The tacit world of the dancer

My research week at Dance4: A contextualisation

My week at Dance4 is just the tip of the iceberg for what will hopefully be a long and fruitful doctoral research project, providing new knowledge about the tacit roles employed by dancers within the choreographic process. The research responds to increasing discussions about the role of the performer and the blurring of responsibilities between dancer and choreographer. In terms of scope, it focuses upon the UK Independent Dance sector, which makes up a substantial proportion of our current dance community. A range of theoretical and critical perspectives are considered to provide a relevant methodological appreciation for analysing the under exposed role of the dancer.  As the first comprehensive study that focuses solely on the dancer and their application of cognitive skills in a professional context, this research offers a realistic and adaptable framework for institutions and training programmes to apply. The current research questions that are being addressed are: 

  1. What is the role of the professional dancer within the choreographic process?
  2. What aspects of this role remain tacit? 
  3. What skills or knowledge are needed to respond to these tacit aspects of the choreographic process and how are they learnt

The literature that has been examined thus far demonstrates how the dancer’s role has developed in recent history in line with developments of the wider dance ecology. No longer are dancers viewed entirely through technical or aesthetic lenses, and as a result the individual subjecthood of those who engage with it is acknowledged. Although little has been written about the choreographic process from a third person perspective focusing solely on the dancer, research into choreography in general does offer many insights into the dancer’s world and some of it’s tacit areas. These issues are echoed in current research about training and nurturing, in which it is widely recognised that dancers do need to be more than just technically able to succeed in a professional context. However, none of these sources explicitly identify and discuss what tacit skills are present. Those dancers who have written in more detail about implicit areas of practice have done so in relation to their own experiences. While this is valuable and marks a turning point in the dancer expressing themself, it does not necessarily give an accurate overview of the wider professional dance world.  Without falling into the trap of trying to categorise the role of the dancer, there needs to be a broader study made within a professional context which examines some of the tacit issues emerging from existing discourse.