DOI:

https://doi.org/10.14483/25909398.20248

Publicado:

2023-02-15

Número:

Vol. 9 Núm. 9 (2022): Enero-Diciembre 2022

Sección:

Sección Central

Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet

Decolonising the professional ballet dancer’s senses through learning in ballet class

Descolonizando os sentidos dos bailarinos profissionais na aprendizagem na aula de balé

Autores/as

Palabras clave:

Aprendizaje, ballet, cultura, emociones, sentidos (es).

Palabras clave:

Ballet, culture, emotions, learning, senses (en).

Palabras clave:

Aprendizado, ballet, cultura, emoções, sensações (pt).

Referencias

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Grau, A. (2011). Dancing bodies, spaces/places and the senses: A cross-cultural investigation. Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices. Coventry: Intellect Ltd. 3(1+2), pp.5-24.

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Hanrahan, C. and Vergeer, I. (2001). Multiple uses of mental imagery by professional modern dancers. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 20(3) pp. 231-255.

Homans, J. (2010). Apollo’s angels: a history of ballet. New York: Random House. Howes, D. (1991). The varieties of sensory experien ce. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Available at: http://www.sensorystudies.org/sensorial-investigations/doing-sensory-anthropology/ (Accessed on: 26.4.2016).

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Kealiinohomoku, J. W. (2001[1983]). An anthropologist looks at ballet as a form of ethnic dance. in: Moving history. Dancing cultures: A dance history reader. Ann Dils and Ann Cooper Albright (eds.), Wesleyan Univer sity Press. pp. 33-43.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (2012 [1945]). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge. Morris, G. (2003). Problems with Ballet: Steps, style and training. Research in Dance Education. 4(1), pp. 17-30.

Nakamura, J. and Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). The concept of flow. In: Handbook of Positive Psychology. Edited by C. R. Snyder and Shane J. Lopez. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 90-105.

Nordin-Bates, S. (2014). Perfectionism. International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS). pp. 1-10.

O’Shea, J. (2018). Decolonizing the Curriculum? Un settling possibilities for performance training. Revista Brasileira de Estudos de Presença. Oct./Dec. Porto Alegre: UFRGS. 8(4) pp. 750-762.

Pickard, A. (2015). Ballet body narratives: pain, pleasure and perfection in embodied identity. Bern: Perter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers.

Potter, C. (2007). Learning to dance: experience in British contemporary dance training. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Oxford: The Queen’s College-University of Oxford, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Ravn, S. (2009). Sensing movement, living spaces. An investigation of movement based on the lived expe rience of 13 professional dancers. VDM Verlag: Saar brucken.

Robinson, E. (2017). Lost (and Found) in Transmission: An Awakening of the Senses. Conversations across the field of dance studies: Teacher’s Imprint—Rethinking Dance Legacy. Society of Dance History Scholars. XXXVII. pp. 40-42.

Rosa, C. F. (2015). Brazilian Bodies and Their Choreographies of Identification Swing Nation. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Roses-Thema, C. (2007). Reclaiming the dancer: embodied perception in a dance performance. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Arizona: Arizona State University.

Salosaari, P. (2001). Multiple embodiment in classical ballet educating the dancer as an agent of change in the cultural evolution of ballet. Doctoral dissertation, Theatre Academy. Department of Dance and Theatre Pedagogy. Helsinki: Publisher Theatre Academy.

Santos, B. de S. (2018). The end of the cognitive empi re: the coming of age of epistemologies of the South. Durham: Duke University Press.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2000). Kinetic tactile-kinaesthe tic bodies: ontogenetical foundations of apprenticeship learning. human studies. Netherlands: Kluwer Acade mic Publishers. (23) pp.343-370.

Sklar, D. (2008). Remembering Kinesthesia: An Inquiry into Embodied Cultural Knowledge. In: The Migration of Gesture: Dance, Film, Writing. Carrie Noland and Sally Ann Ness (eds.), University of Minnesota PPress. pp. 85-113.

Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Cómo citar

APA

Dornelles de Almeida, D. (2023). Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos, 9(9), 85–102. https://doi.org/10.14483/25909398.20248

ACM

[1]
Dornelles de Almeida, D. 2023. Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos. 9, 9 (feb. 2023), 85–102. DOI:https://doi.org/10.14483/25909398.20248.

ACS

(1)
Dornelles de Almeida, D. Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. corpo graf. 2023, 9, 85-102.

ABNT

DORNELLES DE ALMEIDA, Doris. Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos, [S. l.], v. 9, n. 9, p. 85–102, 2023. DOI: 10.14483/25909398.20248. Disponível em: https://revistas.udistrital.edu.co/index.php/CORPO/article/view/20248. Acesso em: 29 may. 2024.

Chicago

Dornelles de Almeida, Doris. 2023. «Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet». Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos 9 (9):85-102. https://doi.org/10.14483/25909398.20248.

Harvard

Dornelles de Almeida, D. (2023) «Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet», Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos, 9(9), pp. 85–102. doi: 10.14483/25909398.20248.

IEEE

[1]
D. Dornelles de Almeida, «Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet», corpo graf., vol. 9, n.º 9, pp. 85–102, feb. 2023.

MLA

Dornelles de Almeida, Doris. «Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet». Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos, vol. 9, n.º 9, febrero de 2023, pp. 85-102, doi:10.14483/25909398.20248.

Turabian

Dornelles de Almeida, Doris. «Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet». Corpo Grafías Estudios críticos de y desde los cuerpos 9, no. 9 (febrero 15, 2023): 85–102. Accedido mayo 29, 2024. https://revistas.udistrital.edu.co/index.php/CORPO/article/view/20248.

Vancouver

1.
Dornelles de Almeida D. Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. corpo graf. [Internet]. 15 de febrero de 2023 [citado 29 de mayo de 2024];9(9):85-102. Disponible en: https://revistas.udistrital.edu.co/index.php/CORPO/article/view/20248

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Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet

Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet

Descolonizando los sentidos de los bailarines profesionales de ballet en el aprendizaje en la clase de ballet

Decolonizando os sentidos dos bailarinos profissionais na aprendizagem na aula de balé

Doris Dornelles de Almeida
Department of Arts and Humanities, Federal University of Vicosa, Brasil

Recepción: 14 Septiembre 2021

Aprobación: 15 Mayo 2022



Resumen: Esta investigación aborda el papel de las emociones y las experiencias multisensoriales en el aprendizaje de los bailarines profesionales en las clases de ballet de Londres a través de método etnográfico. Partiendo de los conceptos de sensorium, corazonar y decolonial sensing, abogo por la democratización y descolonialización de los sentidos del bailarín uniendo sensorial, razón y emociones como elementos principales para el aprendizaje de la danza.

Los bailarines de ballet mostraron un sensorium diversificado para aprender que amplía la noción de los cinco sentidos. Los bailarines perciben y aprenden de manera diferente con y a través de sus sentidos, a partir de antecedentes, culturas y hábitos distintivos. Un uso más igualitario de múltiples formas de percepción por parte de bailarines profesionales puede promover una nueva forma de aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. Ampliar la comprensión de los sentidos y las emociones de los bailarines les ayuda a explorar su técnica y expresión artística.

Palabras clave: Aprendizaje, ballet, cultura, emociones, sentidos.

Abstract: This research addresses the role of emotions and multisensorial experiences in a professional ballet dancer’s learning experiences during ballet classes in London gleaned through ethnographic methods. Based on the concepts of the sensorium, corazonar and decolonial sensing, I advocate for the democratisation and decolonialisation of the dancer’s senses uniting the sensorial, reason and emotions as principal elements for learning dance.

The ballet dancers exhibited a diversified sensorium in the learning process, a practice that expanded the notion of the five senses. The dancers perceived and learned differently with and through their sen- ses, from distinctive backgrounds, cultures, and ha- bits. This underscores the idea that a more egalita- rian use of multiple ways of sensing by professional ballet dancers can promote a new way of learning in ballet class, which leads to broadening the unders- tanding of how dancers’ senses and emotions can help them to explore their technique and artistic expression.

Keywords: Ballet, culture, emotions, learning, senses.

Resumo: Esta pesquisa aborda o papel das emoções e experiências multissensoriais na aprendizagem de bailarinos profissionais nas aulas de ballet em Londres através de método etnográfico. Com base nos con- ceitos de sensorium, corazonar e decolonial sensing, defendo a democratização e decolonização dos sen- tidos do bailarino unindo o sensorial, a razão e as emoções como elementos principais na aprendiza- gem da dança.Os bailarinos mostraram um sensorium diversifi- cado para aprender ampliando a noção dos cinco sentidos. Os bailarinos percebem e aprendem de forma diferente por meio de seus sentidos, baseados em suas origens, culturas e hábitos distintos. Um uso mais igualitário de múltiplas formas de percepção por bailarinos profissionais pode promo- ver uma nova forma de aprendizagem nas aulas de ballet. Ampliar a compreensão sobre os sentidos e emoções dos bailarinos os ajuda a explorar sua técnica e expressão artística.

Palavras-chave: Aprendizado, ballet, cultura, emoções, sensações.

Introduction

This paper discusses the professional ballet dancer’s sensorial learning in the environment of the ballet class. Professional ballet dancers acquire and refine specialised knowledge of the technique and artistry in their daily class through multiple senso- rial modalities which are prioritised and interconnected differently. Each ballet class has its own social and cultural setting, and it is never a neutral space; rather, it is a complex practice where dancers make sense of the world through the sensorial. The senses are culturally framed and there is no con- sensus between the theoretical perspectives concerning their division/typology or how they are felt.

The notion of what constitutes bodily senses, its classification and functions vary across different cultures. The philosopher, Aristotle (ca. 350 BC), dis- cussed the selection of five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in his work De Anima (2002 [1968]). Based on the physics and physiology of perception, Aristotle (2002 [1968]) argues that each sense has a sense-organ (e.g., eye, ear), a medium to be felt (e.g., air, water), and its own proper object (e.g., sight – colour, hearing – sound). For Aristotle (2002 [1968]), perception involves the relation be- tween the sense-organ and an external object in a causal process.

Many Euro-American scholars still prioritise one or more of the five primary senses of Aristotle’s (2002 [1968]) model and consider those to be key for the composition of the sensorium. The dance anthro- pologist, Andrée Grau (2011), explains that ballet is rooted in Western culture, where vision is culturally dominant. Therefore, when ballet is practiced in di- fferent cultural environments, in many parts of the world it still prioritises an ocularcentric perspective of the world. To investigate how dancers feel and use their senses to learn, my methodology involved ethnographic work (based on models by Spradley, 1980; Hsu, 2008) at the English National Ballet, Ba- llet Black and Dance Works from 2016-2019, including participant observations and participant experience of ballet classes, and interviews with twelve dancers.

1.The dancers’ sensoria

In twentieth-century dance studies, dance anthropologist Cynthia Jean Cohen Bull (1997) found that in ballet practice and performance, dancers prioritised the sense of seeing, whilst dancers in contact improvisation privileged the sense of touch, and traditional Ghanaian dancers gave primacy to the aural sense. Although Bull’s study provides a gene- ralisation of the dancers’ prioritisation of one sen- se associated with a particular dance genre, it still broadens the conversation about ways in which the dancers used their senses in various forms. According to Bull (1997, p. 282), ballet is ‘highly organised by the visual sense’, yet it is also ‘strongly related to the sense of touch’. Yet, dancers feel other sensorial modalities in ballet. In my study dancers feel tac- tile-kinaesthetic-visual-aural sensations which help them retain a memory of the touch of the teacher or on their own bodies (Field note, 25.04.2017). This interconnection of the senses was observed in the ballet classes in London.

Foster (1997) analysed cultural aspects of five different dance techniques: ballet, Duncan, Graham, Cunningham and contact improvisation. For Foster (1997:237), ‘the dancer’s perceived body derives primarily from sensory information that is visual, aural, haptic, olfactory, and perhaps, most im- portant kinaesthetic’. The sports scientist, Susan- ne Ravn (2009), conducted a cross-cultural study which investigated professional dancers’ perspecti- ves of sensing movement in ballet, butoh and con- temporary dance. Ravn (2009) notes that in ballet class, rehearsals and performances at The Royal Danish Ballet, the dancers’ principal senses and ways of sensing movement were vision, hearing, energy, weight, and kinaesthesia. Another study that further developed Aristotle’s model exploring other sensorial modalities is dance scholar Angela Pickard’s (2015) work on the cultural aspects of the ballet class. Pickard explains how amateur dancers become mindful of the movements they make through sensations of pain and pleasure.

Investigating contemporary dancers’ sensory experiences, anthropologist Caroline Potter (2007) participated in dance classes at the London Contemporary Dance School and explored the amateur contemporary dancers’ sensorium, which consisted of intertwined sensory experiences of kinaesthe- sia, heat, pain, taste, touch, sound, and vision. Po- tter’s (2007, p.24) aim was to identify the relation of the sensorium with the formation of the culturalidentity of ‘becoming’ a dancer. The dance scholar, Cynthia Roses-Thema (2007), analysed dancers’ breathing, core temperature, heartbeat, and health issues, such as chronic pain, as feelings of the in- ternal state of the body (interoception) in perfor- mances. The dancer’s perception of the audience’s visual contact and energy, the musical cues and the lights, and the use of costumes were conside- red responses to stimuli originating outside of the body (exteroception). Roses-Thema (2007) found that dancers monitored the background state of the body continuously and interoception became conscious when something unexpected happened, for example, pain and injury. Drawing on the studies by Foster (1997), Ravn (2015) and Pickard (2015) on ballet dancers, and Potter (2007) and Roses-Thema (2007) on contemporary dancers, I investigate the professional ballet dancers’ sensoria in relation to their learning, considering different social and cul- tural contexts where classes occur. I focus on the multiple ways ballet dancers use their senses and how these ways of sensing are interconnected.

For example, in my study the dancers’ ways of breathing promoted different qualities within the movement, such as the case of ‘movement breath’, when dancers’ control their breathing, to breathe in and out, coordinated with the execution of par- ticular movements (Freeman-Sergeant, interview, 13.04.2018), which enables their expressiveness to be enhanced. Some dancers learnt to regulate breathing with the movement, as well with the music - melody or tempo (Larkings, interview, 20.05.2018). The dancers’ ways of breathing (feeling out of breath, breathing to calm themselves down, and gathe- ring energy to move) can help or hinder the execu-tion of movements and use of musicality in class. Therefore, to think about decolonising the dancer’s breathing means to consider professional ballet dancers’ breathing as a perceived sense which accompanies sensations of movement (e.g., breathing expands the internal elasticity of the movement), rhythm (e.g., breathing during phrases of music to coordinate movement; internal rhythm heartbeat), and an emotional dimension (e.g., breathing management connected to feeling calm and confident to move).

2. The sensorial aspect of embodied knowledge

The idea that knowledge is embodied implies recognising that it is an activity involving multiple sensorial modalities. Scholarship outside dance studies shows that it is possible to extend sensorial perceptions far beyond the Aristotelian model. Looking to expand Western thought on the five bodily senses, in her study of the sensorium of the Anlo people in Africa Geurts (2002) discovered other senses, such as balance, kinaesthesia, pleasure, and pain.

For Geurts (2002, p.253), ‘Western European/Euro American folk ideology of the senses limits sensory modalities to bodily functions by which the mind can obtain knowledge of the external world’. Moreover, Howes (1991) and Classen (2012) explained that the notion of the ‘five senses’ influences the way people think and learn in Western cultures. These studies broaden understanding of the notion that sensorial perceptions vary according to the cultural environment. The approaches of these studies inspired me to investigate how ballet dancers learn with multiple and interconnected senses in class. Examples of this include expanding analysis of waysof breathing, feeling haptic sensations and seeing, all of which are conceived of as elements that form their sensorium because of their cultural account of sensorial perception.

Dancers encounter an abundant variety of sensory perceptions, to which cannot be attended all at once. For this reason, dancers may shift their atten- tion between multiple senses in class. To study the dancers’ senses, it is necessary to explore their per- ception and the sensations that accompany them as they impact the way they learn technique and artis- try. Although not studying ballet, philosopher Mau- rice Merleau-Ponty (2012 [1945], p.230) defines bodily senses as a means by which human beings perceive and engage with the world. Merleau-Ponty (2012 [1945]) theorises bodies as physically embodied and environmentally embedded. According to his phenomenological theory, sensations are a function of the senses. The perception or awareness or accumulation of bodily memory are experienced through the senses. Merleau-Ponty’s theory is in tune with the epistemologies of the North because it expresses a universal human characteristic to explain bodily cultures and power relations.

By contrast, in the epistemologies of the South, San- tos offers the notion of Southern ways of knowing with a different framework of the senses from Aris- totle. Santos (2018, p.165) states that ‘knowledge is not possible without experience, and experience is inconceivable without the senses and the feelings they arouse in us’. For Santos (2018, p.165), ‘the senses are essential for knowing’ and broadly inter- connected with culture. Santos (2018, p.93) argues for a deeper engagement with the senses, for instance, in Euro-Western notions of ‘bodily knowledge’ in dance.

I follow Santos’ (2018, p.165) premise that ‘the epistemologies of the North’ need to recognise non-Western knowledges and consider the senses ‘as sources of knowledge’. As an example of deep sensing, Santos (2018:171) suggests that the re- searcher should take into account that ‘bodies’ are ‘unequal’, and these differences define the ways in which they are ‘seen’, ‘see themselves’, and ‘see the researcher’. In this way, Santos includes an element of reciprocity to the analysis of the senses. Santos (2018) recognises other ways of knowing, the notion of individualised bodies, which feel a variety of ways through deep sensing in social and cultural relationships of struggle and experience. Santos’ (2018) expands the notion of corazonar and how a sense can be perceived and analysed. Based on this, I explore how knowledge from the epistemologies of the South can bring new information to my study.

Santos conceptualises senses as means of perceiving the world associated with feelings and reaso- ning. By analysing one’s senses, including feelings and reasoning, Santos considers the person as a whole. For Santos (2018), individuals embody re- lations of social domination through their senses. For this reason, it is important to acknowledge how the senses are used and conditioned to change a si- tuation of struggle and inequality. Aristotle’s (2002 [1968]) model of five senses constitutes a limited framework based on the causal relationship of a sense-organ and an external object. In contrast, the epistemologies of the South offer a broader unders- tanding of the senses, through the notion of deepsensing, corazonar, and the multiple interpretations one can give to what they sense.

Based on Santos’ (2018) perspective which consi- ders a person’s feelings, reasoning, and emotions in each social context, I explore how key professional dancers’ sensorial modalities can promote more democratic learning in ballet classes.

3. Decolonising the dancers’ senses promotes democratisation of the ballet class

Santos’ (2018) concepts of corazonar and deep sensing, as types of human knowledge, show an expanded model of sensing. Santos (2018, pp.100- 101) defines corazonar as emotions/affections and emotional or affective ways of knowing, including a spiritual dimension from a decolonising perspective. According to the dance scholar, Janet O’Shea (2018, p.751), the term ‘decolonisation’ in dance means actions against the conditions created by colonialism.

For O’Shea (2018, p.751), dance scholars need to adopt ‘a ne epistemological frame’ which gives agency and visibility to those previously marginalised, considering a ‘geopolitical configuration of different kinds of knowledge’. I expand O’Shea’s idea to call for decolonisation and democratisation of the professional ballet dancers’ senses.

Some studies of ballet as a cultural space from the North/Western scholarship make decolonial shifts and their research represents an analogue to corazonar. For instance, Grau (2011) explored which elements compose human knowledge in a cross-cultural study of dancers’ corporeality, spatiality and sensibility, with examples from ballet, Balinese, and

Tiwi dance. For Grau (2011, p.7), ‘human experiences are not all of the same order. Sensing, feeling and thinking, for example, are all part of human knowledge and they do not operate in isolation’. From a similar perspective, a study by philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (2000, p.360) considers that young dancers’ bodily knowledge and their acquisition of skills occur through mental, emo-tional states and tactile-kinaesthetic sensations, continuously remembered in movement as ‘habit memory’. These unique studies inspired me to explore how dancers in the daily ballet class acquire knowledge through sensing, thinking and feeling in multiple, culture-specific ways.

Ballet dancers learn in multiple ways with their senses in class. In a study carried out by the dance teacher and psychologist, Christine Hanrahan, and the psychologist, John H. Salmela (1990, p.19), the use of imagery by intermediate ballet dancers in- dicates improvement of their performance based on ‘sensations that the dancer has already seen or felt’. The quality of the image can help dancers feel the nature and direction of the energy flow1 in movement execution and expression. This study aligns with an investigation by the dance scholar, Paula Sa- losaari (2001), which entailed an inquiry into young dancers’ visual and internal conceptualisations of imagery in ballet class to stimulate particular move- ment sensations and how it developed their creative interpretation of set ballet vocabulary.

From early on in ballet education most dancers learn how to use mental imagery from their teachers.

A study of modern dance professionals by Hanrahan and the sports psychologist, Ineke Vergeer (2001), classifies multiple uses of mental imagery, helping dancers to build confidence, calm down, prepare for a performance, and choreograph. Furthermo- re, the dancers used imagery, ‘seeking to integrate mind, body and spirituality not only into their dan- ce training and performance contexts but also into their lifestyle’ (Hanrahan and Vergeer, 2001:249).

The sports scientist, Bettina Bläsing, and psychologists Emily Cross, Corinne Jola, Juliane Honisch, and Catherine Stevens (2012, p.304) identify how dancers use mental imagery as a tool for learning and optimising movements to memorise ‘long com- plex phrases and to improve movement quality in terms of spatiotemporal adaptation and artistic expression’. For dance researcher Tanya Berg (2016, p.219), dancers feel ‘artistic freedom’ when teachers suggest mental imagery in class. These studies reveal how dancers enhance their awareness, the kinaesthetic feeling, and the quality of movement execution with the support of visual images in their minds. In my study, ballet movements were saturated with images, and the use of imagery in class changed the way dancers understood their senses when moving.

As independent scholar Elizabeth Robinson (2017, p.42) argues, ‘in bodily work, it is not sufficient to only watch or to take in through all the senses while learning a technique or skill. The technique must also be actively expressed and reinterpreted back through the senses’.

This means that the lear- ning process depends on the dancer’s sensorial, emotional and rational engagement with the ele- ments of the class. Following this idea, I draw ona study by Elisabeth Gibbons (2007) to help me ex- plore the term democratisation in the ballet class. For Gibbons, three key elements are important for learning: both dancers and teachers can make de- cisions in class; there is an acknowledgement that dancers and teachers may have familiarity with di- fferent teaching styles, and that teaching involves previous and conscious decisions.

I bring Gibbons’ (2007) notion of dance pedagogy to investigate the democratisation of professional ballet classes through the dancers’ perspective of their sensorial learning. Ballet dancers respond to different stimuli which influence the way they utilise their senses in class; one instance of this is the teacher’s pedagogic method.

In my study, ballet dancers face situations daily in class and make individual choices of action. For this reason, I use the concept of agency developed by sociologist Anthony Giddens (1984, p.9) defined as the power and capability of acting as a person wi- shes. This power of action is what I mean by agen- cy – when dancers monitor reflexively themselves and are able to act. For example, when dancers use their breathing in different ways, based on the tea- cher’s guidance, who then lets them decide what suits them best.

To discuss the decolonisation of dancers’ senses, it is important to consider that the ballet class is a society, with members who learn and teach through an intensive, tacit, informal, and weakly sanctioned set of rules. These rules guide how the dancers must use their senses, promote specific behaviours, and embody ballet technique and habitus.

As Giddens (1984, p. 22) states, ‘as social actors, all humanbeings are highly learnt with respect to knowledge which they possess and apply in the production and reproduction of day-to-day social encounters’. For this reason, I foster a broader and inclusive perspective of the dancers’ different sensorial ways of learning in professional ballet classes.

4.Dancers’ sensorial learning in the professional ballet class

Given that it is a constant part of the professional ballet dancer’s life, the daily ballet class is a rich te- rrain for a study of the dancers’ senses. My findings indicate that the cultural and social context of the class stimulates different sensorial experiences. The idea that ballet is a particular cultural practice and an ethnic dance of European cultural heritage, with stylised Western customs and aesthetic values; for instance, dancers’ long and slim bodies was articu- lated several decades ago in the seminal work by dance anthropologist Joann Wheeler Kealiinoho- moku (2001 [1983]). The works of Kealiinhomoku (2001 [1983]), Rosa (2015), and Santos (2018) each investigate different topics, though they all discuss the influence of cultural forms of Western customs and values on the embodiment of individuals of a group.

As noted by anthropologist Elisabeth Hsu (2008, p.433), the ‘sensory experience is socially made and mediated’, presupposing a primordial bodily ex- perience in which the mental and the physical are interconnected with a cultural form. The notion of the sensory experience culturally framed connects to the theory of epistemologies of the South proposed by Santos (2018).

In their social encounters in the ballet class, dan- cers acquire cultural knowledge on how to perform ‘codified and stylised movements and postures’, as discussed by the performance scholar, Deidre Sklar (2008, p.88). Sklar (2008:91) argues that dancers may have ‘lucid moments of seeing themselves’ when performing a plié in the studio, while agree- ing ‘to the perceptual, ideological, and aesthetic conventions of a sociocultural system that values ballet’.

At this moment, the dancers may consciously feel the ‘sensations of toes gripping, quads clenching, spine extending, wrist softening, breath suspending’ and may additionally use visual imagination (Sklar, 2008, p.91). Such ‘cultural background influences what one perceives and how one inter- prets what she perceives’ (Sklar, 1991, p.8). Sklar (1991) considers the cultural knowledge embodied in movement as an embodied emotional experience associated with cultural learning. Sklar’s discus- sion is relevant to my research because I consider ballet dancers’ subjective bodily engagement in class as tacit and internalised through sensations of moving. I examined each ballet class in the three institutions in London as particular manifestations of the ballet culture, and their prioritisation of sensory preferences.

Furthermore, Sklar (2008, p.85) argues for the exa- mination of felt dimensions of movement, in parti- cular, the ‘kinetic vitality as an overlooked aspect of embodied knowledge’. As a researcher, who dances and writes about dance, I tried to make sense of my own and other dancers’ embodied knowledge, using my body as analytical insight. I follow Sklar’s (2000, p. 71) approach of relying on the way I feel sensations as ‘dimensions of movement experience’, which I consider as sensorial learning. Sklar’s (2008) work in the dance context can be examined together with Santos’ (2018) concept of corazonar, given that both explore the specificity of feeling the body through the senses and emotions associated with the values and conventions of a particular sociocultural system.

The way a person senses and perceives depends on how accustomed they are to a sensation and what it means to them. Whilst individual in form, such sensations may also be learnt and shared across members of a cultural group. Outside the context of dance and sensing, the anthropologist Greg Dow- ney (2010) studies how culture may affect the em- bodied learning of athletes and capoeira practitio- ners. Downey’s (2010, p.35) theory of a skills-based model of culture considers that ‘embodied knowledge’ in a particular culture is modified by behaviour, training, and experience.

For Downey (2010), different forms of expertise amongst members of the same training regime are a result of their individual cultural experiences (such as their background, perceptual acuity, physiological conditioning, ways of processing information, training, own coaching, and technique). Dancers in each ballet cultural setting in my study are also individuals who share classes (education), so their embodied learning, may be seen as a skill-based model of (ballet) culture.

Ballet technique is a dance form of embodied skill with over four hundred years of cultural history. It is articulated as a shared education regime with re- cognisable core elements of verticality, turn out, five basic foot positions, pointed toes, grace, precision, placement, lifted and extended limbs. These ele- ments are described as socio-cultural traits by thedance historian Jennifer Homans (2010, pp.19/20). Despite the changes in ballet technique, its core elements are not discussed in depth regarding their impact on dancers’ senses in class.

For instance, in my study, I identified that dancers’ sense of vertica- lity may influence their breathing. Homans (2010) observed historical changes in ballet, such as class structure, gender, costume, the notions of an ideal body and the dancer’s physicality. All these ele- ments of the class may affect the dancers’ senses. For the dance scholar Jennifer Fischer (2015), ballet technique adapted over its history in accordance with its socio-cultural shifts.

Ballet’s long history evolved with the discovery of other ways of understanding the body. According to the ballet master Carlo Blasis (1830), ballet was conceived and codified as a technique with an em- phasis on the presentation of the shape and form of the movement. Since its conceptualisation during the Renaissance in European courts, ballet techni- que celebrates a physical, ethereal form, already explored in the Foster’s (1995, p.1) study.

Despite the differences 2 between ballet methods, schools and styles, the ballet technique dissemina- tes particular values through a ‘ballet culture’ which is not universal. Yet, ballet technique perpetuates similar characteristics, (promotion of hierarchy, a specific type of similar dancing bodies in space and time, disciplined bodies) in which visuality is the main sensorial avenue of communication. This means dancers may internalise technical knowled- ge from diverse international ballet backgrounds.

For instance, even though ballet is still rooted inImportar imagen4 There is a variety of teaching that is internationally known and still used in ballet classes in London.Western-centric/European form of dance, many participants in my study are not from Europe. Many of these dancers did their ballet education in inter- national ballet schools that teach different5 ballet methods, schools, and styles. Nonetheless, all sha- re a training regimen, working in dance companies in London, such as ENB, or BB. The dancers’ lear- ning occurs in specific cross-institutional and cultu- ral contexts, involving and nurturing particular and different sensorial modalities. To think about ballet as a culture implies considering where it is rooted, how it is disseminated, who participates in the class, how dancers’ relationships are organised (with the teacher and their peers), and which social and cultural codes they value (styles and pedagogic values the teachers and dancers share).

5.A more democratic perspective of the ballet class

The dance scholar Geraldine Morris (2003) notes that the ballet class is not only a way of thinking about movement, but also a social attitude which impacts the way a dancer processes all sorts of con- textual information and value systems around it. For Morris (2003), there is a need in the professio- nal ballet class for ballet teachers to acknowledge and incorporate the stylistic diversity from the wor- ks of different choreographers, instead of perfec- ting the technical movements of a single method, school, or style.

According to Morris (2003, p.17), the structure of the ballet class that prevails since the middle of the last century is ‘almost entirely teacherled and gives the student little opportunity for dialogue’. The dancing body is a site of negotia- tion in relations of resistance and self-surveillance with the members of the class. The philosopher Michel Foucault (1977, p.175) studied surveillance as a powerful means between members of a group to learn the norms of discipline and punishment in their engagement with an institution, in particu lar prisons, school and hospitals. The relations of power occur through mechanisms of control, exa- mination and classification of members (Foucault, 1977). In my study, dancers learn in their relations with the members of the ballet class, the norms and values through the surveillance of their senses.

The sociologist Anna Aalten (2004) analysed ballet dancers’ physical-emotional sensations of strength, power and control in an ethnography of ballet as a cultural practice. For Aalten (2004), teachers, re- hearsal assistants, choreographers, and artistic di- rectors teach dancers in class the ideal technique and body accepted in the ballet world, operating as gatekeepers to the profession. Based on Fou- cault’s theory, dance scholar Jill Green (2002-03, pp.110/111) scrutinised the qualities of the ‘per- fect body’ disseminated by such gatekeepers to dancers. According to Blasis (1830), many elements are part of the ballet classroom tradition as a re- gimented practice, for example, codified positions, structure of the class in barre and centre exercises, and use of the mirror.

These elements can still be considered core in the ballet classes investigated in London. Even in the past several decades, it can be observed that ballet technique remains resistant to change. My investigation of the ballet classroomin the twentieth-first-century partly aligns with the statement made by the dance historian Sandra Noll Hammond (1984). Hammond’s (1984, p.63) analysis of the early nineteenth-century ballet class retained some elements from the traditional class described by Blasis, ‘while incorporating other material which is vastly different’. Sports psychologist Sanna Nor- din-Bates (2014) argues that the problem for dan- cers trying to fit an ideal body and perfect technical movements is that they create unrealistic expecta- tions, which can lead to burnout and impact their motivation. Bringing such considerations into my study is important, given that the dancers learn norms about how to use their senses in particular ways through their social relations in class, engaging with a disciplinary process of their senses.

Although no studies consider the sensorium as a culturally-rooted deployment of senses in a pro- fessional ballet class, several studies provide useful leads for this investigation. The notion of democra- cy in ballet is discussed through different perspec- tives. For former dancer and ballet teacher Julia Gleich (2015, p.10), an inclusive company model entails ‘dancers of different shapes, sizes, and co- lours, and a varied repertory’. Gleich (2015, p.11) adds that ‘teachers are asked to create a syllabus, in which they define their teaching practice within a fairly limited choice of extremes’, for instance ‘Va- ganova or Cecchetti, RAD or Russian, Bournonville or Balanchine’.

Gleich (2015, pp.11/12) argues that a ballet class must offer ‘the opportunity to disco- ver and then expand beyond a common vocabulary to create dancers who can dance’ varied styles and dance genres, instead of limiting ballet to labelled techniques. Gleich’s (2015, p.12) premise is thatdancers experience a series of energies and vectors in ‘a collection of directions of movement, rather than shapes’ in different technical and aesthetic approaches to ballet. Although they do not discuss specific senses nor suggest a decolonial approach to ballet, these studies by Morris (2003) and Gleich (2015) argue for another type of learning, one which involves a more democratic approach to the ballet class. These studies by Western scholars dis- cuss the ballet class from a democratic perspective which inspired me to investigate the importance of the decolonialisation of dancers’ senses. I propose that a more democratic and decolonial perspective of ballet learning can be achieved through the investigation of dancer’s sensorial modalities.

According to the philosopher and education scho- lar John Dewey (1922, p.115), ‘education is a so- cial process’. A democratically constituted society recognises ‘mutual interests’ between members of the group as ‘a factor in social control’ and can stimulate ‘change in social habit’ through conti- nuous readjustments to new situations (Dewey, 1922, p.100). A society which provides participa- tion of ‘all its members in equal terms and which secures readjustments of its institutions through interaction of different forms of associated life is in so far democratic’ (Dewey, 1922, p.115). The Bra- zilian philosopher Paulo Freire (1987[1970], p. 23), who represents Southern epistemologies, explains that to fight a culture of domination and violence, the ‘oppressed’ need a humanistic and liberating education which, first, awakes their perception of the domination they suffer, and second, transforms their being through a pedagogy which destroys the myths created by the ‘oppressors’.

According to Frei-re (1987[1970]), education as a practice of freedom is an interactive process, which must occur through dialogues to promote the expression, transforma- tion, and creation of knowledge, as opposed to a pedagogy of the oppressed. The term ‘democratic pedagogy’ is used by the dance scholars Becky Dyer (2009:119) and Anne Burnidge (2012:38). Demo- cratic pedagogy uses a student-centred approach to empower the dancer to critically reflect and assume agency over their learning and their movements. In line with existing decolonial models in education and the ballet class, my study contributes to the scholarship by bringing attention to dancers’ senso- rial approaches, for instance in terms of how they sense their breathing, touch, and vision to learn. These sensorial means serve as a way to increase democratisation by integrating a holistic perspecti- ve into the daily ballet class.

Despite its evolution and studies on pedagogic democratisation in the field of ballet teaching, the ba- llet class still requires deeper attention to sensorial understanding. It needs to be scrutinised with res- pect to its socio-cultural context because it aims to prepare dancers to work in novel ways.

Final considerations

My study is an empirical investigation, carried out through ethnographic methods, of how professio- nal ballet dancers prioritise certain senses in some classes in London, and how this impacts their lear- ning. Nonetheless, the historical contextualisation shows that visuality is main sensorial avenue of communication in ballet, which continues to go un- questioned.The dancers internalise the norms and ideology of their ballet culture cognitively, but also through their senses, which occurs distinctively according to each dancer at each venue, even when they take classes with the same teacher.

My findings indicate that the three institutions, ENB, BB, and DW, differ from each other as ‘cultural’ environments of ba- llet classes in London. Yet, most DW ballet teachers are or were dancers, or are teachers in the ENB, BB, and The Royal Ballet companies, suggesting that they transfer cultural values from one institution to another.

The cultural setting of the class impacts the dancers’ senses and their acquisition of particular skills in a specific environment. The dancers’ engagement with values and beliefs practised by the members in class influence their cultural judgment and inter- pretation of their senses. In the social environment of the class, dancers learn to use self-surveillance, follow a rigorous discipline, and try to control their sensations to fit the technique. My analysis indica- tes that dancers criss-cross their senses differently depending on their relations and engagement with the environment of the class. The ballet dancers in- vestigated sense, think, and feel emotions, resulting in the development of a special knowledge of how to move with artistry in a culturally embodied process. This is similar to the concept of corazonar, and I have named it multisensorial learning.

In my analysis, I was inspired by Csordas’ (1993, p.138) argument that to attend to a bodily sensation is ‘to attend to the body’s situation in the world’. My findings indicate that the dancers’ sensorial lear- ning was personal. For this reason, I extend Santos’(2018) theory of deep sensing as ways of knowing in which each person develops their ways of sen- sing according to their personal backgrounds and the cultural environments they experience. Half of the dancers discovered individual ways of breathing to help their movement execution and application of artistry. Their sensorial knowledge also in some cases gave rise to heightened states of their bodies. Furthermore, I propose that in the ballet class dan- cers socially learn through varied deep sensing.

Perhaps there are more Southern concepts and knowledges that could be included in future stu- dies. This means that by broadening the spectrum of the dancers’ ways of sensing, the ballet class can be more democratised. The epistemologies of the South offer modes by which the senses intersect as ways of knowing through deep sensing, creating this effect of democratised multisensorial learning. Several studies engage with various elements of the ballet dancer’s socio-culturally situated practice. Di- fferent from these, my research addresses the gap in scholarship of detailing the sensorial information acquired by professional ballet dancers in several daily classes, at different social and cultural contexts in London-based institutions, and how such ele- ments inform the constitution of their sensorium to learn. Different cultural institutional settings crea- te different learning cultures. Even inside the same environment, the dancers learn differently through their senses, feelings and reasoning.

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Notas

1 For psychologists Jeanne Nakamura and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2002:90), flow is the experience of performers or athletes being deeply immersed in an activity, in a state of flow the person is fully confident in their ability with ‘intense and focused concentration’ merging action and awareness, and ‘experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding’.
2 There is a variety of teaching that is internationally known and still used in ballet classes in London.
3 Examples from my study showed the dancers’ varied educatio- nal backgrounds in ballet. For instance, two dancers who are Americans, Cira Robinson and Damien Johnson, were educated at the Dance Theatre of Harlem School in New York City, which follows the Balanchine/SAB style. One Brazilian, Fernanda de Oliveira was educated at The Royal Ballet School in London based on the system of training disseminated by Ninette de Valois. Another dancer, Jose Alves was educated at the Bolshoi School in Brazil which follows the Vaganova method.

Recibido: 14 de septiembre de 2021; Aceptado: 15 de mayo de 2022

Resumen

Esta investigación aborda el papel de las emociones y las experiencias multisensoriales en el aprendizaje de los bailarines profesionales en las clases de ballet de Londres a través de método etnográfico. Partiendo de los conceptos de sensorium, corazonar y decolonial sensing, abogo por la democratización y descolonialización de los sentidos del bailarín uniendo sensorial, razón y emociones como elementos principales para el aprendizaje de la danza.

Los bailarines de ballet mostraron un sensorium diversificado para aprender que amplía la noción de los cinco sentidos. Los bailarines perciben y aprenden de manera diferente con y a través de sus sentidos, a partir de antecedentes, culturas y hábitos distintivos. Un uso más igualitario de múltiples formas de percepción por parte de bailarines profesionales puede promover una nueva forma de aprendizaje en la clase de ballet. Ampliar la comprensión de los sentidos y las emociones de los bailarines les ayuda a explorar su técnica y expresión artística.

Palabras clave

Aprendizaje, ballet, cultura, emociones, sentidos.

Abstract

This research addresses the role of emotions and multisensorial experiences in a professional ballet dancer’s learning experiences during ballet classes in London gleaned through ethnographic methods. Based on the concepts of the sensorium, corazonar and decolonial sensing, I advocate for the democratisation and decolonialisation of the dancer’s senses uniting the sensorial, reason and emotions as principal elements for learning dance.

The ballet dancers exhibited a diversified sensorium in the learning process, a practice that expanded the notion of the five senses. The dancers perceived and learned differently with and through their sen- ses, from distinctive backgrounds, cultures, and ha- bits. This underscores the idea that a more egalita- rian use of multiple ways of sensing by professional ballet dancers can promote a new way of learning in ballet class, which leads to broadening the unders- tanding of how dancers’ senses and emotions can help them to explore their technique and artistic expression.

Keywords

Ballet, culture, emotions, learning, senses.

Resumo

Esta pesquisa aborda o papel das emoções e experiências multissensoriais na aprendizagem de bailarinos profissionais nas aulas de ballet em Londres através de método etnográfico. Com base nos con- ceitos de sensorium, corazonar e decolonial sensing, defendo a democratização e decolonização dos sen- tidos do bailarino unindo o sensorial, a razão e as emoções como elementos principais na aprendiza- gem da dança.Os bailarinos mostraram um sensorium diversifi- cado para aprender ampliando a noção dos cinco sentidos. Os bailarinos percebem e aprendem de forma diferente por meio de seus sentidos, baseados em suas origens, culturas e hábitos distintos. Um uso mais igualitário de múltiplas formas de percepção por bailarinos profissionais pode promo- ver uma nova forma de aprendizagem nas aulas de ballet. Ampliar a compreensão sobre os sentidos e emoções dos bailarinos os ajuda a explorar sua técnica e expressão artística.

Palavras-chave

Aprendizado, ballet, cultura, emoções, sensações.

Introduction

This paper discusses the professional ballet dancer’s sensorial learning in the environment of the ballet class. Professional ballet dancers acquire and refine specialised knowledge of the technique and artistry in their daily class through multiple senso- rial modalities which are prioritised and interconnected differently. Each ballet class has its own social and cultural setting, and it is never a neutral space; rather, it is a complex practice where dancers make sense of the world through the sensorial. The senses are culturally framed and there is no con- sensus between the theoretical perspectives concerning their division/typology or how they are felt.

The notion of what constitutes bodily senses, its classification and functions vary across different cultures. The philosopher, Aristotle (ca. 350 BC), dis- cussed the selection of five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in his work De Anima (2002 [1968]). Based on the physics and physiology of perception, Aristotle (2002 [1968]) argues that each sense has a sense-organ (e.g., eye, ear), a medium to be felt (e.g., air, water), and its own proper object (e.g., sight – colour, hearing – sound). For Aristotle (2002 [1968]), perception involves the relation be- tween the sense-organ and an external object in a causal process.

Many Euro-American scholars still prioritise one or more of the five primary senses of Aristotle’s (2002 [1968]) model and consider those to be key for the composition of the sensorium. The dance anthro- pologist, Andrée Grau (2011), explains that ballet is rooted in Western culture, where vision is culturally dominant. Therefore, when ballet is practiced in di- fferent cultural environments, in many parts of the world it still prioritises an ocularcentric perspective of the world. To investigate how dancers feel and use their senses to learn, my methodology involved ethnographic work (based on models by Spradley, 1980; Hsu, 2008) at the English National Ballet, Ba- llet Black and Dance Works from 2016-2019, including participant observations and participant experience of ballet classes, and interviews with twelve dancers.

1.The dancers’ sensoria

In twentieth-century dance studies, dance anthropologist Cynthia Jean Cohen Bull (1997) found that in ballet practice and performance, dancers prioritised the sense of seeing, whilst dancers in contact improvisation privileged the sense of touch, and traditional Ghanaian dancers gave primacy to the aural sense. Although Bull’s study provides a gene- ralisation of the dancers’ prioritisation of one sen- se associated with a particular dance genre, it still broadens the conversation about ways in which the dancers used their senses in various forms. According to Bull (1997, p. 282), ballet is ‘highly organised by the visual sense’, yet it is also ‘strongly related to the sense of touch’. Yet, dancers feel other sensorial modalities in ballet. In my study dancers feel tac- tile-kinaesthetic-visual-aural sensations which help them retain a memory of the touch of the teacher or on their own bodies (Field note, 25.04.2017). This interconnection of the senses was observed in the ballet classes in London.

Foster (1997) analysed cultural aspects of five different dance techniques: ballet, Duncan, Graham, Cunningham and contact improvisation. For Foster (1997:237), ‘the dancer’s perceived body derives primarily from sensory information that is visual, aural, haptic, olfactory, and perhaps, most im- portant kinaesthetic’. The sports scientist, Susan- ne Ravn (2009), conducted a cross-cultural study which investigated professional dancers’ perspecti- ves of sensing movement in ballet, butoh and con- temporary dance. Ravn (2009) notes that in ballet class, rehearsals and performances at The Royal Danish Ballet, the dancers’ principal senses and ways of sensing movement were vision, hearing, energy, weight, and kinaesthesia. Another study that further developed Aristotle’s model exploring other sensorial modalities is dance scholar Angela Pickard’s (2015) work on the cultural aspects of the ballet class. Pickard explains how amateur dancers become mindful of the movements they make through sensations of pain and pleasure.

Investigating contemporary dancers’ sensory experiences, anthropologist Caroline Potter (2007) participated in dance classes at the London Contemporary Dance School and explored the amateur contemporary dancers’ sensorium, which consisted of intertwined sensory experiences of kinaesthe- sia, heat, pain, taste, touch, sound, and vision. Po- tter’s (2007, p.24) aim was to identify the relation of the sensorium with the formation of the culturalidentity of ‘becoming’ a dancer. The dance scholar, Cynthia Roses-Thema (2007), analysed dancers’ breathing, core temperature, heartbeat, and health issues, such as chronic pain, as feelings of the in- ternal state of the body (interoception) in perfor- mances. The dancer’s perception of the audience’s visual contact and energy, the musical cues and the lights, and the use of costumes were conside- red responses to stimuli originating outside of the body (exteroception). Roses-Thema (2007) found that dancers monitored the background state of the body continuously and interoception became conscious when something unexpected happened, for example, pain and injury. Drawing on the studies by Foster (1997), Ravn (2015) and Pickard (2015) on ballet dancers, and Potter (2007) and Roses-Thema (2007) on contemporary dancers, I investigate the professional ballet dancers’ sensoria in relation to their learning, considering different social and cul- tural contexts where classes occur. I focus on the multiple ways ballet dancers use their senses and how these ways of sensing are interconnected.

For example, in my study the dancers’ ways of breathing promoted different qualities within the movement, such as the case of ‘movement breath’, when dancers’ control their breathing, to breathe in and out, coordinated with the execution of par- ticular movements (Freeman-Sergeant, interview, 13.04.2018), which enables their expressiveness to be enhanced. Some dancers learnt to regulate breathing with the movement, as well with the music - melody or tempo (Larkings, interview, 20.05.2018). The dancers’ ways of breathing (feeling out of breath, breathing to calm themselves down, and gathe- ring energy to move) can help or hinder the execu-tion of movements and use of musicality in class. Therefore, to think about decolonising the dancer’s breathing means to consider professional ballet dancers’ breathing as a perceived sense which accompanies sensations of movement (e.g., breathing expands the internal elasticity of the movement), rhythm (e.g., breathing during phrases of music to coordinate movement; internal rhythm heartbeat), and an emotional dimension (e.g., breathing management connected to feeling calm and confident to move).

2. The sensorial aspect of embodied knowledge

The idea that knowledge is embodied implies recognising that it is an activity involving multiple sensorial modalities. Scholarship outside dance studies shows that it is possible to extend sensorial perceptions far beyond the Aristotelian model. Looking to expand Western thought on the five bodily senses, in her study of the sensorium of the Anlo people in Africa Geurts (2002) discovered other senses, such as balance, kinaesthesia, pleasure, and pain.

For Geurts (2002, p.253), ‘Western European/Euro American folk ideology of the senses limits sensory modalities to bodily functions by which the mind can obtain knowledge of the external world’. Moreover, Howes (1991) and Classen (2012) explained that the notion of the ‘five senses’ influences the way people think and learn in Western cultures. These studies broaden understanding of the notion that sensorial perceptions vary according to the cultural environment. The approaches of these studies inspired me to investigate how ballet dancers learn with multiple and interconnected senses in class. Examples of this include expanding analysis of waysof breathing, feeling haptic sensations and seeing, all of which are conceived of as elements that form their sensorium because of their cultural account of sensorial perception.

Dancers encounter an abundant variety of sensory perceptions, to which cannot be attended all at once. For this reason, dancers may shift their atten- tion between multiple senses in class. To study the dancers’ senses, it is necessary to explore their per- ception and the sensations that accompany them as they impact the way they learn technique and artis- try. Although not studying ballet, philosopher Mau- rice Merleau-Ponty (2012 [1945], p.230) defines bodily senses as a means by which human beings perceive and engage with the world. Merleau-Ponty (2012 [1945]) theorises bodies as physically embodied and environmentally embedded. According to his phenomenological theory, sensations are a function of the senses. The perception or awareness or accumulation of bodily memory are experienced through the senses. Merleau-Ponty’s theory is in tune with the epistemologies of the North because it expresses a universal human characteristic to explain bodily cultures and power relations.

By contrast, in the epistemologies of the South, San- tos offers the notion of Southern ways of knowing with a different framework of the senses from Aris- totle. Santos (2018, p.165) states that ‘knowledge is not possible without experience, and experience is inconceivable without the senses and the feelings they arouse in us’. For Santos (2018, p.165), ‘the senses are essential for knowing’ and broadly inter- connected with culture. Santos (2018, p.93) argues for a deeper engagement with the senses, for instance, in Euro-Western notions of ‘bodily knowledge’ in dance.

I follow Santos’ (2018, p.165) premise that ‘the epistemologies of the North’ need to recognise non-Western knowledges and consider the senses ‘as sources of knowledge’. As an example of deep sensing, Santos (2018:171) suggests that the re- searcher should take into account that ‘bodies’ are ‘unequal’, and these differences define the ways in which they are ‘seen’, ‘see themselves’, and ‘see the researcher’. In this way, Santos includes an element of reciprocity to the analysis of the senses. Santos (2018) recognises other ways of knowing, the notion of individualised bodies, which feel a variety of ways through deep sensing in social and cultural relationships of struggle and experience. Santos’ (2018) expands the notion of corazonar and how a sense can be perceived and analysed. Based on this, I explore how knowledge from the epistemologies of the South can bring new information to my study.

Santos conceptualises senses as means of perceiving the world associated with feelings and reaso- ning. By analysing one’s senses, including feelings and reasoning, Santos considers the person as a whole. For Santos (2018), individuals embody re- lations of social domination through their senses. For this reason, it is important to acknowledge how the senses are used and conditioned to change a si- tuation of struggle and inequality. Aristotle’s (2002 [1968]) model of five senses constitutes a limited framework based on the causal relationship of a sense-organ and an external object. In contrast, the epistemologies of the South offer a broader unders- tanding of the senses, through the notion of deepsensing, corazonar, and the multiple interpretations one can give to what they sense.

Based on Santos’ (2018) perspective which consi- ders a person’s feelings, reasoning, and emotions in each social context, I explore how key professional dancers’ sensorial modalities can promote more democratic learning in ballet classes.

3. Decolonising the dancers’ senses promotes democratisation of the ballet class

Santos’ (2018) concepts of corazonar and deep sensing, as types of human knowledge, show an expanded model of sensing. Santos (2018, pp.100- 101) defines corazonar as emotions/affections and emotional or affective ways of knowing, including a spiritual dimension from a decolonising perspective. According to the dance scholar, Janet O’Shea (2018, p.751), the term ‘decolonisation’ in dance means actions against the conditions created by colonialism.

For O’Shea (2018, p.751), dance scholars need to adopt ‘a ne epistemological frame’ which gives agency and visibility to those previously marginalised, considering a ‘geopolitical configuration of different kinds of knowledge’. I expand O’Shea’s idea to call for decolonisation and democratisation of the professional ballet dancers’ senses.

Some studies of ballet as a cultural space from the North/Western scholarship make decolonial shifts and their research represents an analogue to corazonar. For instance, Grau (2011) explored which elements compose human knowledge in a cross-cultural study of dancers’ corporeality, spatiality and sensibility, with examples from ballet, Balinese, and

Tiwi dance. For Grau (2011, p.7), ‘human experiences are not all of the same order. Sensing, feeling and thinking, for example, are all part of human knowledge and they do not operate in isolation’. From a similar perspective, a study by philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (2000, p.360) considers that young dancers’ bodily knowledge and their acquisition of skills occur through mental, emo-tional states and tactile-kinaesthetic sensations, continuously remembered in movement as ‘habit memory’. These unique studies inspired me to explore how dancers in the daily ballet class acquire knowledge through sensing, thinking and feeling in multiple, culture-specific ways.

Ballet dancers learn in multiple ways with their senses in class. In a study carried out by the dance teacher and psychologist, Christine Hanrahan, and the psychologist, John H. Salmela (1990, p.19), the use of imagery by intermediate ballet dancers in- dicates improvement of their performance based on ‘sensations that the dancer has already seen or felt’. The quality of the image can help dancers feel the nature and direction of the energy flow 1 in movement execution and expression. This study aligns with an investigation by the dance scholar, Paula Sa- losaari (2001), which entailed an inquiry into young dancers’ visual and internal conceptualisations of imagery in ballet class to stimulate particular move- ment sensations and how it developed their creative interpretation of set ballet vocabulary.

From early on in ballet education most dancers learn how to use mental imagery from their teachers.

A study of modern dance professionals by Hanrahan and the sports psychologist, Ineke Vergeer (2001), classifies multiple uses of mental imagery, helping dancers to build confidence, calm down, prepare for a performance, and choreograph. Furthermo- re, the dancers used imagery, ‘seeking to integrate mind, body and spirituality not only into their dan- ce training and performance contexts but also into their lifestyle’ (Hanrahan and Vergeer, 2001:249).

The sports scientist, Bettina Bläsing, and psychologists Emily Cross, Corinne Jola, Juliane Honisch, and Catherine Stevens (2012, p.304) identify how dancers use mental imagery as a tool for learning and optimising movements to memorise ‘long com- plex phrases and to improve movement quality in terms of spatiotemporal adaptation and artistic expression’. For dance researcher Tanya Berg (2016, p.219), dancers feel ‘artistic freedom’ when teachers suggest mental imagery in class. These studies reveal how dancers enhance their awareness, the kinaesthetic feeling, and the quality of movement execution with the support of visual images in their minds. In my study, ballet movements were saturated with images, and the use of imagery in class changed the way dancers understood their senses when moving.

As independent scholar Elizabeth Robinson (2017, p.42) argues, ‘in bodily work, it is not sufficient to only watch or to take in through all the senses while learning a technique or skill. The technique must also be actively expressed and reinterpreted back through the senses’.

This means that the lear- ning process depends on the dancer’s sensorial, emotional and rational engagement with the ele- ments of the class. Following this idea, I draw ona study by Elisabeth Gibbons (2007) to help me ex- plore the term democratisation in the ballet class. For Gibbons, three key elements are important for learning: both dancers and teachers can make de- cisions in class; there is an acknowledgement that dancers and teachers may have familiarity with di- fferent teaching styles, and that teaching involves previous and conscious decisions.

I bring Gibbons’ (2007) notion of dance pedagogy to investigate the democratisation of professional ballet classes through the dancers’ perspective of their sensorial learning. Ballet dancers respond to different stimuli which influence the way they utilise their senses in class; one instance of this is the teacher’s pedagogic method.

In my study, ballet dancers face situations daily in class and make individual choices of action. For this reason, I use the concept of agency developed by sociologist Anthony Giddens (1984, p.9) defined as the power and capability of acting as a person wi- shes. This power of action is what I mean by agen- cy – when dancers monitor reflexively themselves and are able to act. For example, when dancers use their breathing in different ways, based on the tea- cher’s guidance, who then lets them decide what suits them best.

To discuss the decolonisation of dancers’ senses, it is important to consider that the ballet class is a society, with members who learn and teach through an intensive, tacit, informal, and weakly sanctioned set of rules. These rules guide how the dancers must use their senses, promote specific behaviours, and embody ballet technique and habitus.

As Giddens (1984, p. 22) states, ‘as social actors, all humanbeings are highly learnt with respect to knowledge which they possess and apply in the production and reproduction of day-to-day social encounters’. For this reason, I foster a broader and inclusive perspective of the dancers’ different sensorial ways of learning in professional ballet classes.

4.Dancers’ sensorial learning in the professional ballet class

Given that it is a constant part of the professional ballet dancer’s life, the daily ballet class is a rich te- rrain for a study of the dancers’ senses. My findings indicate that the cultural and social context of the class stimulates different sensorial experiences. The idea that ballet is a particular cultural practice and an ethnic dance of European cultural heritage, with stylised Western customs and aesthetic values; for instance, dancers’ long and slim bodies was articu- lated several decades ago in the seminal work by dance anthropologist Joann Wheeler Kealiinoho- moku (2001 [1983]). The works of Kealiinhomoku (2001 [1983]), Rosa (2015), and Santos (2018) each investigate different topics, though they all discuss the influence of cultural forms of Western customs and values on the embodiment of individuals of a group.

As noted by anthropologist Elisabeth Hsu (2008, p.433), the ‘sensory experience is socially made and mediated’, presupposing a primordial bodily ex- perience in which the mental and the physical are interconnected with a cultural form. The notion of the sensory experience culturally framed connects to the theory of epistemologies of the South proposed by Santos (2018).

In their social encounters in the ballet class, dan- cers acquire cultural knowledge on how to perform ‘codified and stylised movements and postures’, as discussed by the performance scholar, Deidre Sklar (2008, p.88). Sklar (2008:91) argues that dancers may have ‘lucid moments of seeing themselves’ when performing a plié in the studio, while agree- ing ‘to the perceptual, ideological, and aesthetic conventions of a sociocultural system that values ballet’.

At this moment, the dancers may consciously feel the ‘sensations of toes gripping, quads clenching, spine extending, wrist softening, breath suspending’ and may additionally use visual imagination (Sklar, 2008, p.91). Such ‘cultural background influences what one perceives and how one inter- prets what she perceives’ (Sklar, 1991, p.8). Sklar (1991) considers the cultural knowledge embodied in movement as an embodied emotional experience associated with cultural learning. Sklar’s discus- sion is relevant to my research because I consider ballet dancers’ subjective bodily engagement in class as tacit and internalised through sensations of moving. I examined each ballet class in the three institutions in London as particular manifestations of the ballet culture, and their prioritisation of sensory preferences.

Furthermore, Sklar (2008, p.85) argues for the exa- mination of felt dimensions of movement, in parti- cular, the ‘kinetic vitality as an overlooked aspect of embodied knowledge’. As a researcher, who dances and writes about dance, I tried to make sense of my own and other dancers’ embodied knowledge, using my body as analytical insight. I follow Sklar’s (2000, p. 71) approach of relying on the way I feel sensations as ‘dimensions of movement experience’, which I consider as sensorial learning. Sklar’s (2008) work in the dance context can be examined together with Santos’ (2018) concept of corazonar, given that both explore the specificity of feeling the body through the senses and emotions associated with the values and conventions of a particular sociocultural system.

The way a person senses and perceives depends on how accustomed they are to a sensation and what it means to them. Whilst individual in form, such sensations may also be learnt and shared across members of a cultural group. Outside the context of dance and sensing, the anthropologist Greg Dow- ney (2010) studies how culture may affect the em- bodied learning of athletes and capoeira practitio- ners. Downey’s (2010, p.35) theory of a skills-based model of culture considers that ‘embodied knowledge’ in a particular culture is modified by behaviour, training, and experience.

For Downey (2010), different forms of expertise amongst members of the same training regime are a result of their individual cultural experiences (such as their background, perceptual acuity, physiological conditioning, ways of processing information, training, own coaching, and technique). Dancers in each ballet cultural setting in my study are also individuals who share classes (education), so their embodied learning, may be seen as a skill-based model of (ballet) culture.

Ballet technique is a dance form of embodied skill with over four hundred years of cultural history. It is articulated as a shared education regime with re- cognisable core elements of verticality, turn out, five basic foot positions, pointed toes, grace, precision, placement, lifted and extended limbs. These ele- ments are described as socio-cultural traits by thedance historian Jennifer Homans (2010, pp.19/20). Despite the changes in ballet technique, its core elements are not discussed in depth regarding their impact on dancers’ senses in class.

For instance, in my study, I identified that dancers’ sense of vertica- lity may influence their breathing. Homans (2010) observed historical changes in ballet, such as class structure, gender, costume, the notions of an ideal body and the dancer’s physicality. All these ele- ments of the class may affect the dancers’ senses. For the dance scholar Jennifer Fischer (2015), ballet technique adapted over its history in accordance with its socio-cultural shifts.

Ballet’s long history evolved with the discovery of other ways of understanding the body. According to the ballet master Carlo Blasis (1830), ballet was conceived and codified as a technique with an em- phasis on the presentation of the shape and form of the movement. Since its conceptualisation during the Renaissance in European courts, ballet techni- que celebrates a physical, ethereal form, already explored in the Foster’s (1995, p.1) study.

Despite the differences 2 between ballet methods, schools and styles, the ballet technique dissemina- tes particular values through a ‘ballet culture’ which is not universal. Yet, ballet technique perpetuates similar characteristics, (promotion of hierarchy, a specific type of similar dancing bodies in space and time, disciplined bodies) in which visuality is the main sensorial avenue of communication. This means dancers may internalise technical knowled- ge from diverse international ballet backgrounds.

For instance, even though ballet is still rooted inImportar imagen4 There is a variety of teaching that is internationally known and still used in ballet classes in London.Western-centric/European form of dance, many participants in my study are not from Europe. Many of these dancers did their ballet education in inter- national ballet schools that teach different5 ballet methods, schools, and styles. Nonetheless, all sha- re a training regimen, working in dance companies in London, such as ENB, or BB. The dancers’ lear- ning occurs in specific cross-institutional and cultu- ral contexts, involving and nurturing particular and different sensorial modalities. To think about ballet as a culture implies considering where it is rooted, how it is disseminated, who participates in the class, how dancers’ relationships are organised (with the teacher and their peers), and which social and cultural codes they value (styles and pedagogic values the teachers and dancers share).

5.A more democratic perspective of the ballet class

The dance scholar Geraldine Morris (2003) notes that the ballet class is not only a way of thinking about movement, but also a social attitude which impacts the way a dancer processes all sorts of con- textual information and value systems around it. For Morris (2003), there is a need in the professio- nal ballet class for ballet teachers to acknowledge and incorporate the stylistic diversity from the wor- ks of different choreographers, instead of perfec- ting the technical movements of a single method, school, or style.

According to Morris (2003, p.17), the structure of the ballet class that prevails since the middle of the last century is ‘almost entirely teacherled and gives the student little opportunity for dialogue’. The dancing body is a site of negotia- tion in relations of resistance and self-surveillance with the members of the class. The philosopher Michel Foucault (1977, p.175) studied surveillance as a powerful means between members of a group to learn the norms of discipline and punishment in their engagement with an institution, in particu lar prisons, school and hospitals. The relations of power occur through mechanisms of control, exa- mination and classification of members (Foucault, 1977). In my study, dancers learn in their relations with the members of the ballet class, the norms and values through the surveillance of their senses.

The sociologist Anna Aalten (2004) analysed ballet dancers’ physical-emotional sensations of strength, power and control in an ethnography of ballet as a cultural practice. For Aalten (2004), teachers, re- hearsal assistants, choreographers, and artistic di- rectors teach dancers in class the ideal technique and body accepted in the ballet world, operating as gatekeepers to the profession. Based on Fou- cault’s theory, dance scholar Jill Green (2002-03, pp.110/111) scrutinised the qualities of the ‘per- fect body’ disseminated by such gatekeepers to dancers. According to Blasis (1830), many elements are part of the ballet classroom tradition as a re- gimented practice, for example, codified positions, structure of the class in barre and centre exercises, and use of the mirror.

These elements can still be considered core in the ballet classes investigated in London. Even in the past several decades, it can be observed that ballet technique remains resistant to change. My investigation of the ballet classroomin the twentieth-first-century partly aligns with the statement made by the dance historian Sandra Noll Hammond (1984). Hammond’s (1984, p.63) analysis of the early nineteenth-century ballet class retained some elements from the traditional class described by Blasis, ‘while incorporating other material which is vastly different’. Sports psychologist Sanna Nor- din-Bates (2014) argues that the problem for dan- cers trying to fit an ideal body and perfect technical movements is that they create unrealistic expecta- tions, which can lead to burnout and impact their motivation. Bringing such considerations into my study is important, given that the dancers learn norms about how to use their senses in particular ways through their social relations in class, engaging with a disciplinary process of their senses.

Although no studies consider the sensorium as a culturally-rooted deployment of senses in a pro- fessional ballet class, several studies provide useful leads for this investigation. The notion of democra- cy in ballet is discussed through different perspec- tives. For former dancer and ballet teacher Julia Gleich (2015, p.10), an inclusive company model entails ‘dancers of different shapes, sizes, and co- lours, and a varied repertory’. Gleich (2015, p.11) adds that ‘teachers are asked to create a syllabus, in which they define their teaching practice within a fairly limited choice of extremes’, for instance ‘Va- ganova or Cecchetti, RAD or Russian, Bournonville or Balanchine’.

Gleich (2015, pp.11/12) argues that a ballet class must offer ‘the opportunity to disco- ver and then expand beyond a common vocabulary to create dancers who can dance’ varied styles and dance genres, instead of limiting ballet to labelled techniques. Gleich’s (2015, p.12) premise is thatdancers experience a series of energies and vectors in ‘a collection of directions of movement, rather than shapes’ in different technical and aesthetic approaches to ballet. Although they do not discuss specific senses nor suggest a decolonial approach to ballet, these studies by Morris (2003) and Gleich (2015) argue for another type of learning, one which involves a more democratic approach to the ballet class. These studies by Western scholars dis- cuss the ballet class from a democratic perspective which inspired me to investigate the importance of the decolonialisation of dancers’ senses. I propose that a more democratic and decolonial perspective of ballet learning can be achieved through the investigation of dancer’s sensorial modalities.

According to the philosopher and education scho- lar John Dewey (1922, p.115), ‘education is a so- cial process’. A democratically constituted society recognises ‘mutual interests’ between members of the group as ‘a factor in social control’ and can stimulate ‘change in social habit’ through conti- nuous readjustments to new situations (Dewey, 1922, p.100). A society which provides participa- tion of ‘all its members in equal terms and which secures readjustments of its institutions through interaction of different forms of associated life is in so far democratic’ (Dewey, 1922, p.115). The Bra- zilian philosopher Paulo Freire (1987[1970], p. 23), who represents Southern epistemologies, explains that to fight a culture of domination and violence, the ‘oppressed’ need a humanistic and liberating education which, first, awakes their perception of the domination they suffer, and second, transforms their being through a pedagogy which destroys the myths created by the ‘oppressors’.

According to Frei-re (1987[1970]), education as a practice of freedom is an interactive process, which must occur through dialogues to promote the expression, transforma- tion, and creation of knowledge, as opposed to a pedagogy of the oppressed. The term ‘democratic pedagogy’ is used by the dance scholars Becky Dyer (2009:119) and Anne Burnidge (2012:38). Demo- cratic pedagogy uses a student-centred approach to empower the dancer to critically reflect and assume agency over their learning and their movements. In line with existing decolonial models in education and the ballet class, my study contributes to the scholarship by bringing attention to dancers’ senso- rial approaches, for instance in terms of how they sense their breathing, touch, and vision to learn. These sensorial means serve as a way to increase democratisation by integrating a holistic perspecti- ve into the daily ballet class.

Despite its evolution and studies on pedagogic democratisation in the field of ballet teaching, the ba- llet class still requires deeper attention to sensorial understanding. It needs to be scrutinised with res- pect to its socio-cultural context because it aims to prepare dancers to work in novel ways.

Final considerations

My study is an empirical investigation, carried out through ethnographic methods, of how professio- nal ballet dancers prioritise certain senses in some classes in London, and how this impacts their lear- ning. Nonetheless, the historical contextualisation shows that visuality is main sensorial avenue of communication in ballet, which continues to go un- questioned.The dancers internalise the norms and ideology of their ballet culture cognitively, but also through their senses, which occurs distinctively according to each dancer at each venue, even when they take classes with the same teacher.

My findings indicate that the three institutions, ENB, BB, and DW, differ from each other as ‘cultural’ environments of ba- llet classes in London. Yet, most DW ballet teachers are or were dancers, or are teachers in the ENB, BB, and The Royal Ballet companies, suggesting that they transfer cultural values from one institution to another.

The cultural setting of the class impacts the dancers’ senses and their acquisition of particular skills in a specific environment. The dancers’ engagement with values and beliefs practised by the members in class influence their cultural judgment and inter- pretation of their senses. In the social environment of the class, dancers learn to use self-surveillance, follow a rigorous discipline, and try to control their sensations to fit the technique. My analysis indica- tes that dancers criss-cross their senses differently depending on their relations and engagement with the environment of the class. The ballet dancers in- vestigated sense, think, and feel emotions, resulting in the development of a special knowledge of how to move with artistry in a culturally embodied process. This is similar to the concept of corazonar, and I have named it multisensorial learning.

In my analysis, I was inspired by Csordas’ (1993, p.138) argument that to attend to a bodily sensation is ‘to attend to the body’s situation in the world’. My findings indicate that the dancers’ sensorial lear- ning was personal. For this reason, I extend Santos’(2018) theory of deep sensing as ways of knowing in which each person develops their ways of sen- sing according to their personal backgrounds and the cultural environments they experience. Half of the dancers discovered individual ways of breathing to help their movement execution and application of artistry. Their sensorial knowledge also in some cases gave rise to heightened states of their bodies. Furthermore, I propose that in the ballet class dan- cers socially learn through varied deep sensing.

Perhaps there are more Southern concepts and knowledges that could be included in future stu- dies. This means that by broadening the spectrum of the dancers’ ways of sensing, the ballet class can be more democratised. The epistemologies of the South offer modes by which the senses intersect as ways of knowing through deep sensing, creating this effect of democratised multisensorial learning. Several studies engage with various elements of the ballet dancer’s socio-culturally situated practice. Di- fferent from these, my research addresses the gap in scholarship of detailing the sensorial information acquired by professional ballet dancers in several daily classes, at different social and cultural contexts in London-based institutions, and how such ele- ments inform the constitution of their sensorium to learn. Different cultural institutional settings crea- te different learning cultures. Even inside the same environment, the dancers learn differently through their senses, feelings and reasoning.

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Notas

For psychologists Jeanne Nakamura and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2002:90), flow is the experience of performers or athletes being deeply immersed in an activity, in a state of flow the person is fully confident in their ability with ‘intense and focused concentration’ merging action and awareness, and ‘experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding’.
There is a variety of teaching that is internationally known and still used in ballet classes in London.
Examples from my study showed the dancers’ varied educatio- nal backgrounds in ballet. For instance, two dancers who are Americans, Cira Robinson and Damien Johnson, were educated at the Dance Theatre of Harlem School in New York City, which follows the Balanchine/SAB style. One Brazilian, Fernanda de Oliveira was educated at The Royal Ballet School in London based on the system of training disseminated by Ninette de Valois. Another dancer, Jose Alves was educated at the Bolshoi School in Brazil which follows the Vaganova method.
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