Brain, Dance and Culture

slide2_Paul H Mason_copyright 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.

From Improvisation to Choreography“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

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Paul Mason

I am a biomedically trained social anthropologist interested in biological and cultural diversity.

7 thoughts on “Brain, Dance and Culture

  1. Very interesting, will read the paper soon. The improv/choreography diagram reminded me somehow of a couple of pages from my thesis, pages 66-67 in the Scribd posting.
    I’m no scientist though, but the idea of an embodied approach to improvisation is fascinating to me. I think this paper will definitely inspire future performances. I’m quite focused on the tension of improvising within a set, structured system.

  2. Your thesis looks really interesting, and I’m glancing through it in another tab as I write here. I really like the presentation! Thanks for the link!!!

  3. Dance is a form of Neural relaxation and enhance the neural plasticity-longivity of our life. Our cultural ways teaches these. But in urban centers our sedentary life style has drastically reduced this charaters among us. therefore we are sedentary life stlye diseases. Dance in the rythemic ways enhance our entire body. It is wounder area to explore further befor the anthropologists. I am working with some neurological diseases and trying to evolve the Neurological anthropology or Anthropology of Neurons emitatingthe cultutre as felt by the Brain cells coupled with the environment interactions-become culture of the particular community of people.

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