Thinking Bodies in Dance. A somatic R.E.A.Ch. (2020-2024)
Research in Electronic and Algorithmic Choreography
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Dance epistemology is a niche in dance studies that focuses on how we think, reason, and construct meaning by dancing and by the way we construct and exchange dance practices. It deals with dance as the aesthetic expression of an extended corporeal thinking. In this field of inquiry, 'Thinking Bodies in Dance' reconsiders the value of verbal reflection for dance and choreographic practices that focus on movement sensations and experiences, also known as somatic practices. Somatic practices use improvisation to train sensitivity and reactivity of dancers, however, they often still miss the tools to grasp the fleeting nature of its knowledge production through visualization, improvisation, and verbal reflection. The research project explores how to make embodied cognitive processes (which are often tacit and implicit) more concrete by revising a somatic practice for the nervous system. This practice, named 'Nervous Systems', is continuously reconstructed by Devos, the initiating dance researcher, in collaboration with somatic practitioners, artists, scientists, and scholars.

In R.E.A.Ch.-experiments we explore how somatic improvisation practices and technology can mutually enhance each other in order to develop new techniques for non-verbal reflection in dance improvisation. By integrating self-developed software (MAXmsp, Python) in Nervous Systems, we experiment with the implicit knowledge production of dancers and research how to gain more control over principles of improvised composition. These inter-medial choreographies thus train the awareness of decision-making in improvisation through a feedback system that reacts and interacts with the dancer(s) during the improvisation. For example, the blueprint of 'R.E.A.Ch. #1' and 'R.E.A.Ch. #2' is a techno-choreographic system that produces live-generated tasks and cues (sound and image) in and around the performance space. This stimulates not only the awareness of embodied cognitive sensations, it also services as a controllable tool for investigation the range of the practice principles in somatic dance: self-inwardness, solitary technics, soft and slow dynamics, and synthesis through storytelling.

Artistic research team: Klaas Devos, Maarten Buyl, Quentin Meurisse, Justine Debaene.
Ph.D. supervisors: Annouk Van Moorsel, Prof. Timmy De Laet, Prof. Martin Nachbar.

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