Elliott, Hilary (2014) Experienced Space. In: Galway Dance Days/CORP_REAL symposium, 28/3/14 - 30/3/14, NUI Galway, Ireland. (Unpublished)

This 15-minute moved and spoken paper investigates strategies for grounding solo movement improvisation - as both a research and performance form - in a dynamic interplay between body and environment. The paper explores the sensations and impulses of the speaking/dancing body as they are entwined with the environment, enfolded within the architectural space of studio/venue and also, more deeply and widely, responsive to the ‘particularity of what is outside and around’ (Crickmay and Tufnell, 2004: 7).

Drawing on French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s (1908-64) phenomenological understanding of the ‘me other exchange’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1968: 215) of the individual and her surrounds as a pragmatic and theoretical platform, the paper enquires into the role of the senses - particularly vision, touch and kinesthesia as an interwoven sensory network - in the genesis and development of movement. What is the phenomenal (lived) sense of seeding and shaping movement by attending and responding to what is both within and around the dancing body? How can the dancer attune to and locate herself on this continuum between internal impulse and external sensation/stimulus?

Investigating this ‘me other exchange’ of body and environment further, the paper asks to what extent cultivating relationality and responsiveness to space/place might in turn facilitate dispositional qualities of openness, adaptability and, perhaps, resilience more widely. If solo movement improvisation can be efficaciously framed as a way of moving in relation with the world and if, as improviser Kent De Spain notes, ‘the world is improvising too; and that dance, your interaction with the world, forms you just as you form the world’ (De Spain, 2003: 37), to what extent can movement improvisation enhance an individual’s capacity to adroitly and adeptly change, alter, pause or progress in response to the world’s ever-shifting vicissitudes?


De Spain, Kent. (2003) ‘The Cutting Edge of Awareness: Reports From the Inside of Improvisation’. In: Cooper Albright, Ann and Gere, David. (eds.) Taken By Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. (1968) The Visible and the Invisible. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Tufnell, Miranda and Crickmay, Chris. (2004) A widening field: journeys in body and imagination. Alton: Dance Books.

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