Communities / Identities – Jeannette Mollenhauer, Kathryn Stamp, Rachel Sweeney, Maria Kerin + Q&A

Presentations

Presentations on the intersection between dance disability and public interventions in the UK, the historical erasure of Irish dance in Australia, and the fostering of transnational academic and artistic dialogues through technology.

Mollenhauer’s presentation argues that although Irish dance currently enjoys a measure of civic prominence, its contribution to the archive of Australian dance practice is “missing”. Stamp’s paper is a critical examination of the intersection between dance, disability and public interventions in the UK and Sweeney and Kerin’s paper introduces the artists’ post site specific approach to somatic / virtual informed research around body-place relations.



Abstracts

Jeannette Mollenhauer: “The Invisible Irish: A Lacuna in Australian Dance History and Practice”

Despite being among the first non-Indigenous members of Australia’s population, the Irish community has been subjected to persistent marginalisation within both socio-cultural and choreographic domains. In the late nineteenth century, an extraordinary, diaspora-specific dispute arose between Irish and Scottish step dance practitioners that reflected broader political and community efforts to relegate Irish immigrants to society’s perimeter. Although the problem took decades to resolve, the Irish dance community emerged from the conflict determined to establish solid traditions, linked to Ireland but embodied within the Antipodean context.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, Irish dance remained sequestered within culturally-defined boundaries, in congruence with the situation experienced by autochthonous dance customs of the growing number of immigrant communities that characterised Australia’s diversifying population. Finally, as a result of the globally acclaimed stage shows, the enfranchisement of Irish dance in Australia was attained, at least in the public domain. Although this achievement is laudable, the invisibility of Irish dance in Australian dance historiographies and scholarly discourse requires exposure.

In this paper, I argue that although Irish dance currently enjoys a measure of civic prominence, its contribution to the archive of Australian dance practice is “missing”, having been under-examined and ill-recognised. Drawing on historical records and my own ethnography among solo and social practitioners, this paper compares two points along the granulated narrative of Irish dance praxis in Australia: the nineteenth century and the current era. I demonstrate that my revisionist analysis exposes a twenty-first century situation marked by congruence with nineteenth-century rhetoric, namely, that colonialist tropes continue to disregard Irish dance and its practitioners.


 

Kathryn Stamp: “Re-thinking dance norms: raising the visibility of disabled dancers through photography interventions”

Disabled people have historically been excluded from cultural activities and unrealistically portrayed in the media, whether through a lack of opportunity, a lack of representation or a lack of understanding. This paper is a critical examination of the intersection between dance, disability and a UK public intervention, analysing perceptions of disabled dancers, and how these are created and changed through interventional framing.

Emerging from a mixed-methods evaluation of UK dance organisation People Dancing’s ‘11 Million Reasons to Dance’ strategic touring project (November 2016 – November 2017), this paper explores the findings from an analysis of the exhibition photographs that featured disabled dance artists recreating famous dance scenes from popular films. Not only did this project raise concerns about framing disabled artists within non-disabled ‘norms’, it also prompted questions regarding the effects of photography as a method for transmitting messages about inclusion in dance.

A core component of how disability is discussed and consequently both experienced and perceived is the use of language. This project introduced a plethora of considerations regarding the application of a RE prefix to frame a disability-related intervention. Through investigations of prefix etymology, this paper considers the use of vocabulary in the design, creation and evaluation of interventions that aim to shift public perceptions of disabled bodies. I will consider the use of the RE prefix in changing perceptions and notions of ableist cultural history, which often excludes and perpetuates, rather than challenging dominant norms of the dance canon.

Through the exploration of language and interdisciplinary approaches to practice, I will argue that more radical approaches to raising the visibility of disabled dance artists and to unpack societally-influenced perceptions held by the public is needed to challenge the continually perpetuated ableist norms of the sector.


 

Rachel Sweeney & Maria Kerin: “The Floating Village: creating a corporeo-digital presence of water|body exchange”

This paper introduces the artists’ post site specific approach to somatic / virtual informed research around body-place relations. Citing the very real adaptations of a two year collaboration, we discuss how our work explores, articulates and realigns digital and physical spaces in response to radically altered external borders, actively reimagining body space through a multitemporal movement inquiry.</p?

We present a series of projects produced under the collective title ‘The Floating Village’, which is informed by a dance ecology approach to developing co-creative practice through sustainability initiatives (inclusive of pandemic contexts), and an increased responsibility to maintain and foster transnational academic and artistic dialogue through creative digital platforms. Focused on water/body resonances, this concept has expanded to include a series of trans-local and interdisciplinary community dance projects, both virtual and real-time. Current inquiries include a water temporality inquiry into Lisdoonvarna spa wells, ‘Ode to Lickeen Lake’, a participatory arts project in North Clare through the Local Authorities Water Community Water Development Fund, and a participatory immersive body mapping project around the Copper Coast Geopark site, funded through Waterford County Council.

We will discuss our post-site specific approach through ‘the multitemporal body’ (Kerin, 2019), considering phenomenological aspects of these art projects, and building towards a living archive of water|body exchanges, visually mapping, languaging, tracking and tracing through a corporeo-digital presence.