Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Human Dance Recorder

This workshop attends to the aspects of physical communication in partnered dance. It takes a method developed by psychotherapist Carl Rogers in 1951 and applies it to dance. A relevant synopsis may be found in:

"A Rogerian Approach To Perfect Communications" in "An Introduction to Organisational Behaviour for Managers and Engineers: A Group and Multicultural Approach" by Duncan Kitchin (2010) pp.176-177, UK: Routledge.

The exercise described by Kitchin (a former colleague) is well-suited to translation into social partnered dance, and it stimulates each participant broadly to ask:
  • Is that what I wanted my partner to feel?
  • Has my partner understood what I feel about ritmo (dance and music alike)?
Exercise One: Building the rich picture
Partnered, to music. Caribbean sway basic, to Caribbean partnered hold.
  1. "Pay attention to how your partner moves: the qualities of movement, the timing."
  2. "Use what you're seeing and feeling to construct a mental image of your partner as you dance."
  3. "You may find it useful to do this with your eyes open and shut."
  4. "Build as rich a picture of your partner as you possibly can."
Note: Solares participants were able to perform this task easily because they had become accustomed to higher cognitive load; through dancing while playing maracas. Not having to play maracas gave them the greater cognitive capacity to engage successfully with the exercise.

Exercise Two: Embodying the rich picture
Partnered, to music. Caribbean sway basic, to Caribbean partnered hold.
  1. "Holding the rich picture firmly in you head, dance the rich picture."
This exercise is designed to cause each participant to change their quality of movement by simulating that of their partner: by the physical manifestation of the rich picture.

Exercise Three: Validating the rich picture
New partners. Partnered, to music. Caribbean sway basic, to Caribbean partnered hold.
  1. "Holding the rich picture of your previous partner firmly in you head, embody the rich picture."
The accuracy of the rich picture embodiment was tested/validated with a different partner.
Note: this could be done because the solares participants have become familiar with each others' ritmo over the years.


The ability to characterise i.e. construct a rich picture, then embody it, varied between the participants; ranging from a lack (due to misconstruation) to accurate enough to elicit excited exclamations of "it feels like I'm dancing with *name of other participant*!"

Where the point of the exercises were misconstrued, both partners, instead of constructing a rich image of the other, each created an identical rich image hybrid of the other and themselves. In other words, instead of:
  • Partner A creating-and-embodying a rich picture of Partner B and vice versa,
  • Partner A created-and-embodied a rich picture hybrid of Partner A+B, as did Partner B.
This was a happy error, because it allowed the group the explore: the extremes of the range (characterisation of the self, or the other) and the mid-point (characterisation of the blended self plus other).

As the exercises ran through several iterations, the delight led increasingly to a distortion of the rich image into caricature - an over-emphasis of the other's traits. I cautioned that while caricature was fun and would make certain traits more obvious, this might limit the usefulness of the 'Human Dance Recorder' practice as a means of personal reflexion. Exaggeration would make it difficult for the recipient to:
  1. evaluate the qualitative extent of a trait;
  2. decide whether it should be modified; and
  3. how to prioritise its correction relative to other traits in a heirarchy of correction.
I recommended that the rich picture be more photo-real than caricature.


The session ended with three questions for reflexion.
"What is this 'Chapter: Characterisation' about?"
"What skills are needed?"
"Why is this useful?"

Loo Yeo

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