chapter  1
10 Pages

Dancing past categories

Researching a live art project with participants
WithPat Thomson, Emily Pringle

This chapter reports a live art project in which 14 young people and 2 participating ethnographers worked with a choreographer and film-maker. The project was inspired by Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A (1966). Rainer challenged conventions of choreography, audience-performer relations and the very notion of ‘dancer’. Our research set out to explore what making and editing film might add to an ethnographic study of young people’s participation in live art. We offered participants the opportunity to author an extended visual representation of their experiences and to curate an art exhibit. The project was structured as a typical gallery education offer of two linked workshops – dance and film editing.

The participants found the dance workshop highly engaging and physically challenging. Artist Sara Wookey used everyday movements to offer a ‘choreographic palette’ of space, pace, level, gaze and pattern. Young people were challenged by exercises which required them to annotate movement sequences they had invented and to interpret other people’s annotations. They reported highly valuing the sociality of the experience, the haptic learning and the opportunity to make the gallery a temporary ‘home’. Eight young people chose to attend the subsequent film-editing workshops which we attended as observers. They made individual films which reproduced the hypnotic movements, the social interaction and moments of reflection of the dance workshop, demonstrating the transfer of the choreographic palette to that of film.