Dance to paper: How to bring together scientific exactitude, ethnographic density, aesthetic claims, and visual readability?

Wettstein, Marion (2017). Dance to paper: How to bring together scientific exactitude, ethnographic density, aesthetic claims, and visual readability? (Unpublished)

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As an anthropologist studying the ritual circle dance sakela among the Rai of Eastern Nepal, one of the aims of my research is to publish a handbook of dance movements. In the sakela dance the circle of dancers follows a dance leader who indicates the sequences of repeated dance gestures that mimic agricultural techniques, weaving techniques and the movements of animals related to mythology. Fancying Labanotation for documentation in the beginning, I dropped the idea: None of my Rai hosts and hardly any of my colleagues would be able to decipher the notation. Testing video and photography did not satisfy my aesthetic demands: Already in my former research on the textiles of the Nagas in Northeast India I experienced that photography does not do justice to the aesthetic quality of the textiles and I rather chose to draw them (Wettstein 2014)*. Experimenting with drawings added to a musical score, I aimed at the simultaneous depiction of melody, annotated recitation text, and ritual bodily movement of a Rai ritual (Wettstein, von Stockhausen & Rai in print)*. But in the case of the sakela dance, the musical score would visually become too dominant. At this stage of the research I therefore face a moment of decision: How to represent the gestural sequences of the sakela dance repertoire on paper, so that it simultaneously contains a maximum of ethnographic information and is visually appealing and intuitively readable for all audiences likewise? In this paper, I want to address this question to the audience for discussion after having given a short overview of the available research data. This work in progress report is therefore meant to find possible solutions for the problem of bringing together at one glance scientific exactitude, ethnographic density, and aesthetically appealing representations doing justice to culturally varying visual conventions in the representation of bodily dance gestures in social science, and to discuss the consequences of compromise in any of these requirements.

Item Type:

Working Paper

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute for the Science of Religion
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Wettstein, Marion

Subjects:

200 Religion
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology

Language:

English

Submitter:

Marion von Stockhausen-Wettstein

Date Deposited:

03 Aug 2017 09:54

Last Modified:

12 Dec 2017 09:33

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/96763

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