Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Metaphors for Movement Transmission: Imagination and Knowledge Production” – Eleonora Stacchiotti

The final Transmission in Motion seminar delved into the topic of dance notation and the exchange of knowledge related to dance choreography so that the session was about ways to transmit motion and how to make dance accessible as a type of knowledge. This blog post wants to be a short report of the meeting enriched with the reflections that originated in my mind in the aftermath.

On May the 26th, dance researcher Suzan Tunca and assistant professor Laura Karreman drove us through their research focussing on technologies used to transfer bodily knowledge originated from dance mobility. Suzan – who conducts research in the Codarts Art School’s dance department – explained that while other performative arts have clearer forms of notation, dance has not a fixed notation system, which makes the transfer of knowledge complex. Tunca explained that even if several different notation languages have already been developed, it is still extremely difficult to translate intricate, intentional movements into a specific, fixed, alphabetic form. Surprisingly, the two scholars explained that there is a clear interconnectedness between language and dance. Opposed to the common conception of dance as an artform removed from language, Tunca clarified the importance of words, metaphors, and language for dance practice. As a matter of fact, studying and reproducing a choreography is way more than the process of learning steps, because each step needs to be performed with an embodied intention. Only after the dancer has learned how to transfer the intentionality from her mind into her body, she can transmit the intended message of the piece. The transmission of this radical intention is the reason why dance directors, trainers and dancers make use of metaphorical expressions and words to make dance knowledge shareable and become ‘alive’.

This case reminded me of a workshop I had the chance to take two years ago at Het Huis Utrecht. During a two hours’ session, The Paper Ensemble taught us how to play a series of unconventional instruments made from different typologies of paper sheets. In the exploratory phase of the workshop, we simply followed the oral instructions from the group members to try and experiment with such a new instrument. After we managed to collect the basic skills to produce a decent sound, the team introduced us to their notation method: a precise notation symbol corresponds to every paper musical instrument and the color of the symbol indicated the degree of intensity of action on the paper sheets. After some minutes of rehearsals, we were able to create a paper orchestra to execute a basic collective melody.

Image taken by myself, during the workshop.

Written language and notation systems used to transmit very tangible and embodied forms of knowledge like dance are collections of conceptual metaphors. The evocative power of written signs recalls a shared framework of meaning based on a common experience of the world. This means that conceptual metaphors create a common ground for proper communication of non-verbal meanings which is based on what we can do with and through our bodies. In conclusion, one can say that if written signs are the tools of metaphorical communication, imagination is the common ground of the communication of our experience of the world.