Complete this quote: “In collaborative research with dancers, scientists can…”

Reply below and let us know how you would complete this quote:

“In collaborative research with dancers, scientists can…”

This week’s quote comes from page 25 of Brain, Dance & Culture 2: Evolutionary Characteristics in the collaborative choreographic process of Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, an article by Paul Mason & Elizabeth Dalman (2009).

The second in a two-part series on brain, dance and culture has just been published by Brolga–An Australian Journal about dance. In this series, I present a cognitive ethnography of dance that draws upon theory and methodology from dance anthropology and phenomenology. Specifically, the articles look at evolutionary processes that can be found in brain and culture with dance as a socially and physically embedded activity that exists at the intersection of neural and cultural processes. There are five key processes of evolutionary systems that can be identified in collaborative choreography: Variation, Selection, Memory, Organisation and Complexity. Identifying these five processes at multiple levels of complexity is an important step towards understanding how brain and culture interact in human expressive systems.

This Train
Choreographed by Elizabeth Cameron Dalman,
Photograph courtesy of Graham Howard (2006)

Abstract for Brain, Dance and Culture 2:

2006 saw the end of a performance dance course that was once integrally connected to the performing arts in New South Wales. That same year, Australian choreographer Elizabeth Cameron Dalman (1934-) and dance researcher Paul Mason (1982-) undertook a period of collaborative research into the evolution of the choreographic process from improvisation to performance. Dance choreography allows researchers a unique opportunity to gain insight into the dynamics of discrete social systems. It offers them distinctive perspectives to understand the dynamic interactions between embodied minds and socio-cultural processes. It is hypothesised that collaborative choreography is characterised by evolutionary properties that can be characterised at multiple levels of complexity. Dance is constructed by embodied brains and shaped by social and cultural interactions. The end of a dance course in Western Sydney coincided with the burgeoning of new dance research methodologies in Australia.

Cognitive ethnography is a research method that contextualises cognitive processes in social interaction. This particular project involved a cognitive ethnography of three choreographies by Elizabeth Cameron Dalman: This Train, Ways of Water and Dalman’s protest-piece against the declining support for the arts in Australia, Dancing on the Grave. As principal researcher, I was situated as an apprentice, dancer and an ethnographer in the construction of these three pieces. This Train was a remake of Dalman’s 1965 choreography of the same name. Ways of Water and Dancing on the Grave were both new choreographies. As participant-observer and novice dancer, I travelled from the phenomenological through the co-phenomenological and into the socio-cultural dynamics of creating a choreographed work. This interdisciplinary exchange offered Elizabeth and I an opportunity to explore new perspectives, expanded vocabularies and deeper understandings of the body-brain-culture interactions in socially negotiated practices.

This is what the Editor’s have to say:

In his article ‘Brain, Dance and Culture’, anthropology and dance student Paul Mason presents some of the results of a research project enquiring into the evolutionary properties of collaborative choreography” (Brissenden, 2009)

“Paul Mason’s approach to his research collaboration with the choreographer Elizabeth Cameron Dalman describes her choreographic processes as evidence of complex evolutionary systems. Drawing upon cognitive psychology for his key terms, Mason utilises an ethnographic method to participate in learning and shaping three choreographic works created by Dalman: the first is a reconstruction of her 1965 piece, This Train, and two more recent works created with young dancers which have reflected current environmental and social concerns. Mason suggests that his involvement in these works might provide neuroscientists with methods to recognise the adaptability of cognitive processes involved in social interaction.” (Fensham, 2010:6)

Juliana Zamudio & Paul Mason in Ways of Water choreographed by Elizabeth Cameron Dalman
Photo courtesy of Graham Howard (2006)

This week’s unfinished quote comes from the article, Brain, Dance and Culture 2 in the most recent peer-reviewed edition of Brolga: An Australian Journal about Dance.

How would you complete this quote?

“In collaborative research with dancers, scientists can…”

Published by

Paul Mason

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

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