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Summary of the literature on dance in relation to ICH.

The Missing Dance/Heritage Model

The picture delineated by this literature review on dance/heritage is complex, thus the need for a fluid and holistic model of dance/heritage emerges.

The inspiration for my research is the 2003 UNESCO Convention on ICH, so this ICH definition has been the starting point for my enquiry.

However, that definition needs to engage with the current discourses on heritage and dance (which include issues of transmission, authenticity, internationalization, identity, and uses of heritage) and it raises more questions than it can answer.

The literature has generated a series of sensitizing concepts, which will provide me with ‘a general sense of reference and guidance’ (Blumer, 1954, p. 7) with which to approach my research.

Applying a Dialogical Paradigm to Dance/Heritage

In my quest, I will apply a dialogical paradigm, to allow the emergence of a fluid model of dance/heritage.

This does not mean that I will not seek authenticity in heritage because, at the core of a continuously changing activity (due to transmission between different generations and cultures; change of uses and contexts and individuals’ creativity), there are traditions or ‘restored behaviors’ which define a genre and distinguish it from others.

Also, I will acknowledge that authenticity can have different levels in dance/heritage: the level of forms, conventions and traditions and the level of the individual feelings and intentions of the performer.

My interpretation of authenticity, however, will follow Lowthorp’s (2015) idea of fluid authenticity as a practice adapts to new audiences.

Time/space transmission & Dance/Heritage

Time/space transmission is crucial for dance/heritage.

I will adopt a non-linear approach to time, as systems to record and notate dance (increasingly common in a globalized, technologically advanced world) allow practitioners to learn from cultural artifacts from the past, rather than just from live teachers, so heritage becomes de-temporialised.

Similarly, heritage can be de-territorialized as it is not necessarily linked to a nation-state and individuals and communities do not need to share a territory, in order to share heritage.

I recognize that dance/heritage is rooted in specific cultures of origin so it is not acultural.

It can though be transcultural and hybrid, as cultures cross each other and influence each other in a web and individuals (as well as traditions) can be part of several cultures.

Dance/heritage, moreover, is valued as long as societies or individuals can use it.

This use is often economic and political; thus it can be dissonant and foster division rather than peaceful coexistence.

At the same time, heritage can have positive emotional and sentimental values.

Dance/heritage can also provide its users with a sense of identity and ontological security, both at individuals’ and at groups’ level (belonging). Identity can be cohesive or divisive.

Finally, dance/heritage is people-centred and, as such, its curation needs to involve its practitioners as embodied individuals. Moreover, dance is a multidimensional phenomenon: embodied, emotional, discursive, cognitive, cultural and social at the same time. For this reason, I will adopt a holistic (meaning that I will try to engage with the multiple aspects of dance) and ethnochoreological approach to dance/heritage.

Emerging Questions

These sensitising concepts raise a series of questions, such as:

  • Are individuals’ creativity/agency, as well as changes in heritage due to various factors, and traditions compatible?
  • Is the separation of tangible and intangible elements of dance/heritage feasible?
  • How would a holistic model of dance/heritage, which includes people (with bodies, thoughts and emotions, identities and interconnections with others), artifacts, space, society and cultures work?

In the following chapter, I will try to answer these questions with the support of some sociological theories, which will underpin the resulting conceptual framework.

Next Page >> the conceptual framework introduction.

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Hi - I'm Dr Valeria Lo Iacono and I am a dance researcher with a PhD in dance as a form of living heritage. I also teach belly dance and love to travel to discover new dances around the world. I have worked also as an academic and in the UK and in Korea. Thank you for visiting my site.