Dance and religion – why are you focussing on both subjects ?
With the rise of alternative spiritualities in the 1960s, body and movement are at the heart of mystical experiences, and disrupted the traditional Christian sense of “spirituality”. Formerly spirituality was perceived as the binary opposite of the carnal and the material, and juxtaposed to the physical public, social, economic, and political arenas as Huss (2014) pointed out. Since the 1960s-1970s however, “spirituality” has reintegrated this “material dimension” by focusing on the body-mind-spirit connection, while also promoting secular aims.
What is the object of your study?
I will investigate the increasing interaction between alternative spirituality and movement-based practices in Switzerland, such as the Open Floor Movement Practice, Ecstatic Dance, Dance Contact Improvisation, Tamalpa Life/Art Process, Biodynamic Dance, Biodanza or Five Rhythms Dancing.Body awareness groups are part of the spiritual nebula, and often take the form of subcultural networks and communities offering conferences, workshops focusing on “personal development” and “inner self”.
In these networks, discourses on the “return to the body and physical contact” will be analyzed as social phenomena, which possibly overlap with a milieu that is critical towards the new media. These embodied approaches are partly interpreted as responses to the overall digitalization of social relations (as way of digital detox).
Which methods will you apply during the research ?
Our methodology is mainly participant observation and interviews. Biographical insights offer crucial central data for understanding the scope of bodily experiences. The anthropological approach at the heart of our project will aim to analyze lived experiences, as located within participants’ life journeys and broader cultural contexts. The narrative interviews we will conduct will offer further insights into motivations and trajectories (break-ups, crises, transitions, etc.,) – as well as emic perceptions/ sensations.
The anticipated aesthetics and the multi-sited aspect of our ethnography has led us to consider also ethno-photographic methods.
Do certain theories influence your research design ?
Numerous studies considering corporal aspects of religious rituals and worship do exist. Within the field of the aesthetics of religion, Birgit Meyer (2011; 2012) introduced the category of sensational forms to analyseembodied features of religious experience and expression. Our SNF research project is in line with Meyer theoretical approach.
Within the field of reflexive anthropological trends, sensory ethnography (Pink 1999; Classen 1997; Howes 1991; Sparkes 2003) is also a source of inspiration. Our research / focuses on sensoriality to offer a methodological tool for social understanding and analysis, and looks at the “ethnographer’s physical engagements with the materiality and sensoriality of everyday and other contexts” (Pink 1999:7).
Are you yourself a passionate dancer ?
Yes, dancing has been a passion since childhood. I have been part of junior dance companies. And today I actively practice modern dance and contact improvisation jams.