Brain, Dance and Culture
Posted by Paul Mason on July 24, 2009
“Dance is created by the embodied brain, influenced by culture and shaped and inspired by our relationship to and our perception of the environment” (Mason, 2009:28).
Some readers may already be familiar with a diagram that was posted on the neuroanthropology blog Paul Mason: Slides on Neuroanthropology at the beginning of 2008. I also included a black and white version of this diagram on page 109 of an article that I published in Bahasa Indonesia:
Mason, P.H. (2007) Alam, Otak dan Kebudayaan: Perkembangan Baru Tentang Pengetahuan Musik dan Tari. Gema Seni: Jurnal Komunikasi, Informasi, dan Dokumentasi Seni, Vol 2, no. 4, pp. 108-119.
More recently, I incorporated the image in an article for Brolga: An Australian Journal About Dance; Jun2009 Issue 30, p27-34, which discusses the evolutionary properties of collaborative choreography (Mason 2009). I hypothesize that collaborative choreography is characterised by evolutionary processes at multiple levels of complexity. An ethnography of choreographic methods in contemporary dance practices, I believe, can provide insight into intersubjective interactions, reveal the development of shared perceptions and elucidate the cultural processes of creativity, meaning construction and distributed cognition.
In Australian Contemporary Dance, it is common for a new dance work to commence with the exploration of a choreographic intention through guided improvisation tasks. From this raw movement material, the choreographic ensemble will select sequences and phrases that are then memorised and organised until a choreographic product is prepared for performance.
“Improvisation is represented as the downwards pointing triangle that narrows as the triangle of choreography expands. In theory, an infinite amount of movement possibilities generated through improvisation are degenerated into the finite world of a choreographed performance” (Mason, 2009:29).
If you’re looking to read the article (or cite the diagrams), it is available through EBSCOhost:
MASON, Paul Howard (2009) Brain, Dance and Culture: The choreographer, the dancing scientist and interdisciplinary collaboration., Brolga: An Australian Journal About Dance; Jun2009 Issue 30, p27-34, 8p, 1 diagram, 1 bw
I would also recommend Janice Fournier’s article How a creative “system” learns: the distributed activity of choreography (2004), John Sutton’s Moving and Thinking together in Dance, and Thinking in Four Dimensions edited by Robin Grove, Catherine Stevens and Shirley McKechnie