Dance theories

Literature Review

Chapter 2 reviews literature in the fields of heritage and dance, which generates the sensitizing concepts and the questions by which the conceptual framework is informed, as well as highlighting gaps in the knowledge.

The chapter starts with a section on heritage (2.2), its current definitions, the most current paradigms and a review of some practices that have been awarded ICH status.

A section on dance studies (2.3) follows, which includes a review of the literature on dance anthropology and ethnology, ethnochoreology and Egyptian raqs sharqi.

The subsequent five sections (2.4 to 2.8), combine literature in the fields of heritage and dance, to analyse a series of themes recurrent in both these fields: transmission; authenticity; internationalisation; identity and uses of (dance) heritage.

At the end of this chapter, emerging sensitising concepts will be summarised and a series of questions emerge:

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

The above questions have informed my conceptual framework, by stimulating me to turn towards theories to help start making sense of these complex issues.

Conceptual Framework

Chapter 3 starts with a critique of the feasibility to separate between tangible/intangible elements in heritage (3.2).

The second part (3.3) highlights how the body, which is central for dance, is missing in the heritage literature.

The rest of the chapter leads up to the delineation of a holistic model of living heritage for dance, underpinned by the post-dualist theories of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology (3.4), Bourdieu’s theory of practice (3.5) and Giddens’ Structuration Theory (3.6).

Finally, a definition of living heritage will be given (3.7), before focusing on the research questions (3.8) generated by the literature review and the conceptual framework.

Methodological Strategy

Chapter 4 starts with considerations on the paradigm, ontology, epistemology and methodology adopted (4.2), before detailing the data collection techniques used (4.3).

For each of these methods (online dance videos analysis, other sources of data and interviews), the rationale for using them, the sampling process and other considerations will be discussed.

The research methods will be followed by ethics (4.5) and data analysis (4.6), reflexivity of the researcher (4.7), validity and reliability (4.8) and judgment criteria (4.8.1).

This study approaches its topic from an interpretivist paradigm (which will be reflected in the data representation and judgement criteria) and an ethnochoreological position.

This position requires three different pieces of information about the dance: its form, the culture and the experience.

Hence, data collection was divided into three overlapping phases, using a qualitative methodology.

The first phase (form) gathered data from videos of dance available online, on YouTube and Vimeo.

The dance in these videos was analyzed, based on Adshead’s (1988) principles of dance analysis, which take into account movements, dancers, visual and aural elements; Laban analysis of movement, in particular the effort system, to understand the feelings and emotions in the dance; and Kaeppler’s (1972, 2001) concepts of kinemes, which helped me isolate the individual meaningful movements for the dance, constituting the core movements of Raqs sharqi.

The first phase allowed me to understand how movements can change across time, cultures, and between individuals.

The second phase (culture) gathered data from various sources, which generated important information on the common views of Raqs sharqi and its history.

Sources included practitioner-focused books, DVDs, blogs, websites, open forums, and online videos with interviews of famous Raqs sharqi dancers.

This phase, although it included some offline material, was mainly based on online sources, hence it included elements of an internet ethnography, or as Kozinets defined it, a ‘netnography’ (Kozinets, 2010).

The Internet has been so prominent in the methodology because Raqs sharqi is practiced worldwide. Hence, practitioners use social media sites, websites and blogs extensively.

These were explored to make sense of what is communicated and how. The presence of Raqs sharqi on the Internet is both an indication of and a driver for increasing levels of internationalization and transculturalisation of the dance.

The third phase (experience) of the ethnochoreological analysis used semi-structured interviews with selected participants.

The interviews brought a more personal and deeper account of Raqs sharqi practitioners’ experience of this dance form. Interviews took place in person for participants based in Cardiff or nearby.

For those located further afield, Skype® was used for interviews with the voice and video recorded by EVAER® software.

Skype was an invaluable tool to reach participants in distant locations in an affordable and time-efficient manner and the data it generated were as rich as those provided by in-person interviews (Lo Iacono, Symonds and Brown, 2016) (read the paper on Skype as a research tool here).

Teaching dance theory in Wales, UK.
Teaching a workshop in dance research methods.

Results and Conclusions

Chapter 5 is a chronological analysis of Raqs sharqi, deriving from dance videos analysis and complemented by other various data sources and interviews.

The chapter is divided into six timeframes, ranging from the birth of Raqs Sharqi in the 1920s (5.2) to its worldwide diffusion up to the second decade of the 21st century (5.7).

To stress the importance of individual agency (alongside structures) in Raqs sharqi heritage, most sections revolve around the figures of some famous Raqs sharqi dancers, who influenced the development of this dance.

In Chapter 6, the timeframes are brought together, revolving around six main themes that emerged from the literature review and the data.

The conclusions (Chapter 7) focus on recommendations for the future safeguarding of living heritage.

This chapter also includes other considerations, such as the limitations of this study, the problems arising during the research, and a summary of the findings.

Next Page >> We move on to Chapter 2 and how to identify the cultural heritage characteristics of Egyptian Raqs Sharqi.