Movement as Dance

914 words | 4 page(s)

“Movement as Dance” (1977) is a text that itself is composed of two “movements” or parts: the first, by Jo Leissa Dickinson, is entitled “The Journey Backward”, while the second, by Fiona Travis, is entitled “The Journey Forward.” The former author, as the article states, at the time of the article’s writing was a dance educator involved with Movart Studio and the Ohio State University. The Movart studio appears to be defunct, in so far as no search results for this project are found through major search engines such as Google. Further searches, performed on Google Scholar, do not show any other academic publications by Dickinson, other than the text in question.

Fiona Travis, in contrast, is more frequently referenced in the academic literature. For example, Travis was present on the doctoral commission for the PhD thesis of L:V. De Negri. She has also presented at the “Therapeutic Values of Dance/Movement throughout the world” conference in Toronto in 1977. In this sense, it appears that Travis is more involved with theoretical and therapeutic features of dance, whereas Dickinson is more focused on dance itself.

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The point of Dickinson’s text seems to revolve around the question of how movement in our life is in a sense restricted, despite the validity of her intuitive claim that we are creatures designed for movement. She suggests that, for example, as children movement defines our life: the non-verbal communication is dominant. This is lost with time, as we enter the world of verbal communication and the norms of the world. By re-exploring movement, we get a different perspective on the world. Thus, the claim she makes is that there is an importance of dance as an exploration of movement.

The point of Travis’ text is much the same. She emphasizes that movement is essential to what it means to be human and alive. Dance, for Travis, therefore is an investigation of what we can accomplish through movement, thereby fulfilling ourselves in a profound sense. For example, she talks about how in dance we can creatively explore movements that we are familiar with, as well as unfamiliar movements. Accordingly, this helps us develop as individuals, essentially equivalent to learning something new.

This point resonates with me personally: I recall the power of non-verbal communication. For example, as a child when I misbehaved, my mother would often not say anything, but just give me a stern look: her movements of the body could say more than any words. I can also suggest that I learned more from these movements than any type of extended lecture could ever communicate. In other sense, this is equivalent to the importance of body language in our everyday lives. We do not communicate only verbally, but physically. Accordingly, dance in this sense is an expansion of our physical “vocabulary”, a feeling of growth that is also powerfully communicative.

In line with this interpretation, therefore some questions that could be posed regarding this text are as follows: 1) To what extent is dance a communicative exercise, a way in which we communicate with each other? The answer to this question could take various forms, for example, emphasizing facets such as body language. Furthermore, another good answer would compare the communicative potentials of language as opposed to the body.

Question 2: To what extent are our contemporary lives defined by a restriction of movement, and how does dance counteract this restriction? Answer key: current society, for example, with its emphasis on more sedentary forms of labor, computers, technology seems to be about restricting movements. We can even think about restrictions of movements in a broader sense, such as documents, travel, passports, etc. Dance would therefore be a revival of that which our society seems to limit: a retrieval of a freedom that is deeply tied to movement.

Question 3: How does dance relate and differ to other forms of physical communication, such as body language? Answer key: dance, as the authors argue, is closely related to movement. But what makes a movement dance, and not just another movement? This is a complex question, but here we can almost suggest, following the text, that dance is a conscious exploration of the possibilities of movements and new forms of communication, as opposed to body language. Body language, while a powerful communicative tool, is nevertheless not experimental: it wants to communicate a direct point, although sometimes indirectly. Dance instead experiments with different forms of innovative communication.

5) Conclusion: The text was appealing on multiple levels. Firstly, I appreciated the idea of how we are creatures that move by nature. Movement is thus fundamental in life. This is obviously clear to anyone who reflects on their childhood, where movement and play are such an important part of life. It seems with time we lose precisely this joy: furthermore, with the structure of society, emphasizing technologies such as computers and television, our society tries to even further limit movement. Recovering movement is thus important to recovering what makes us human: this is why dance is so crucial, as a pure celebration of movement. Furthermore, dance is also about communication according to the authors.

Therefore, dance is not merely just a celebration of movement, but something more: establishing contact with another non-verbally, through the physical gestures which constitute our everyday lives, but on a more conscious and vivid level – this is another way which our relationships are formed and one that is profoundly human owing to our essence, as the authors argue, as creatures of movement.

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