Body, Art, and World: Phenomenology and Modern Dance

by Rob Esposito, MFA

This approach to dance theory comprises a synthesis of philosophical thought in the existential vein. There are similarities and differences that must be noted, however, when theories of philosophy or psychology are applied to dance. Although I believe choreography springs predominately from the depths of the human psyche, this is not a course in philosophy or psychology. The center of gravity here is the art of dance. The heart of that center is the human body. As such, subjective CONTENT must be infused with embodied FORM, psyche with techne, theory with practice, and autobiography with social relevance.
In addition to the “three prerequisites” mentioned in “Dance Improvisation: A Gestalt Approach”: 1) somatic awareness, 2) self-world connectivity, 3) trust, posted on our website, here are ten existentially-based principles that guide our exploration of story telling in our program’s dance workshops.

Ten Principles of a Phenomenological Approach to Dance Theory
1.    The application of dance theory starts from within, with the self of the individual, with her or his presence. This ascribes central importance to the concept and experience of identity—a central focus of Abraham Maslow’s work.
2.    The fact that each individual is in constant development, is growing, successively actualizing many latent potentials.
3.    The central importance of meaning; particularly the meaning that each individual gives to life or is looking for in life—seeking and sharing through dance.
4.    The recognition of the importance of values, particularly of the ethical, aesthetic, and noetic values such as those emphasized by Frankl, Thoreau, Gandhi, and King.
5.    The fact that each artist is constantly confronted by choices and decisions, and the consequent responsibility which they entail.
6.    The need of achieving a clear awareness of the motivations that determine artistic choices and decisions.
7.    The recognition of the depth and seriousness of human life, the place of anxiety in it and of the problems that the artist faces when presenting a work of art.
8.    The emphasis on the future, and of its dynamic role in the present.
9.    The recognition of the uniqueness of each individual, and thus, the need for differential evaluation requiring a combination of techniques in a new method for each student/artist and each work of art.
10.    The ineluctable connectivity of mind-body-person-world actualized through dance in appropriate ideodynamic responses.