Performance Studies: Skill acquisition in flamenco dance
Feeling ‘divided’ and feeling ‘whole’: skill acquisition in flamenco dance
A presentation by Lillian Jean Shaddick
‘Breaking down’ movement is a common pedagogy in many dance practices. Teachers not only ‘break down’ parts of a choreography but also a single movement, repeatedly practising the motion of a section of the body in isolation from others. This allows dancers to focus on a particular movement and make it habitual before layering in more components. Ethnographic research on adult beginner flamenco dancers reveals how this process is significant to their experience of the practice and directly contributed to feelings of frustration and satisfaction. Many dancers described feeling ‘divided’ and out of control of their bodies, but after having habituated the movement/s and found their ‘meeting points’, they expressed feelings of ‘wholeness’ or ‘oneness’. Here, I discuss these findings with respect to phenomenological theory and research regarding perception and skill acquisition. I suggest that isolated and targeted attention is essential when learning and refining flamenco dance technique regardless of one’s level of expertise. Equally, the less that dancers feel the need to be actively attending to such detail, the more they enjoy their dancing experience.
Lillian Jean Shaddick is in her final year of her PhD at the University of Sydney in the Theatre and Performance Studies Department where she also completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Performance Studies and a Master of Arts by research. While she is currently investigating flamenco dance, she has also published on the commercialisation and appropriation of Brazilian samba no pé in Australia. Lillian is a member of PoP Moves Australasia and practices a range of dance styles both professionally and socially.