chapter
Methods to discover meaning
Pages 22

Reliance solely upon an informant’s verbal exegesis for indigenous cultural description and analysis may preclude understanding some people’s dances. Informants may lie. Performing dances of a native person to elicit the group’s aesthetics is problematic. What suffices for an outsider may be an inadequate performance for an insider and criteria for insiders may differ according to age, gender or other category. Many features of dance generally lie beyond the conscious awareness of dancers and viewers. In numerous American and African cultures, most social dancers do not know the names of specific steps in such dances as the waltz, rock and roll, disco and nkwa di iche. Just as grammarians and linguists are knowledgeable about vocabulary and syntax, so movement analysts are familiar with the comparable elements in dance. Indigenous views are important in their own right, and discovering them may also modify the anthropologist’s comparative categories; but if a people does not analyse the dance it performs, the researcher must then rely upon the disciplinary heritage.