Joining together the practice and theory of dance through technique, choreography, and critical studies.
I have struggled with making choices my whole life, not because I was unsure of what I wanted to do, but because I wanted to pursue and achieve many different things. I have a great love for ballet—as a teacher, but also as a dancer— but my choreographic territory sits within contemporary dance practices. I believe that research in dance could literally change the world if only people listened a little more closely, and I am passionate about the disciplines of philosophy and psychology. With time, I have come to accept that I would always be “in-between”: in between being a dancer and a choreographer, a practitioner and a scholar, in between philosophy and psychology, in between both these disciplines and dance; except that dance studies as a discipline allows us to do just that, to exist in the interstices between ideas, embodiments, and physical and mental spaces. That is where my practice and my philosophy also sit. Being a scholar-practitioner allows me to underpin my theoretical approaches, allowing them to emerge from practice. At the same time, being a practitioner illuminates my (embodied) thinking, giving it perspective that cannot be achieved solely by theoretical approaches.
My PhD research developed a dialogue between philosophy of art and analysis of dance, allowing a proposal for the understanding of the emergence of emotion from the physicality of contemporary dance, and linking the experiences of choreographers and spectators. Another series of in-betweens. Currently, I am developing a project in collaboration with academics from theatre, cognitive sciences, sociology, and psychology, as well as other choreographers and dancers, to develop techniques for people’s attunement to their own embodied cognitive processes, with basis on choreographic tasks and understandings. It is part of an ongoing effort for dance to be brought into larger conversations, as I firmly believe that what we do and what we know as dance artists and scholars can help develop theories and models with more far-reaching implications—after all, who could speak more about embodiment!
Both my teaching and my choreographic philosophy are imbued of this understanding. I developed my PhD by also analysing one of my own works, and in turn my research continues to inform and push my practice. At the risk of sounding slightly controversial, I do not believe dance is a language, I do not believe it is universal, and I do not believe that dance is some form of raw emotion. I believe, however, that dance has the potential to reach people emotionally the way that no language ever has or could, precisely because its essence is not codified, but purely embodied. I believe that dance is as individual as each of us is, and that we are not as different as we might sometimes think, at least at the embodied level of consciousness—and if we paid attention to what is really important. I apply this within my choreographic work by allowing the body-mind-world complex that is the dancer, through complex tasks, to develop their own material. I then play with qualities, music, text, space… until the work feels like what I want to say. I apply this also to my classes, teaching from the principles of sensation, not shape. Shapes are not embodied, hence they do not reach the potential of the student-dancer. I enjoy watching students surprise themselves by focusing on how things feel, phenomenologically, and not how they “should” look. At the same time I like to encourage them to keep questioning how things look, to develop an inquisitive and curious mind, after all the value of dance must also reach beyond the studio or lecture hall.