Expanding empathic and perceptive awareness: The experience of attunement in Contact Improvisation and Body Weather

Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts 26 (3):106-113 (2021)
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Dance as a complex human activity is a rich test case for exploring perception in action. In this article, we explore a 4E approach to perception/action in dance, focussing on the intersubjective and ecological aspects of kinaesthetic attunement and their capacity to expand empathic and perceptive experience. We examine the question: what are the ways in which the performance ecology co-created in different dance practices influences empathic and perceptive experience? We adopt an enactive ethnographic and phenomenological approach to explore two distinct dance forms: Contact Improvisation [CI], a duet-system based practice aimed at fostering interkinaesthetic awareness and challenging habits of movement; and Body Weather [BW], an anti-hierarchical movement practice sensitive to the surrounding environment. We argue that through intersubjective kinaesthetic attunement, CI scaffolds the development of perceptive awareness of subtle shifts within ourselves and others, allowing the cultivation of a capacity for flexibly traversing between conscious initiation of action, attuned responding, and the intersection between them. Similarly, we investigate the expansion of perceptive experience through kinaesthetic attunement in BW. We suggest that the capacity for empathy is enhanced in BW through drawing attention to, and perception of, the fullness of a place in a way that we do not typically experience. By focussing on the variations in which embodied perceptual skills are enacted in specific dance forms and the expansion of perceptive experience through kinaesthetic attunement, we stress the potential of the performing arts to cultivate and create new ways of empathic engagement with the world in which we find ourselves.



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Sarah Pini
University of Southern Denmark

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