Our Speakers & Workshoppers
Thomas F. DeFrantz directs SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology, a research lab that explores emerging technology in live performance applications.Believes in our shared capacity to do better and engage creative spirit for a collective good that is anti-racist, proto-feminist, and queer affirming. Convenes the Black Performance Theory working group as well as the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance, a growing consortium of 325 researchers committed to exploring Black dance practices in writing. slippage.org.
Playing the Changes: Corporeal Orature and Black Aesthetic Liveliness
Barbara Gail Montero is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Her research considers two different notions of ‘body’: body as the physical or material substance of the world, and body as the moving, breathing, flesh and blood instrument that we use when we run, walk, dance, or play. She is author of Thought in Action: Expertise and the Conscious Mind (2016), Very Short Introduction: Philosophy of Mind (2022), and a co-author, with John Toner and Aidan Moran, of Continuous Improvement: Intertwining Mind and Body in Athletic Expertise (2022). She is a former professional ballet dancer and founding member of Logos Dance Collective. Her choreography has appeared in numerous venues, including the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center, as part of the Periapsis Open Series, and Johns Hopkins University, as part of a discussion on the science of echolocation.
The Focused Dancer and the Attentional Focus Effect
The “attentional focus effect,” is the hypothesis that focusing on the body (typically designated as an “internal” focus of attention) leads to suboptimal results relative to focusing on the consequences of bodily actions (commonly regarded as an “external” focus of attention). Over the past twenty years, researchers have hypothesized that this effect applies to all skills at all levels of ability. I question this hypothesis with a particular focus on the question of whether it applies to dance. After unfolding the nature and scope of the attentional focus effect, in part by leading you through some exercises that involve the two types of focus, I investigate the difficulty of eliminating confounds in experiments testing the effect and examine four situations in which an internal attentional focus appears, at least sometimes, to be preferable to external one. These situations, I argue, are worthy of further empirical investigation before we can accept that the attentional focus effect applies to all types of skills, all skill levels, and all measures of performance quality. In addition, I argue that the attentional focus effect is difficult to make sense of, if one adopts an “enactive” account of cognition, according to which mental processes are understood as interactions between mind, body and environment.
Meg Wallace is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky. Her primary areas of research are metaphysics, mind, and language, with a growing side interest in aesthetics and performing arts - especially circus. She enjoys finding various ways to get students to love philosophy through spectacle and play, such as in her activity-based course, Circus and Philosophy.
In Defense of the Spectacle
'Spectacle' is often used pejoratively. More than merely being a social nuisance, spectacles are assumed to be aesthetically shallow, devoid of reflective thought or substance. They are sometimes characterized as deceptions, lies, or removals from truth - things that are both aesthetically and morally corrupt. Yet these criticisms often focus on the observer, not the participant. A shift in this focus shows that there are overlooked values in participating in spectacles: the pleasure of moving or making something with others, the experience of collectively creating something worth being seen, the benefits of being part of a community with a shared aesthetic, and the pleasures and social goods that come about from creatively cooperating with others. These outcomes are in part due to the dual nature of what a spectacle is - an activity that is inherently social but simultaneously a violation of certain societal norms. My aim is to explore this peculiar nature more fully to offer an analysis (and defense) of the spectacle.
Ben Baker is a philosopher, scientist, and dancer, and who works on a broad range of issues in Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience and AI. Baker is interested in the senses in which movement can be more or less intelligent, and in new approaches to exploring this scientifically. He is now a postdoctoral fellow in computational neuroscience at UPenn, and has a PhD in Philosophy from UPenn, and a JD from Yale.
Six Forms of Dance Cognition
There is a growing body of work in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience that tries to better understand the mind by examining it in the context of dance. Such work is often premised on the idea that dance demonstrates important, general, and underappreciated features of human thought. However, existing work in this vein is methodologically diverse and does not point to a distinct conception of the kinds of thinking that dance involves, or how they are related. In order to clarify and bolster this research agenda, I directly address the question “What does dance-cognition essentially consist of?” After providing some background and motivating the project of taking a panoramic look at basic forms of thinking in dance, I articulate a six-part theory of Dance-Cognition comprised of (i) Movement Skill, (ii) Metaphor, (iii) Emotional Regulation, (iv) Creativity, (v) Social Interaction, (vi) Stylistic and Cultural Fluency.
Michael Trocchia is an adjunct professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at James Madison University, where he also serves as Resource Coordinator for the university’s library. He received his MA in philosophy from Temple University in Philadelphia. His poems and prose have appeared in journals such as Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Asheville Poetry Review, The Bitter Oleander, Black Sun Lit, Chicago Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, New Orleans Review, Tarpaulin Sky, UCity Review, and The Worcester Review. His work has been anthologized in Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume IX: Virginia (Texas Review Press).
Lindsay Brainard is an assistant professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a philosopher of science by training, and her research focuses on creativity and discovery in the sciences and other domains. This research draws upon insights from the philosophy of science, epistemology, and aesthetics. Lately, Lindsay has been focused on the question of whether there is a characteristic value of creative achievements that explains why creativity is rightfully prized.
What is Creativity?
Edyta works on embodied aesthetics and phenomenology, focusing especially on Merleau-Ponty’s account of bodily intentionality. She argues that the phenomenological account of bodily intentionality must be extended to an aesthetic model of bodily intentionality, which is intended to help us understand spontaneous movement in dance, children’s play, and gestures.
The Meaning in Contemporary Dance
The aim of this paper is to articulate the meaning manifest in contemporary dance. I develop an account of what I call aesthetic bodily intentionality, which I argue is non-goal oriented bodily movement. I clarify the basic notion of bodily intentionality through Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. For Merleau Ponty, bodily intentionality is essentially non-representational—we exhibit sensitivity to the environment without representing it or using concepts. While I endorse this account of the body as non-representational conception of the body, I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s framework is ultimately limited. Specifically, he mostly restricts his consideration of bodily intentionality to the kinds of bodily movements involved in task-fulfilment. I further argue that this restriction leaves him unable to account for purposeful but non-goal oriented spontaneous movements, such as that manifest in dance, children’s play, and gestures. In the second section I develop the framework in which to appreciate the non-goal oriented movement as artful. For this purpose I refer to Immanuel Kant’s notion of judgments of taste, which demand that in appreciating beauty, we ought to view it as purposive without purpose. The main idea behind the aesthetic model of bodily intentionality is to view bodily movement as capable of being artful in just this way, as serving no instrumental purpose, yet as meaningful. In the final section of the paper, I argue that the normative aesthetic force of the body in dance is a sui generis manifestation of a non-categorizable intelligibility. To support this idea with examples I turn to contemporary dance choreography, which draws on spontaneous bodily movement as an inexhaustible source of meaning.
Anna Petronella FOULTIER (former Fredlund) is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Umeå University, Sweden. She wrote her thesis on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of expression, and her current research is focused on artistic experience and affectivity in dance. Foultier has taught in many areas of philosophy at various universities, and has published in journals such as Hypatia, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, Continental Philosophy Review, Chiasmi international, JBSP, and NDPR. She also works as a translator of philosophy and fiction, and has translated Beauvoir, Derrida, Foucault, Kundera, Merleau-Ponty, Nora and many others into Swedish.
Affectivity in the Artistic Experience of Dance
Internationally recognized circus artist turned academic, Mykelle Walton, studies Philosophy and Dance at Mount Holyoke College. Her circus work draws implicit parallels between the human experience, philosophy, and physics while layering ideals of the emotional journey, critical theory and aerodynamics. Applying her accomplishments in aerial acrobatics she creates an interdisciplinary playground incorporating rigorous philosophy research. Her current work follows two distinct lines: (1) experimental embodied research about cultural spaces and times (2) Pushing the physical boundaries of what the human body can do - combining it with the strength, grace, and artistry of contemporary aerial arts to create complex work.
Subversive Gestures: living without horologue time and its parallel of my hair suspension practice
Alex Mendez is a PhD candidate at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His academic interests include, free will, meaning in life, ethics, and aesthetics. He is in the process of writing his dissertation, where he intends to defend the view that libertarian free will makes life more meaningful. Before studying philosophy, Alex was a dedicated student of the performing arts, and has put much effort into balancing work life with his passion for acting and ballet.
Natural Expressivity and the Philosophy of Dance: Self-Reflective Communication
In this talk, I reinterpret and defend the concept of “Natural Expressivity,” found in the philosophy of dance literature. By situating myself among authors such as Margolis (1981), and Sirridge and Armelagos (1983), I argue that natural expressivity is a kind of “communication.” However, I contend that it is a higher-order, self-reflective, form of communication. Ultimately, natural expressivity is the dancer’s recognition, or belief, that their bodies ought to move in a particular way, over any other, equally legitimate, ways; where equally legitimate ways to move one’s body is predicated on the dancer’s particular aesthetic ends. Natural expressivity thus captures a conceptual phenomenon I call, a “dancer’s basic motivation to move.” I conclude the talk by showing how my understanding of natural expressivity might aid in answering other inquires that philosophers of dance are concerned with: such as what makes movement meaningful?
I'm a philosophy graduate student at UCSD. I usually work at the intersection of four areas: the philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences, the philosophy of action, moral psychology, and aesthetics. I'm particularly fascinated by phenomena that don't fit snuggly in either "the space of reasons" or "the space of causes," like the immensely variegated category of unreflective human performances.
Control Models and Styles of Skillful Action
Dr. Ilya Vidrin is an Assistant Professor of Creative Practice Research and core faculty at the Institute for Experiential Robotics at Northeastern University. Born into a refugee family, Ilya grew up navigating the nuances of cultural expectations, language barriers, and diverging political ideologies. This experience of code-switching fuels Ilya's research and artistic practice to examine social ethics in physical interaction, including intimate labors of care, cultural competence, and social responsibility. As an interdisciplinary research-practitioner, Ilya’s work draws on concepts and methods in social epistemology, performance philosophy, ethics of care, and cognitive psychology. Most recently, Ilya was featured as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” (2022), and was an artist-in-residence at the Harvard ArtLab, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, North Atlantic Ballet, Ballet Des Moines, Jacob’s Pillow, and the New Museum (NYC).
Practicing Joint Action through Attunement: A Somatic Partnering Workshop
In this one-hour workshop, we will examine the specific characteristics of dependence in dancing together through the practice of Somatic Partnering. We will consider how important ethical concepts, such as trust and manipulation, can be explored through movement and physical interaction. Participants will be led through a series of thoughtfully facilitated, interactive movement exercises. These will allow us to consider the ethical
Embodied Movement: Accessing Immateriality through Materiality
Eric Handman is a choreographer and an Associate Professor at the University of Utah’s School of Dance. He earned a BA in English from Skidmore College in 1991, danced professionally in New York City during the 90s and graduated with his MFA from the University of Utah in 2003. He is currently on the editorial board for the Alliance for the Arts in Research Institutions (a2ru) and the board of directors for SALT Contemporary Dance. Handman is a Fulbright Specialist and a former member of the University of Utah's Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholars. He is a winner of the New Visions Choreography Competition for Idaho Dance Theater and the Northwest Dance Project’s International Choreographic Competition. His ongoing research focuses on Choreographic Thinking as applied to live dance, virtual reality, games and drones. He has been a Celebrate U honoree for his research in choreography and virtual reality and a recipient of the College of Fine Arts Faculty Excellence Award for research.
I’m C. Thi Nguyen. I used to be a food writer, now I’m a philosophy professor at University of Utah. I write about trust, art, games, and communities. I’m interested in the ways that our social structures and technologies shape how we think and what we value.
Thi is working in Collaboration with Eric Handman
I am the workshop & event host. For questions, comments, RSVPs, and everything in between, I'm your guy.
Thank you to everyone who has made this event possible!