Exploring dance improvisation with differently bodied dancers

This study investigates the meaning-making processes in the Dance Laboratory, a dance improvisation project with differently bodied dancers in Trondheim, Norway. In the project, dancers with and without disabilities, amateurs and professionals, investigate what dance can be in the meeting between them. Through a mixed-method approach, Østern voices and interprets the ways in which the project is meaningful for the different dancers, and what they learn. She seeks to connect the bodily, lived experiences in the improvisation to the meaning perspective transfor-mation among the dancers during the project.

Grounded in her lived experience as the dance teacher in the Dance Laboratory, Østern posits a reading of the body as a lived and constructed phenomenon. As part of this reading, she illuminates a tension between cultural and individual narratives about disability. She uses space as a theoretical device and identifies a lived, aesthetic, fictive, cultural, political and narrative space in dance. She suggests that a dance teacher’s awareness about how dance operates within, and also creates, these spaces is crucial in order to negotiate about space for differently bodied dancers. In showing that the dancers’ meaning-making processes go across categories like disabled and non-disabled, professional and amateur, she deconstructs traditional categories. The different dancers walk as individuals, not categories, through the project.

As a result of her investigation, Østern argues for a poetic, dialogical and transformative dance pedagogy. She focuses on dance teachers as agents of change and dance improvisation as a learning space where dancers and dance teachers experience, learn and change. In dance improvisation, they are constantly on the move.