What are some of the ways in which movement performances convey specific or general meaning through posture, gesture or movement in space?
Of course we could consider pantomime, where meaning is generalized but at the same time explicit; where one’s response is basically a recognition and a revalidation of the material word. We could also observe the rich history of symbolic meaning in dance, or refer to psychological meaning in movement, expressed most often through representation of emotional states.
We could also look at underlying codes implicitly agreed upon between performer and viewer which confirm more basic ideas concerning social values and the role of art in society.
For example, codes which signal choreography – like simultaneity, beginning and end of gesture, ease of movement, coordination, reliance on grounded balance, and so on. Or codes that reflect social values – like balance and symmetry, verticality and the leading head.
Hope to investigate these in more detail in later posts but here I want to add two points. First, these underlying codes have severely restricted the vocabulary of modern, post-modern and contemporary dance, and continue to do so. The classic drive to universalism in the body has effectively contained the breakout of specific and unique dance forms. Second, these underlying codes stimulate a response primarily of interpretation and judgment; the audience is prompted to consider what the work is about and what they think of it. The dance therefore becomes about something else; in other words it seems to have lost its face value.
There is a lack of freedom in how dance is made and how it is watched which we need to reflect upon.