Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance examines the deeper meanings and resonances of artistic dance in contemporary culture. The book comprises four sections: methods and methodologies, autoethnography, pedagogies and creative processes, and choreographies as cultural and spiritual representations. The contributors bring an insiders insight to their accounts of the nature and function of these artistic practices, giving voice to dancers, dance teachers, creators, programmers, spectators, students, and scholars. International and intergenerational, this collection of groundbreaking scholarly research points to a new direction for both dance studies and dance anthropology. Traditionally the exclusive domain of aesthetic philosophers, the art of dance is here reframed as cultural practice, and its significance is revealed through a chorus of voices from practitioners and insider ethnographers.
FROM THE DANCER'S POSTURE TO THE RESEARCHER'S POSTURE
As a dance insider and fieldworker at "home," in France, I set out in this text to produce a reflexive, autobiographical account of how I made my way to a researcher's posture, and of the difficulties encountered in the negotiation of etic and emic positions.1 Indeed, as Georgiana Gore puts it, "The use of personal pronoun 'I' is an acknowledgement that the cornerstones of anthropology, fieldwork and ethnographic writing, are reflexive practices and, in some senses, autobiographical."2 But "in some senses" does not mean just autobiographical. Here lies the difference between what David Pocock calls one's "personal anthropology" as opposed to a recital of "personal, subjective experience."3 Getting to understand what to do-scientifically speaking-with one's own subjective experience seems to me the biggest challenge for the dance insider, and especially for the fieldworker at home.
So, as my research comes to a close and has to materialize in the writing of a PhD dissertation, I sometimes wonder if I made the right choice concerning my field, which at the time, seemed self-evident. Indeed, while undertaking a degree in drama and performance studies, I first encountered contemporary dance. It was a great shock to me. So, the year after, I undertook a second Diplôme d'Études Approfondies (DEA) specializing in dance.
Following someone's recommendations, I took a contemporary dance class with an American teacher named Toni D'Amelio. Afterwards, I discovered that she had trained in George Balanchine's school in the United States, and, after a career interrupted through injury, was now giving contemporary dance classes in a Paris studio. Toni's classes quickly won me over. She was very concerned with pedagogy, which became part of the topic of the PhD that she had completed in dance at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. Toni paid considerable attention to each of her students; she spoke a great deal during the class-satisfying my longing for explanations and indications of all sorts; and seemed to have much knowledge of anatomy as well as of physiology and neurology. Every student thought she was an outstanding teacher.
Figure 1 Summer 2005 intensive course, Peter Goss Studio (Paris). Left to right: Rhizlaine, Emmanuelle, Candy, Emilie, Pauline, Julien, Cécile, Karine, Toni, Anne, and Onyx the dog. Photographer: Audrey Laumonier.
As Toni had undertaken training to become an Iyengar yoga teacher, and as her pedagogy evolved with the introduction of exercises based on this technique, a group of students, including myself, emerged with whom she started a real process of transmission. We all believed that this process was revealing the functioning of our bodies, and even their reality. It is only quite recently that I have been able to recognize it as one of many possible conceptualizations of the body-Susan Leigh Foster speaks of "a body of ideas"4-leading to a specific construction of bodily experience. Indeed, at the beginning of most classes (which took place twice a week except for a special one on Sundays for a few invited students), Toni would announce the theme we were to work on. It might be the psoas; torsionality; the shoulder; the relationship between shoulder blades and sternum, sternum and sacrum, shoulders and shoulder blades, ischia and heels; the pectoral girdle; the pelvis; the internal/external rotation of the hip; the foot; the leg; the arms; the groin; the ilia; the ribs; orientation; and so on.
Thus, the first part of the class, influenced partly by the Feldenkrais Method and partly by Iyengar yoga, was a sort of guided visit of our bodies-mapping them; coordinating, organizing, representing them. It was followed by what Toni called "travelling barres" (barres ambulantes), which she used in order to work on specific technical movement sequences that integrated the patterns previously explored. Then, the final dance combination, still exploiting the same patterns, challenged us and our bodies through education. (As Toni would say, "We have a sensation but this sensation is wrong. It is habit. We must educate the body.")
Along the same lines, she organized thematic intensive courses running for one or two weeks during each academic vacation period. Some of the themes tackled between the summer of 2002 and spring of 2005 were the spine; openings (she specified "corporeal and conceptual"); apprehending the body; the arabesque and the arch; preliminary work on the shoulder's movements; choreographic training courses (specifying that "the dance class tries to make the coordination necessary for the production of a danced movement"); contemporary dance through yoga (the morning class, "dedicated to the yoga exercises," was followed in the afternoon by "a contemporary dance class exploiting the anatomic coordination prepared by the work of yoga"); and "yoga and dance: 'tasting,' 'chewing,' 'incorporating.'" As students, we became totally addicted to this learning process, which we viewed, I now realize, as a process of revelation.
After my DEA, I started a job and couldn't attend the dance classes and intensive courses as much as before. I recognized how vital these sessions were to me. As my intention was not to become a professional dancer, I started to ask myself what was really at stake in my intense commitment to these classes. I didn't really set out to formulate a clear answer, but I came to the conclusion that the only way of continuing with this process and of making sense of it was to transform it into a research project. So, after attending this class persistently and being part of the group of students for three years, I decided to investigate the transmission of bodily experience in this specific context. This is how the choice (that I now consider to be double-edged) of a field for my doctoral research was made.
Anthropology, with its fieldwork rite of passage,5 seemed the ideal approach for my research. Yet, if fieldwork is a wonderful means for the outsider to attain the emic position (the insider point of view), I soon realized that having been in the field for three years as a student of Toni, I was much too inside already, and too involved in a strong emotional tie. That is, I was totally implicated in the situation and did not have the distance I thought was necessary for one to undertake research. As a student told me later during an interview, "I was taking all that Toni said word for word." Indeed, I found that once you have chosen to trust somebody and to get involved in his or her process of transmission, there is complete faith in what that person proposes. It is a question of belief; and as Michel de Certeau6 says, belief is not about truth but about "acting" and "the success of an undertaking." Belief is "a disposition to act" and it has to be conceived through the kind of relationship it constructs. It establishes a contract with the other, which is assumed to be "endowed with the power, the will and the knowledge that will make the remuneration effective" (de Certeau, 1981: 372). I completely trusted Toni and the process that she was making us undergo in the belief that the rewards would be forthcoming-those rewards became apparent as I progressively mastered the exercises and increasingly understood what was going on from an insider's perspective.
So, as I first came to this dance class as a student-not as a researcher-and at the time had no intention of researching this context of transmission, I had not been observing the process of acculturation7 that I underwent and which had gradually made me part of this group. My knowledge and posture were entirely dedicated to action. Therefore, once I wanted to understand this process, to examine it with a critical eye, I was stuck too close to it. I could practise the rule, but I could not theorize about it. I had entered the contract as a dancer and had plunged entirely into the system of belief it entailed.
I remember presenting my work during a seminar at my home university, and the researchers present telling me again and again that my questions and posture were not those of a researcher but of a dancer. They kept asking me, "But what is your question as a researcher?" I was desperate: "But what is the difference between a dancer's posture and a researcher's posture?" They were clear: I had to get out of the field and take some distance if I wanted to make sense of it. For a while, I thought that I might succeed in grasping this posture of researcher while staying in the field, by trying to be more alert as to "how" the class developed rather than to "what" we had to do. But gradually, it became obvious that I could not-as I had first thought-hold both postures simultaneously, that of the dancer and that of the apprentice researcher. After conducting my research for one year, I wrote,
The choice is getting crucial. The idea of the research has prevented me in the last few months from doing the same work in dance as I did before. And vice versa, this...