Thesis: Exploring the audience’s perception of connectedness between two dancers

By Johanna Paschen 

My thesis for my Liberal Arts and Sciences degree was a case study which explored the audience’s perception of connectedness between two dancers. The performance
Notes on Synchrony as part of the Moving Futures Festival in Groningen was used as a case study. My role as a researcher was not just conducting the research but also being part of the dance performance project. Qualitative methods were used to get in-depth knowledge.

Participants were ten undergraduate students from the University College Groningen who watched the performance Notes on Synchrony live as part of the Moving Futures Festival in Groningen beforehand. 

The procedure of the research was split in two parts. In the first part, I showed the participants three video extracts of the dance performance. By doing so, I asked participants to point out the moments when they experienced the two dancers as connected. In the second part I did interviews and asked how participants perceived connectedness between the two dancers in the indicated moments.

RESULTS During the analysis three themes with a total number of 11 codes emerged. This thematic map is showing an overview of the three main themes of how observers perceived connectedness between the two dancers. In the following, examples will be given for the codes and images will be given to make it more visible.

The first theme presents how connectedness was perceived by experiencing invisible signs. 

Example energy: One participant explained that the dancers were making a connection by “moving their fingers as if they were sending energies”. Witnessing an interpersonal energy and/or an energy flow between the dancers made the participant perceive connectedness.

Example awareness: One participant mentioned that at a specific moment in the performance the dancers were spatially aware of each other (even without looking at each other). And this spatial awareness gave the impression that the dancers were two and one body at the same time. Their focus and attention was completely on the other dancer, which then elicited connectedness for the participant.

The second theme focusses on the participants’ observation that the dancers were perceived to be connected through their senses.

Example Sight: Participants explained that connectedness peaks for him when the dancers make eye contact.

Example Touch & Hearing: Participants perceived connectedness because the dancers were physically hugging each other. At the same time, participants perceived connectedness through music since both dancers listened and reacted to the music with their movements. That shows that two codes (touch and hearing) can be present at the same time.

And the third theme emerged because the participants mentioned that connectedness was perceived through the movements of the dancers. 

Example Stillness & Synchronicity: Participants described that there was a moment of stillness which elicited connectedness and then suddenly a really brief moment of a synchronous twitch of the upper body before they continued to move. 

Example Simultaneity: Simultaneous moving was already part of dancing in synchrony. However, the difference is now that the dancers are dancing together at the same time but they are not doing exactly the same movements. In the example of the image below, the participant mentioned that the dancers were simultaneously moving their legs and feet which made him perceive connectedness.

Example Same direction: A quote of a participant said that she thinks that there is connectedness because the dancers were moving in the same direction. And that both of their energies were also going in the same direction.

Example Mirroring: Participants said the fact that the dancers are mirroring each other’s movements elicits connectedness.

Example Action/ Reaction:  A participant described that the dancer in the yellow shirt did a movement and then the other one threw his hands up. So for that participant it was this immediate action and reaction which elicited feeling of connectedness.

Overall there is a high interconnectedness between the individual signs which means that the people’s perception of connectedness often depends on several signs being present at the same time. Thus, interconnectedness means that different signs can be present at the same time and through the combination of the signs it elicits a perception of connectedness. The combination can be a combination of physical signs but also a combination of physical and invisible signs such as touch and feeling energy. Therefore, interconnectedness between the signs is significant for detecting and understanding connectedness.

However, even if a combination of for example physical signs, such as touch and eye-contact, elicited a perception of connectedness in one moment, it might be that in another moment where touch and eye-contact is also present, no connectedness was perceived. Sometimes participants did not indicate that they perceived connectedness because for instance invisible signs such as the interpersonal energy were missing. Consequently, invisible signs can strengthen the perception of connectedness which was perceived through physical signs. To conclude, these findings suggest that our society should not forget about the significance of invisible signs which can determine connectedness.

Connectedness can be witnessed by dancers; dancers can feel and physically experience their interaction. But connectedness can also be perceived. In fact, this study shows that there are signs through which connectedness is perceived by an audience. This illustrates that even if every individual perceives the world differently, common signs emerged for perceiving connectedness. Perception is a process through which connectedness can be interpreted and understood. Perceiving connectedness in a dance context can thus show how an audience relates to the dancers and how an audience understands human behaviour. The dancers appeared to be connected through behaviour patterns including the dancers’ movements, the use of their senses, and invisible communication. In this way, particular behaviour patterns elicit the impression of interpersonal connectedness which might be applicable to other human interaction other than dance. In the end, such perceptions can provide an understanding of connectedness in an individual’s environment. More detailed information can found it the attached pdf of the full bachelor thesis.

More detailed information can found it the bachelor thesis.
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