Re-framing the dancer: the critical evaluation of an aesthetic and ideology for integrated dance

Parsons, Lisa (2007) Re-framing the dancer: the critical evaluation of an aesthetic and ideology for integrated dance. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This research contextualises, evaluates and critically examines specific methodologies for integrated/mixed-ability dance that pertain to re-framing the dancer. Integrated/mixed-ability dance is committed to inclusive practice thereby changing the old order of aesthetics in favour of a new approach. It is this innovative work that this study has documented. The body (in dance) is understood as a complex phenomenon that engages with issues of consciousness, perception and temporality. The synthesis of philosophy (most specifically phenomenology), structuralist theory (with reference to Althusser and
Foucault) and creative practice (with specific reference to the work of two contrasting integrated/mixed-ability practitioners), evolves an ideology and aesthetic for integrated/mixed-ability dance that will determine the extent to which - changing the beauty aesthetic in dance can be achieved.
The core enquiry is based upon the critical evaluation of the integration of disabled and non-disabled dancers within the practices of Adam Benjamin and Alito Alessi. Their overlapping but divergent methodologies stress issues of embodiment and identity and make a plea for different forms of thinking about how the body is represented in dance. I argue that within integrated/mixed-ability dance, improvisation is an effective learning tool wherein bodily activity is conceptualised as multi-dimensional, inter-modal activity that pertains to ethical and social facilitation.
The critical reflective practice and cross-evaluation (from a phenomenological perspective) presents research findings that provide subjective (experiential) and philosophical evidence that contributes to the field of integrated/mixed-ability dance and the wider scholarship of Western contemporary dance. My thesis concludes that: Benjamin and Alessi's methodologies amount to a phenomenological understanding of the dancers' experiences that is significant for evolving integration. I argue that is achieved through perceptual processes and provides effective understanding of the embodied structure of experiences (consciousness) in the space. Concurrently, critical and philosophical analysis presents substantial evidence for the role of sensori-motor (body schema) activity and for the re-conceptualisation of body image. That argument highlights the complexity of the relation between body schema, body image and habit, and pertains to both aesthetic and ethical considerations.

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