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This article explores the potential of a new conceptualisation of dance spectatorship informed by theories of embodied and enactive cognition. The approach adopted here incorporates the bodily experience and the intellectual processing of information that the dance spectator goes through. This perspective enables a discussion on the intersection of referential elements, spectator’s knowledge and background, and formal properties of the work into the experience that provide a holistic view of the work of dance and its effects through the concept of synaesthesia.
Meaning moves, sounds feel, images taste and smell. In order to build this understanding, this particular study makes use of an enquiry into experience and body-environment relationships to approach the multi-modal experience of watching dance. I explore the idea of cross-sensory embodied experience as the base for dance spectatorship. I propose that synaesthesia will be useful in modelling spectatorial experience of dance. Further to this, I contend that although maybe not fully consciously, it is possible that the creative agents—the choreographer-director in this case—already have an understanding of this potential. Through this they manipulate elements within their works until they experience something akin to cross-sensory engagement in themselves. This perspective hence also allows new forms of analysis and understandings of creative work in performance.
Through this approach, the article discusses a combination of apparently separate elements and senses in performance, with focus on sound, silence, and resonance through the notion of synaesthesia. Discussion is illustrated and exemplified though analysis of choreographer Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works (2015), which not only expresses ideas, emotions, and sensations through the medium of dance, but demonstrates an understanding of dance as cross-sensory potentiality, able not only to deal with deep thematic elements, but also remain viscerally engaging. Embodied cognition, then, is proposed as the best framework to discuss the spectatorial experience of such work.
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