idocde » Editorial

What can dance bring to culture?

Last September 11, the Dalai Lama gave a conference in Brussels. During his talk, the Tibetan spiritual leader mentioned that he let go of his political function to be able to fully devote himself to the preservation of his endangered culture. “My concern now is with keeping Tibetan culture and identity alive, a culture of non-violence and peace, it is worth preserving.” He also mentioned the importance of taking care of Tibet as a crucial ecosystem for billions of human lives. The Tibetan Plateau is about the size of Western Europe and it supplies water to nearly 2 billion people in Asia as the source of several major rivers. With temperatures rising four times faster than anywhere else in Asia, the Tibetan Plateau might soon lose most of its glaciers and effect water supplies throughout Asia.

I came back home, deeply inspired by the compassionate and joyful presence of the Dalai Lama. His talk made me realize that I was also involved, at my humble level, with a similar concern: preserving and enriching a culture that is dear to me. My culture is dance and as Lisa Nelson says “Movement is my first language”. I have been studying dance, teaching it and questioning for 40 years now.  My practice have been a long, emancipatory process through which I am still recovering my ability to sense, feel the bliss and the pain, be affected by the context I live in. Through dancing and teaching dance, I have developed empathy towards myself and other beings as well as the capacity to make choices in tune with my desire for peace, diversity and freedom. Through the sensorial realm, I am re-rooting myself in physical reality. I am part of it. I am also recovering personal agency and humbleness in front of the intelligence and power of the nature I am part of.

What can dance bring to culture?[1] asks Steve Paxton in a public lecture. I think the practice of dance and dance performance can reconnect us to our physical environment, its diversity, intelligence, power and limits.  It also teaches us how to care for it. In times of ecological crisis, to deal with physical laws and limitations seems to be a key question. Our dance culture, among other potentials, can act as an ecological agent. It can open awareness to the wisdom of “the body as an environment” to listen to and take care of. If, as one knows, ecology is a matter of systems and interactions; an attentive attitude towards the body/mind can inspire people to listen and cultivate conditions for fruitful relations between themselves and the environment. Dance culture is, more than ever, worth being valued, preserved, cultivated and disseminated. I do it through dancing, teaching dance and documenting my practices.

Some years ago, I got involved in dance documentation through the pilot project that led to the creation of the IDOCDE web site. Soon after, I started a research on poetic, polyphonic and multi modal dance documentation that is still unfolding. My interest in documenting dance and dance teaching practice emerged from a desire to give a voice to dancers, to practitioners, to the wisdom of the field. My question is: what if dance artists applied their perceptual, motor, mental and composition skills to document their own practice? I want to encourage a documentation that emanates from our embodied knowledge so that our empirical perspective takes part in the creation of dance archives and dance history.

Along my process, I came up with the following statement: To live is a documentation practice. By saying this, I am referring to cell memory and DNA that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all living organisms. Thus, the research not only defines tangible documents but also (produces) performance as live documents. Texts, drawing, writing, photography, video and objects are other types of material that the research produces. To work with different media allows revealing the different facets of the experience as we compose it through the community of our senses.

Documentation methods that I have developed in my research process are now applied to art and dance education. I propose laboratory as in-depth exploration of the perception-action interrelation and as research on how self-made experimental documentation allows for more autonomy and creativity in one's own movement practice.The idocde website has been a really helpful tool to document these labs and organize texts, pictures, audio recording, film and images participants produced. It has been also a mean to share multiple perspectives on the same subject, to reflect about my teaching practice and continue unfolding a new method where dancing and documenting are dialoguing with one another; thus creating a feedback loop that allows both to evolve. Today this research and the use of idocde website led me to be part of the REFLEX Europe project’s team of researchers. We are working on a digital publication that, we hope, will inspire you to value your teaching practice, document it, participate in the construction of today’s dance culture and share the wisdom that emanates from our field.

Anouk Llaurens – 21 November 2016


Links to Idocs

Revisiting/recomposing Reflex outreach session 4th IDOCDE symposium in July 2016:

Candoco summer lab 2014

Sharing visions- IDOCDE symposium 2014:

Spectrum of the senses: Tuning Scores and BMC® based workshops:

The two sides of touch, ImpulzTanz Vienna 2013 »

Anouk Llaurens class- Stolzenhagen:

[1] A question asked by Steve Paxton in a filmed lecture that I have seen on you tube but can not find anymore.