation of professional dancers in Taiwan. Of interest, is how Gerdes creates her ideas in collaboration with the voices and desires of the students participating in her research process. Reading the experiences shared by Gerdes and her students in tandem with those of Demerson opens possible territories in which dance curriculum can be explored and shaped through the individual needs of the student learners.

Rachel Holdt, in “Considering Technology Integrated Dance Curriculum in Post-Secondary Education,” evaluates new frontiers of technology as fundamental to post-secondary dance curriculum. She introduces specific case studies while further incorporating evidence-based research from current and former educators in the field.  Questions of assessment, traditional learning outcomes in dance, and collaborative possibilities are raised and problematized. Most importantly, Holdt places the future of dance as being economically, artistically, and educationally tied to how engagement with technology creates evolving learning environments within the dance classroom.

This section closes on a very different and tactile note with David Outevsky’s “The Role of Touch as a Teaching and Learning Tool in Dance.” He begins by exploring differing research conducted on the use of touch within disciplines such as child development, dance therapy, somatics, and psychiatry, then further analyzes the positive and negative aspects raised within each. Of interest is how Outevsky connects the use of touch within his own practice as a professional ballroom dancer to learning as communication between teacher and student within the dance classroom.

Dance as Living Histories, Spiritualties, and Political Resistances 

The writings within this area were perhaps the most disparate at first glance.  However, after reading each it became clear to the editors that the terms of dance history, spirituality, and political resistance take on new and diverse meanings as they weave through and between each author’s differing trajectories.  Caroline Althof in her “Celebration and Critique of 95 Years of Le Sacre du Printemps:  Yvonne Rainer’s RoS Indexical,” questions why “Rainer, a postmodern icon who spent a lifetime deconstructing tradition, decided to rework this ballet.”  With this question as a guide, Althof leads the reader through covert and overt historical references as Rainer asks each viewer to imaginatively piece together the various sources presented in her index. History becomes enlivened as past and present become traces of one another.

Erinn Liebhard, in “Pulsating Value:  Examining the Development of Dismissive Attitudes Toward Concert Jazz Dance In 1960s America,” further disrupts the aesthetic values posited by American dance history texts and critics emerging mid-twentieth century.  She provides important insights into how the jazz movement aesthetic provided ways for people, especially those moving outside of white modern and post-modern dance forms, to construct and deconstruct identities of race, class, gender, and sexuality through movement. The act of re-viewing dance through a cultural, political, and gendered lens rather than purely as an aesthetic critique also emerges in Miranda Wickett’s “Spring In War Time: Post-War Effects On Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps.”  Here, themes of guilt, shame and isolation are discussed as stemming from Nazi, post-war and Cold War culture.  Both Liebhard’s and Wickett’s articles open important methods for discussing dance as situated within the histories and cultures from which it emerged.

Further questioning the politics surrounding the production of dance within current American society is Sarah Wilbur’s “The Right to Fail:  Choreography, Policy, and U.S. Cultural Production.”  Wilbur elects to disrupt historical archives describing a stable and simple notion of dance production in American society. She analyzes information posited by the National Endowment of the Arts and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in relation to the real, everyday practice of dance makers in the 21st century.  This analysis creates a complex portrait of dancemaking textured by differing theoretical and practice-based examples. Most importantly, Wilbur opens new trajectories for how policies reflecting the individualized and chameleon-like nature of current dance practices might be reviewed and renewed.

Emily Wright’s “A Space For Worship: History And Practice In Christian Sacred Dance” provides a concrete example of the complex, current dancemaking terrain evoked in Wilbur’s writing.  By creating intricate descriptions of dance within historically Christian spaces, Wright traces how the resurgence of Christian Sacred Dance is currently emerging in the 21st century Protestant Church.  However, Wright goes one step further by analyzing how the historical sites of Christian dance practice ignite interesting questions into the volatile relationships between dance practice and the spaces in which it is performed.  Wright’s article provides an interesting bridge into the following articles also discussing dance as emerging from religious and cultural sites, but from diverse geographical and cultural locations and practices.

Dance as Living Ethnographies

In her paper, “Before the Dance: ‘Nascent’ Dance Movements in Non-Dance Performances: The Case of Kobigaan,” Priyanka Basu analyzes the representational practice of dance or dance-like movements within a performance popularly known as Kobigaan, which is essentially a performance genre consisting of verse-dueling, that is a musical duel between two poetasters. She looks at the way in which dance or dance-like movements aid and structure the meaning making process for the performer in order to become an essential aspect of the narrativization central to the particular genre. The paper seeks entry into the arena of Dance Studies by linking the dance or dance-like movements to the performative impulses they give to the transmission of the verse-duel and how these are then communicated to the audience.

Aastha Kumar’s paper “Constructing and Performing the Odissi Body: Ideologies, Influences and Interjections” contextualizes the classicization process of the Indian dance form Odissi within Indian History in general and within the socio-cultural context within the state of Odissa in particular. She looks at the constructed aesthetic of the dance and the dancing body as not only representing a particular dance tradition, but as also constructing the ideal body of the dancer as per the conceptual ideals of womanhood. She further introduces prominent women dancers and traces their journeys to understand the push and pull of tradition and transition within the form as the dance and the dancers become a part of a global community of performers.

A. P. Rajaram deals with trance and the dance within the ritual of Kavadi Attam in his paper “‘Kavadi Attam’ a Dance Ritual Practiced as a Community Performance.” Arguing that the movements, believed to be generated as a part of the possession of the devotee by a spirit, are actually generated by stimulus and incentives stored within the individual devotee’s muscles as memory generated by community associations, the scholar seeks to understand the role of the community expectations in the ‘unconscious’ acts of the individual devotee. His paper looks at the dance during the ritual as a community identity, which has also been practiced as a marker of the Tamil immigrants in different parts of the world.

Dance in New Spaces with New Audiences by New Performers

Ilana Goldman in “Performance Matters in Community Dance” discusses how community dance projects have traditionally been portrayed as providing an opportunity for non-professional dancers to perform and reap the benefits of the dance process rather than as performing a necessarily meaningful and aesthetic final product.  Goldman creates an alternative view by maintaining that the community product, often a culminating performance, deserves more attention than it has received in the past. By introducing numerous insights from dance artists working within community settings, Goldman concludes that performance plays a key role in fostering an empowered communal production for both the performers and the audience.

In “Physical Social Commentary: Redefining Social Roles Using All-Ability Dance,” Lauren Guyer-Douglas continues to explore the issues raised by Goldman through an examination of the use of movement and performance among senior adults in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She describes performance as producing “tools for redefining social roles, constructing a new understanding for the term ‘old,’ and evolving the expectations of a dancing body.” Guyer-Douglas further discusses how notions of “old” are multi-layered and subjective, and, therefore, deserving reconsideration for use within society. The author provokes possibilities for qualitative research methodologies by incorporating the emotional influences of fieldwork as well as the researcher’s training as a dance practitioner into the reality in which this research is presented.

Complicating easy notions of community dance process and performance further, Lily Sloan in “Sourcing — Creating — Sharing: A Method For Creating Site-Specific Performance” discusses how trained dancers and improvisational artists creatively engaged with a local community through site-specific dance. In her articulation of the dancers’ creative process in a live performance at a local café and bar, the author relates the process of collecting actions, conversations, and interactions over a period of time within the bar and in collaborations with online participants. This collected data formed the basis for an evening length dance in which new contexts for an everyday space were altered for dancers and audiences alike: Community as performance in this instance becomes an ongoing performative process.

Sonya Smith continues to problematize dance performance sites, dance aesthetics, and traditional dance training in “Aesthetics of Aerial Dance and Aerial Circus.” In her article, she posits the following two questions: 1) What elements comprise an aesthetic continuum from which to view aerial performance?  2) How can aerial performance be described and contextualized using this continuum in order to critically place it in a larger scholarly discussion of performance? Using six performance examples, Smith opens the complexities emerging from an analysis of her questions.  By linking insights from historical and critical discussions of circus work to current explorations in 21st century aerial dance work, Smith expands on how, where, why, and by whom dance is performed.

In conclusion, all of the authors are beginning a journey into how their practices as artists and scholars can open new understandings and provocations for dance as shared human performance. It is the mission of JEDS to provide an open access site for these emerging conversations to take place. We genuinely send our appreciation to all those WDA folks who helped us shape the journal, to the website designers and graphic artists who donated their time and talents, to the reviewers, and to the authors who had the courage to share their ideas with our readers. This work was an effort of love, patience, and hope.

Linda Caldwell, Ph.D., Professor and Coordinator of Doctoral Studies in Dance, Department of Dance, Texas Woman’s University, USA
(World Dance Alliance-Americas - http://www.wda-americas.net/)
Urmimala Sarkar, Ph.D., Visiting Faculty, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
(World Dance Alliance-Asia Pacific - http://www.wda-ap.org/wda-ap/wda-ap.htm )