Scoring Dance: The Ontological Implications of ‘Choreographic Objects’

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This PhD thesis examines the way in which spectatorial relationship with certain dance works is reconfigured through emerging practices for documenting, analysing and ‘scoring’ dance, paying particular attention to the role of digital technology. I examine three central case studies, developed between 2009 and 2013, which are outcomes of major research projects, these are; Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced (Forsythe and OSU 2009), Using the Sky (Hay and Motion Bank 2013) and A Choreographer’s Score: Fase, Rosas danst Rosas, Elena’s Aria, Bartók (De Keersmaeker and Cvejić 2012). These ‘scores’ fall under the title of ‘choreographic objects’, a term which, following Leach, deLahunta and Whatley (2008) I use to refer to collaboratively produced, artist-­‐led objects that utilise technology in various ways, to explore and disseminate choreographic processes.

    Focussing on western contemporary theatre dance practices and drawing on discourses from Dance Studies, Performance Studies, Philosophical Aesthetics and Digital Theory, I consider how ‘choreographic objects’ pose philosophical questions regarding the ways in which audiences access, interpret, appreciate and value works, examining the evolving role of the score in issues of identity and ontology. I also consider the score-­‐like nature of these objects, drawing comparisons with codified movement notations, such as Labanotation, developed by Hungarian dance theorist Rudolf von Laban (1879 – 1958). The case studies pose many queries, however the central focus of this research is on three key questions; what are ‘choreographic objects’? How do they reconfigure spectatorial engagement with specific dance works? And, how does this reconfiguration encourage a rethinking of their ontological statuses?

    The case studies demonstrate an increased interest in the articulation, examination and dissemination of choreographic process. In recent years many artists, based primarily in Europe and the USA, such as Siobhan Davies (1950 -­‐ ), Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (1960 -­‐ ), William Forsythe (1949 -­‐ ), Emio Greco (1965 -­‐ ), Steve Paxton (1939 -­‐ ); have teamed up with researchers and technologists to develop digital, or partially digital objects which examine and articulate their choreographic processes. deLahunta (2013b) suggests that together these artists give rise to a ‘community of practice’. This is a notion formulated by Etienne Wenger (1998) to describe groups of people who are engaged in collective learning, including, for example, “a band of artists seeking new forms of expression” (Wenger 2006: 1). The shared interest in cultivating new ways to express choreographic process generates a form of community between these artists. The objects generated through these investigations are labelled ‘scores’, ‘archives’ and ‘installations’, however, each one problematises their categorical label, thus generating the rubric of ‘choreographic objects’; an emerging class of object which both crosses and defies existing modes of description.

    The circulation of ‘choreographic objects’ is relatively new therefore a detailed examination of their ontology, function and impact provides a significant theoretical and practical contribution to current dance discourses and practice. This research contextualises these objects, situating them socio-­‐culturally and examining the motivations and repercussions. The ontological probing considers the nature of the objects and their impact on the way we perceive and conceptualise the notion of the dance ‘work’.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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