Panel: Embodiment in Arts Education

Shaun Gallagher, The concept of joint body schema in educational practices in the performing arts

During certain types of expert performance, the performer’s actions are sometimes carried along in a way that seems to involve a kind of passivity. Høffding (2015) in an analysis of musical performance has pointed to four factors that are involved in this phenomenon: body schema, emotion, the music itself, and, in the case of playing music together, the other players. I’ll take a closer look at the connection between body schema and the intersubjective dynamics of co-performance. I’ll clarify the concept of body schema and it’s relation to practice, and I’ll look at recent research on the notion of a “joint body schema” (Soliman & Glenberg 2014) and discuss some implications for training in music and dance.

Melissa Bremmer, What the body knows about teaching music

This panel will be about embodied learning/teaching through/in the performing arts. From an embodied approach, the body is not considered as an instrument but as a primary signifier in the cultural transmission of musical and dancing skills – from the perspective of the pupil and of the teacher.

Three ideas in relation to embodiment will be discussed. First, the idea that the teaching/learning process in the performing arts is a multi-modal form of teaching/learning. Teaching/learning dance and music involves the entire body and all the senses: it is a living process that requires a bodily attentiveness and dynamical attunement of both teacher and pupil. Secondly, teaching/learning in dance and music is considered a participatory sense-making activity and is therefore highly relational. It is an activity that can be described as an embodied engagement process in which music and dance experiences are exchanged, coordinated and shaped between pupil and teacher and between pupils. Rhythm, pulse and timing are co-constituted and co-regulated in the interaction. The third idea is that art itself is aesthetic and expressive-affective. In learning and teaching music and dance meaning is created together: the aesthetic and expressive-affective meet, and from this meeting meaning arises. In other words, what is being learned settles in the body. Learning/teaching in music and dance is a relational, emergent practice in which the social, the physical and the cultural coincide.
The panel starts with an introduction by Shaun Gallagher about the notion of “joint body schema” as related to the performing arts. The other presenters will look into the implications of this concept for the teaching/learning in dance and music, connecting it to multi-modality, participatory sense-making and art as aesthetic and expressive-affective experience. The subsequent lecture performances enable the translation of the theoretical concepts into hands-on, lived experiences of embodiment in arts education.

Jaco Van den Dool, Learning with the body: investigating the link between musical interaction and the acquisition of musical knowledge and skills

Despite empirical evidence claiming that emotional and bodily processes underlie our cognitive decision making and social functioning (Yang & Damasio 2007), the pervasive body-mind dualism, the Cartesian split (Crossley 1995; Howson & Inglis 2001; Merleau-Ponty 1962), has been deeply rooted in education (Armour 2006; Bowman 2004; Chodakowski & Egan 2008; Powell 2007; Evans & Davies 1996; Reid 1996). This study aims at challenging the body-mind dualism with empirical research, claiming that conscious bodily participation significantly enhances the acquisition of musical knowledge and skills.

This paper examines the acquisition of popular music by young Nepali musicians for whom local traditional music occupies a preeminent place in their music learning process. The way they apply their bodily learning strategies in local traditional music to popular music sheds light on the way musical knowledge and skills might be acquired in general. Therefore, the central question in this study is how bodily learning processes in the form of interaction, gestures and entrainment result in the acquisition of musical knowledge and skills in popular music. The outcomes are based on data collected in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 20 band rehearsals
Derived from a qualitative video analysis and a binary logistic regression, two patterns of learning emerged, indicating that musical knowledge and skills arise out of bodily interaction between musicians. The first pattern, in which they mainly observe their peers or teachers, comprises of human action observation (Calvo-Merino et al. 2005), imagining the observed movements with motor imagery (Cox 2011) and connecting this to previously acquired musical skills. The second pattern demonstrates the transition from human action observation to conscious participation with the body. Consciously aligning the body with the dominant pulse seems conducive to the learning process. Understanding these patterns contributes to embodied music education and caters to body-mind learning strategies of students.

Eeva Anttila, The potential of dance as embodied learning

In this presentation I will discuss the notion of embodied learning and argue that dance can be considered a special type of embodied learning. I will also argue that dance may have yet undiscovered educational potential beyond learning dance. Research in physical education (e.g, Singh et al. 2012) suggests that increased physical activity during academic classes seems to be connected to better learning outcomes. Dance is most often a multifarious physical activity that involves multimodal processes, social interaction, various modes of reflection, creative processes, and performative elements. The combination of music and movement in dancing is yet another factor that in light of brain research seems to warrant more attention. In all, dance may connect non-symbolic, multimodal sensations with symbolic, cultural meanings in an embodied, performative activity where multiple meanings can be shared, negotiated and interpreted. The performance elements and cultural aspects of dance open wide possibilities for learning that is grounded in embodiment but reaches towards complex cultural meanings. During this presentation I will outline my current understanding on dance as embodied learning, developed through several years of research and practical work in dance education (e.g., Anttila 2007; 2013; 2015). My research connects theoretical views and empirical findings on embodiment, embodied cognition, social cognition and socio-material approaches with somatic studies, dance studies and performative studies. In my view, embodied learning implies that the body should be understood as the site and medium for all learning, and that embodied activity – both the actual movement and bodily experiences of the learner – is fundamental in learning. Understanding the significance of bodily activity coupled with reflective and relational processes is a key in developing a comprehensive view on learning, and may have wide pedagogical implications.

Carolien Hermans, Participatory sense-making in dance improvisation

Most theories on subjectivity look to social cognition from a representationalist point of view. Models such as theory of mind, theory theory or simulation theory all state that the mental state of other people cannot be directly observed and therefore our mind-reading abilities have to rely on common sense or folk-psychological theory. In contrast, the enactive account looks at the problem of intersubjectivity from an interactive, embodied, non-representational perspective. Enaction stands for the manner in which a subject of perception creatively matches its actions to the requirements of the situation. It refers to a pathway in which several related ideas come together and are unified: autonomy, sense-making, embodiment, emergence and experience. De Jaegher and Di Paolo (2007) draw further on these five basic ideas of the enactive approach. They introduce the concept of participatory sense-making. In this presentation I will argue that group dance improvisation is a special form of participatory sense-making. The five interrelated ideas of enactive cognition will be used to show in detail how group dance improvisation is in essence a joint sense-making process. In group dance improvisation multiple embodied meanings (such as affects and aesthetic intentions) are created and shared on the spot, in the moment. This embodied joint sense-making process offers vital learning opportunities for both professional and amateur dancers.

Luc Nijs, Digital painting with music and movement: multimodal learning in instrumental music education

Starting from a specific view on the musician-instrument relationship (Nijs, Lesaffre & Leman, 2013), I will discuss the importance of the embodied music cognition paradigm for instrumental music teaching and learning, focusing on the different levels of embodiment (Metzinger, 2015). Using the Music Paint Machine, an interactive music educational technology that allows a musician to make a digital painting by moving in various ways while playing a musical instrument (Nijs & Leman, 2014) as example, I will elaborate on how the integrated use of different modalities (music, movement and image) can address these different levels of embodiment (morphology, body schema, body image) and as such contribute to establishing an optimal relationship between musician and instrument. In our view such an optimal relationship is a conditio sine qua non for the expressive interaction with music and for the involved musical signification process.