Embodying Musicality through Irish Dance
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CitationJones, Samantha. 2022. Embodying Musicality through Irish Dance. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis study is an ethnography of the adult non-competitive Irish dance community in Boston, in which I explore the multi-modal nature of musical experience through an investigation of dance practices and transmission. As a percussive dance style, Irish dancing interposes itself between conventional notions of music and dance. Through simultaneous sonic and visual expression, Irish dance provides an opportunity to challenge conceptual divides between these performance genres. This community also provides a rich context for examining music-dance relationships, the embodied nature of musical movement, and the management of bodily differences through networks of transmission and sociality.
A central figure in this dissertation is Kieran Jordan, a dancer, choreographer, and teacher who has long fostered the growth of this community of Irish dancers. Kieran Jordan’s musical sensibilities, from her choice of repertoire to her stances on style and genre, pervade this community. The dancers in this study learn choreography and embody musicality through a variety of transmission techniques, which interact with one another to form an ecology of enculturation: listening closely to musical structure and style, singing dance steps, writing vernacular dance notations, and dancing with the hands. Through examination of each of these methods, I suggest that dance and its transmission are multi-modal and multi-sensory experiences.
By focusing on the adult community of Boston dancers, I also demonstrate how transmission networks and methods sustain this multi-generational community of affinity. These dancers are united not by Irish ethnicity, heritage, or nationality, but by an aesthetic that values musical collaboration and artistry as well as a shared desire for sociality and communion in dance. Though paying close attention to specific methods of embodied learning might seem unimportant in modeling larger patterns of community formation, I suggest that it is these very methods that imbue modes of relationality among community members. That is, transmission methods regulate the content and style of a performance art, its rules of engagement, and practitioners’ attitudes toward one another. Thus, I argue that transmission not only shapes a practice, but also shapes a community of practice.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37372159
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