Philosophical approaches to classical ballet and modern dance
My primary concern in this thesis is to develop a framework in which classical and modern dance can be analyzed and assessed in philosophical terms. This should not be understood as an endeavour to create a system of values according to which dance should be criticized. What is being attempted is to describe and characterize dance with the tools provided by different aesthetic theories. Moreover dance, and especially ballet (due to its more solid and concrete structure and form), is used as a test - βάσανος (vasanos) in Greek - to help discern the limitations of existing aesthetic theories. At the same time the different criteria that each theory puts forward to identify a work of art are related to the notion of movement, which is central to dance. This process not only enables us to distinguish the elements of this complex form of human action, but also becomes the starting point for the elaboration of a reconfiguration of aesthetic concepts that will enable a sophisticated analysis of the phenomenon of dance. The underlying question throughout is "What makes a particular movement sequence a piece of dance rather than, for example, a piece of gymnastics?" complemented by the question "What makes an everyday life movement a dance movement?" These issues are addressed by considering how the various aesthetic theories can help us make the above distinctions. The different forms of dance are correlated with the aesthetic theories presented. The first notion I consider in this context is mimesis with special reference to Jean-Georges Noverre's account of dance, which has its roots in Aristotle's Poetics. Secondly I consider the notion of beauty - its independence from such notions as 'purposiveness', its lack of 'interest' - as analysed in Kant's Critique of Judgment. The expressive element of dance is explored in the context of R.G. Collingwood's expressivism and John Maftin's inflection of it in relation to dance. Attention to movement leads directly to the notion of form, which is explored in dialogue with André Levinson and Margaret H'Doubler. The thesis concludes by sketching an outline of a new way of approaching, understanding and hence potentially even experiencing dance (as a viewer). Dance is a carrier of a multiplicity of meanings with various contents. In the majority of cases a dance performance seeks to communicate a message to an audience. It is being suggested that dance constitutes a type of language, a communicational system, which has mimetic, expressive and formal elements. The notion of language is understood in later Wittgenstein terms. It is argued that dance comprises a 'form of life.' The elements of this system are facial expressions, movements of hands and arms, shifting of the body; all these reveal to us the quality of experience and feelings of the moving persona. Dance should be understood and appreciated in this particular context.