This page is a public draft of my research intentions and is subject to change. Comments and suggestions are very welcome.
ABBREVIATED RESEARCH QUESTION (modified November 10, 2012):
“How do professional ballet dancers accommodate shifts in motivation through a lifetime of change, success and disappointment”
No single theory can explain every dancer’s motivation, or an individual dancer’s motivation through different stages in a career. Identifying what motivates dancers and discovering how they deal with progress, and development changes that they experience, as they proceed with their career is central to this project. I also seek to discover how dancers deal with changes associated with emerging technologies and economic expectations in the “industry”.
When I commenced my research I had intentions of enrolling in a research degree in the discipline of anthropology, This would have required that I undertake a fieldwork component of appropriate duration that would consist of full-time participant observation within a professional ballet company. I have decided that since my company of choice has declined my request for fieldwork, I will continue my research as an independent researcher utilising predominantly social media and the literature (see below). I was inviting any ballet company that would welcome a researcher such as myself into their organisation to contact me. This in now unlikely to result in a formal academic associated undertaking, but I would welcome short term opportunities to spend time with companies.
I am conducting a loosely defined ethnography online using social media, blogs (including my own “Anthropology En Pointe”) and other subject relevant web sites. I welcome dancers and choreographers who are interested to help with my research to do so online. I invite them to say anything they like! Comparisons between ballet and other interests would be valuable. Observations, criticism, disagreement, agreement, comparisons and contrasts are all welcome.
If any professional dancer, artistic staff, ex-dancer, student, or academic would be willing to write a guest post and talk about what they think motivates a professional dancer during their career, please contact me. If you wish to find all guest posts to see as examples, click on “Contributions by guest posters” in the side bar
I am using what I would loosely define as a hands on approach. I want to converse with dancers and others and observe their own feelings about motivation. This is not a study to determine how they may be better motivated. It is a study of what does motivate them.
At the time of writing this, I am considering using phenomenology as a theoretical framework. If you are not interested in an academic description, you may not want to read this page further.
An anthropologist I have worked with, Greg Downey, asked a question on academia.com “How are people using phenomenology in their anthropological work?”. Greg received a number of detailed responses. For my purposes, I will work with what Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson responded in part:
mainly I find that empirical researchers are using ‘phenomenological’ to refer to some particular stance they have in observing some phenomena. Mostly it has to do with trying to not jump to hasty conclusions about what is really happening, but try to consider every possible interpretation of the experience.
I am interested in Marcel Mauss’ “Techniques of the Body” ( Reprinted 1992 in Crary, J. and S. Kwinter Incorporations. Zone 6. NY:Urzone). This is a particularly anthropological approach that seeks to derive theory from participant observation. The theory that he argues is that of habitus from a classification of observable body techniques. An important aspect of his work for my research is that “[the] teaching of techniques being essential, we can classify them according to the nature of this education and training.” (p 464). However, I feel there may be a contradiction between a young dancers’ need to dance whilst in their formative years and how, other dancers transmit these “techniques” to their young students. This contradiction would probably inform dancers’ expectations and consequently motivations.
Other writers have worked with the notion of habitus:
Bourdieu’s concept of habitus was inspired by Marcel Mauss’ notion of body technique and hexis. The word itself can be found in the works of Norbert Elias, Max Weber, Edmund Husserl and Erwin Panofsky as re-workings of the concept as it emerged in Aristotle’s notion of Hexis… Habitus can be defined as a system of dispositions (lasting, acquired schemes of perception, thought and action). (Wikipedia)
Whilst these other writers approaches may at first glance embrace the scope of my interest, many have a sociological emphasis and tend to lack empirical support for their premises.