Community in dance
: somatic learning at the interface of contemporary dance and the Faldenkrais Method®

  • Jenny Coogan

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Contemporary dance practice and performance for older amateur adults remains underrepresented in the German cultural landscape. This thesis explores the aesthetic and socio-cultural efficacies of an improvisational Ausdruckstanz (expressionist dance) practice and performance facilitated through the strategies of the Feldenkrais Method® with the ensemble ArtRose, a community of non-trained dancers aged 60+. Drawing from social somatic theories and philosophical premises of dialogue viewed through a phenomenological lens, this thesis probes the conditions that serve as a conduit for constructing subjectivity, personal and collective agency and affect in a manner that is democratic, equitable, liberating and life enhancing. Its two-fold methodological imperative combines Participant Action Research and practice-as-research as both include the full participation of the researcher in the field and are based in distributive and collaborative creation and critical, self-reflective enquiry. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with participants, researcher notes and videos of practice and performance. The ultimate verification of the research is revealed in the collaboratively created dance Mut und Gnade (Courage and Grace) that served as the practical submission of this thesis.

    This practice-as-research offers an original contribution to the developing consciousness and emerging presence of performative dance art with elders in the German cultural landscape and explores conditions that might lead to its recognition, valuation, and acceptance in this context. The findings of this thesis reconceptualize the genre of Community Dance or ‘dance in the community’ by offering a first reading of a ‘community in dance’. A community in dance is one of interminable development, forming and (re)forming due to the engagement of its members to create an environment of distributed authority and responsibility in which all contribute both to the continuity of the ensemble and its singular artistic expression. This thesis unfolds a specific example of a ‘community in dance’, the ArtRose ensemble. Thesis investigations address both the microcosm of the ArtRose community and its resonance in the macrocosm of the greater sociocultural and political environment in which it is embedded.
    Date of AwardMay 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor), Sara Reed (Supervisor) & Natalie Garrett Brown (Supervisor)

    Cite this