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AbstractDance performance that is inclusive of dancers with differing corporealities has the potential to generate positive societal change with regard to perceptions of physical difference. Dance is a valuable site for exploring the placement of the physically disabled body in contemporary society, and for disrupting existing perceptions of disability as transgressive. This can come about through the embodied presence of both dancer and viewer, entering into a relationship grounded in intersubjectivity, without having to rely on symbolic signification. This thesis examines the placement of disabled bodies in dance performance from the intersecting perspectives of Critical Disability Studies, Performance Studies and Interpersonal Neurobiology in order to formulate a framework for theorizing perceptions of disability, the act of viewing dance and the impact of choreographic intent on viewers’ perceptions of physical difference. In the first section, the sociopolitical placing of disabled bodies in western society is interrogated and a historiological study of both disability identity and the emergence of integrated dance is critically analysed. The second section provides detailed analyses of three dance performances that are inclusive of dancers with physical disabilities: GIMP (2009), Heidi Latsky, Diagnosis of a Faun (2009) Tamar Rogoff, and water burns sun (2009) Petra Kuppers. Each represents a specific understanding of disability, creating an evolutionary framework for conceptualizing different perceptions of disabled bodies as either monstrous freak, heroic victim or corporeally diverse. The third section creates connections between new knowledge in interpersonal neurobiology and viewers' perceptions of disability that are activated through viewing dance performance, thus providing an understanding of the mechanisms of discrimination and marginalization of people who embody difference, as well as uncovering mechanisms that have the potential to be reparative. The application of neuroscientific knowledge to Performance Studies can be modulated and expanded by considering the interpersonal communicative dimension of dance performance that is inclusive of differing corporealities. A theoretical approach that encompasses the neuroscientific conceptualization of intersubjectivity in creating empathic attunement between viewer and dancer, can offer a means of understanding the innate potential of dance performance to bring about societal change.
CitationMcGrath, E. (2013) 'Beyond integration: reformulating physical disability in dance'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy July
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