Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts in Dance (MFA)
Graduate Program Director
Language is an important part of the dance tradition, used by dance teachers to convey images and understandings of the body for technical skill and expressive development. Furthermore, language does not exist in isolation; it shapes understanding and reveals the conceptual undertones of understanding. Recognizing language as a possible site to integrate theory and practice, I began to ask, "How does the cuing commonly used in dance education influence understandings of the dancing body?"
In order to investigate this question I analyzed language commonly used in dance classrooms based on the contemporary metaphor theories developed by cognitive theorists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Through this lens, I noticed an important distinction between language that references the dancing body through non-living metaphors as very different than language where the body is spoken of in terms of a living system. This research identifies several common metaphors used in dance in which the body is understood in terms of non-living systems like instruments, machines, computers, commodities, and wars.
Next, this research looks at movement practices where the body is understood as a living, generative and changing system. The focus of this section is on somatic practices, especially Continuum and the work of Liz Koch, where the possibility of change towards what is possible is the preference. Finally, based on this research, I suggest that dance and movement educators develop a practice of attending to the language of training the dancing body; after all it is a powerful tool for affecting potential.
Culley, Colleen Theresa, "Body Language: Seeking a Living Vocabulary for the Dancing Body" (2015). Dance Master’s Theses. 17.