The abstract for a forthcoming article by myself and Dirk vom Lehn, soon to be liberated from the stalled pandemic year R&R cycle. Draft available if you’re willing to give feedback!
While dance has often featured in sociological theory, there are relatively few empirical studies that explore the social practices through which people learn to dance together. This paper takes as its point of departure the way that partner dance is often featured as a metaphor to illustrate theories about social order and interaction. We examine a corpus of video data gathered as part of a day-long workshop and explore how novice dancers learn to perform some of the basic steps of a social dance in time with their partner and with the rhythmical environment. The analysis shows how dancers use rhythm, bodies, language and other resources to organize their social interactions and shows how ethnomethodology and conversation analysis provide a critical standpoint for examining sociological theories about the relationship between the body and the social.
CA studies of assessments as distinct, sequentially organized social actions (Pomerantz, 1984) have tended to define assessments for the purposes of data selection (Ogden, 2006, p. 1758) as “utterances that offer an evaluation of a referent with a clear valence” (Stivers & Rossano, 2010). However, this definition may exclude evaluative practices where the ‘valenced’ terms of assessment are more equivocal. It also obscures how the valences that mark out an utterance as an assessment are produced interactionally in the first place. This paper follows Goodwin & Goodwin’s (1992) proposal that assessment ‘segments’ (words like ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’), and assessment ‘signals’ (vocalizations like “mmm!” or “ugh!”) are organized into sequential ‘slots’ that render both ‘segments’ and ‘signals’ reflexively accountable as evaluative ‘assessment activities’. Data are drawn from recordings of a novice partner dance workshop at moments where teachers’ pro-forma terminal assessments marking the completion of a dance practice session co-occur with students’ evaluative assessment activities. Analysis shows how students use non-lexical vocalizations as evaluative assessments after imitating the bodily-vocal demonstrations (Keevalik, 2014) of the teachers and completing an unfamiliar dance move together. Extract 1 shows one example of these non-lexical vocalizations as dance partners Paul and Mary complete a new dance movement while the teachers call out rhythms and instructions.
1 Tch1: tri:ple and ⌈rock step (0.8) BRINGING I::n. a::n rock step
2 Tch2: ⌊rock step tri:ple an tri:ple a::n ro̲c̲k step
3 Tch1: tri:ple (.) tri:ple.≈ 4 Mary: ≈⌈So̲rry. <(I’m a) little AUa:⁎U:h⁎ ((Shifts arm down Paul’s shoulder))
5 Tch2: ⌊(a::nd then sto:p?)
6 Paul: Ye:: sHheh a:̲h⌈- yeh. (.) ∙HEh UhUH ->
7 Mary: ⌊it⌈'s li- Au̲h- uh. ((Re-does and emphsizes arm-shift))
8 Tch1: ⌊ROTATE P::̲↑ARTne::::r::s::.
9 (0.8) 10 Mary: ⌈Eya̲a̲::: ((Makes a clawing gesture))
11 Paul: ⌊The bh- the bi̲:cep clench (°>dy'a know wha' I mean<°)≈ ->
12 Mary: ≈↑Y e̲a̲h̲h̲.⌈ it's- it's b- hh((Re-does and emphasizes clawing gesture))
13 Paul: ⌊HAH hah Ha::h °hah hah° ∙HHh Heh heh ∙hh
14 Tch1: SO: WITH YOUR NE̲W̲ P:̲A̲R̲TNE:⌈:r.
15 Paul: ⌊That's an odd way of descri:bing it.
The analysis suggests that non-lexical vocalizations provide a useful resource for evaluating the achievement of as-yet-unfamiliar joint actions and managing and calibrating subtle degrees and dimensions of individual and mutual accountability for troubles encountered in learning a new, unfamiliar partner dance movement.
Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. H. (1992). Context, activity and participation. In P. Auer & A. D. Luzio, P. Auer & A. D. Luzio (Eds.), The contextualization of language (pp. 77–100). John Benjamins.
Keevallik, L. (2014). Turn organization and bodily-vocal demonstrations. Journal of Pragmatics, 65, 103–120.
Ogden, R. (2006). Phonetics and social action in agreements and disagreements. Journal of Pragmatics, 38(10), 1752–1775.
Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage, (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57–102). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stivers, T., & Rossano, F. (2010). Mobilizing Response. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 43(1), 3–31.
Here these are the references for my talk on terminal assessments and performance evaluations in a partner dance workshop at LANSI 2017.
I’ve given up trying to fit them all onto one slide at the end – so here they are on this web page. A recording of the talk is to follow – here’s one of the slides for now:
Albert, S. (2015). Rhythmical coordination of performers and audience in partner dance. Delineating improvised and choreographed interaction. Etnografia E Ricerca Qualitativa, 3, 399–428. https://doi.org/10.3240/81723
Antaki, C. (2002). “Lovely”: Turn-initial high-grade assessments in telephone closings. Discourse Studies, 4(1), 5–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614456020040010101
Antaki, C. (2000). “Brilliant. Next Question…”: High-Grade Assessment Sequences in the Completion of Interactional Units. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 33(3), 37–41. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327973RLSI3303_1
Broth, M., & Mondada, L. (2013). Walking away: The embodied achievement of activity closings in mobile interaction. Journal of Pragmatics, 47(1), 41–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2012.11.016
Broth, M., & Keevallik, L. (2014). Getting Ready to Move as a Couple: Accomplishing Mobile Formations in a Dance Class. Space and Culture, 17(2), 107–121. https://doi.org/10.1177/1206331213508483
De Stefani, E., & Mondada, L. (2013). Reorganizing Mobile Formations: When “Guided” Participants Initiate Reorientations in Guided Tours. Space and Culture, 17(2), 157–175. https://doi.org/10.1177/1206331213508504
De Stefani, E., & Gazin, A.-D. (2014). Instructional sequences in driving lessons: Mobile participants and the temporal and sequential organization of actions. Journal of Pragmatics, 65, 63–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.08.020
Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. America. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Halll.
Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. H. (1992). Assessments and the construction of context. In C. Goodwin & A. Duranti, C. Goodwin & A. Duranti (Eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon (Vol. 11, pp. 147–189). Cambridge: Cambridge University Pressess.
Harness Goodwin, M., & Goodwin, C. (1986). Gesture and coparticipation in the activity of searching for a word. Semiotica, 62(1–2), 51–75.
Keevallik, L. (2010). Bodily Quoting in Dance Correction. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 43(4), 401–426. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2010.518065
Keevallik, L. (2013). Here in time and space: Decomposing movement in dance instruction. In P. Haddington, L. Mondada, & M. Nevile, P. Haddington, L. Mondada, & M. Nevile (Eds.), Interaction and Mobility: Language and the Body in Motion (pp. 345–370). Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
Oshima, S., & Streeck, J. (2015). Coordinating talk and practical action: The case of hair salon service assessments. Pragmatics and Society, 6(4), 538–564. https://doi.org/10.1075/ps.6.4.04osh
Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage, J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57–102). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schütz, A. (1951). Making music together: A study in social relationship. Social Research, 18(1), 76–97.
Stivers, T., & Rossano, F. (2010). Mobilizing Response. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 43(1), 3–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810903471258
Thompson, S. A., Fox, B. A., & Couper-Kuhlen, E. (2015). Grammar in Everyday Talk: Building Responsive Actions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,.
Wiggins, S., & Potter, J. (2003). Attitudes and evaluative practices: Category vs. item and subjective vs. objective constructions in everyday food assessments. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42(4), 513–531. https://doi.org/10.1348/014466603322595257
Weeks, P. (1996). Synchrony lost, synchrony regained: The achievement of musical co-ordination. Human Studies, 19(2), 199–228. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00131494
Wittgenstein, L. (1967). Lectures and conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. (C. Barrett, C. Barrett, Ed.). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Expert dancers can move together in seamless flows of joint action. They initiate and complete sequences of movement, and anticipate and counterbalance the momentum of one another’s bodies in ways that can appear both effortlessly coordinated and spontaneously responsive to changes in the music and their local environment.
While this close coordination is a compelling spectacle, it is designed to be difficult to analyze: audiences are not meant to see how it is done, so analysts of joint action have tended to focus on rehearsals or classes that involve teaching and learning to dance together. However, most studies have focused on advanced students (Keevalik & Broth, 2014) or professional dance rehearsals (Muntanyola-Saura, 2015) and the teaching and learning practices they develop for achieving complex choreographies. This talk explores the coordination of the first few moments of initial steps learned by novices at the start of an introductory partner dance workshop. Using qualitative video analysis and by studying the procedural structure of interaction during the workshop, we show how novice dancers’ joint actions are coordinated using mundane conversational practices and rhythmical entrainments, suggesting a similarly interactional basis for expert dance coordination.
Broth, M. & Keevallik, L., (2014), Getting Ready to Move as a Couple: Accomplishing Mobile Formations in a Dance Class Space and Culture, 2014, 17, 107-121
Muntanyola-Saura, D., (2015), Partnering in dance rehearsals. The place of listening and rhythm Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa, Società editrice il Mulino, 8, 429-45
Dances – like everyday physical interactions – are built from a constrained repertoire of possible bodily movements. It’s a useful activity to study because the performers, learners and audiences of dance can be observed managing the production and evaluation of movements specifically as dance.
This presents participants with interesting and observable challenges. How do they move from dancing to non-dancing, and how do they show each other that they are making these switches? How do audiences decide when and how to applaud, and how do they demonstrate their sensitivity to particular parameters and relevant moments of evaluation during a dance? And what is distinctive about bodily movement that makes it function as dance?
Albert, S., & vom Lehn, D. (2018, August). The First Step is Always the Hardest: Rhythm and Methods of Mutual Coordination between Novice Dancers. 113th American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.
vom Lehn, D. & Albert, S. (2018, July). Producing ‘joint action’ in Lindy Hop Dance Lessons. Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction 2018, Lancaster, UK.
What can audience members’ embodied, rhythmical movements tell us about their experience of a musical dance performance? And what do their responses reveal about the composition, organisation and production of the performance itself?
This important distinction – which if you think about it, is very difficult to describe in theory – can be made in practice by tracking how participants deal with moments where the rhythmical coordination of (in this case) the audience’s clapping, the musical structure and the dancers’ joint movements seems likely to break down.
The systematic ways participants in this situation manage disruptions to the audience’s rhythmical clapping in relation to the dancers’ movements shows how they all work to uphold the relevance of normative patterns of mutual coordination. That’s a fancy way of saying that what is considered ‘good’ in this particular partner dance is not some fixed model of perfect dance movement, but the threat (and eventual narrow avoidance) of screwing up. This kind of analysis reveals how dancers initiate, sustain and complete distinct phases of spontaneous movement as embodied social actions.
The analysis in the paper uses detailed, empirical examples of rhythmical coordination to show how dancers and audience members combine improvisation and set-piece choreography. Here’s an example from the conclusion that shows just a few of the rhythmical patterns we can derive from a detailed analysis of just 10 seconds of dancing.
This kind of analysis may not tell us much about the qualitative detail of the dance. However, it provides a clear empirical resource for further analytical work – which can then be analysed in relation to more everyday forms of rhythmical coordination. This provides a starting point for analysing the dancers’ activities and the audience’s response in a way that draws on empirically observable materials that also focuses on the methods the participants themselves use to make sense of those materials.
The approach proposed by this paper shows how people use whatever materials are available including visible, audible and tactile bodily actions as part of a communicative environment. It shows how they can combine these resources in an ad-hoc fashion to coordinate and communicate their movements – much as we do in everyday talk in interaction.
For example, here’s a diagram that shows some of the empirical distinctions we can make about rhythmical coordination in various everyday activities.
Based on this kind of analysis, the paper maps out all the available rhythms in that particular 10 second clip – and shows how they are organised in clearly distinctive patterns.
The purpose, and overall take-away from this paper is that when people talk about the ‘language of dance’, it’s not just an empty idiom, or a transposition of linguistic/semiotic theories onto bodily movements. Dance, seen in its broader social and interactional context, and especially in vernacular dance practices actually functions much like language. In fact, it may be quite difficult to draw clear empirical distinctions between dance, sign language and other forms of communicative social action.
Of course this paper doesn’t go that far – it is intended to set a course for future work as part of a larger project on partner dance as an interactional practice. It suggests that a good place to start understanding the ‘language of dance’ is to look at vernacular practices – where improvisation is combined with set-piece choreography through ad-hoc embodied social action. In particular, the paper suggests that rhythm is one way we can begin to look at dance – and other socio-aesthetic practices – as everyday interactional achievements.
If you just saw a presentation of this paper, here are the references for the talk – there are more in the paper linked above.
Atkinson, J. Maxwell. 1984. “Public Speaking and Audience Responses: some Techniques for Inviting Applause.” In Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis, edited by J. Maxwell Atkinson and John Heritage, 370–410. Cambridge University Press.
Boden, MA. 2003. The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms. London: Routledge.
Broth, Mathias. 2011. “The Theatre Performance as Interaction Between Actors and Their Audience.” Nottingham French Studies 50 (2): 113–133.
Broth, Mathias, and Leelo Keevallik. 2014. “Getting Ready to Move as a Couple: Accomplishing Mobile Formations in a Dance Class.” Space and Culture 17 (2) (\#jan\#): 107–121. doi:10.1177/1206331213508483.
Chauvigné, Léa A. S., Kevin M Gitau, and Steven Brown. 2014. “The Neural Basis of Audiomotor Entrainment: an ALE Meta-Analysis.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00776.
Clayman, Steven E. 1993. “Booing: The Anatomy of a Disaffiliative Response.” American Sociological Review: 110–130.
Gardair, Colombine. 2013. “Assembling Audiences.” PhD thesis, Queen Mary University of London.
Goodwin, Charles. 2007. “Interactive Footing.” In Reporting Talk, edited by E Holt and Rebecca Clift, 16–46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jackson, Jonathan David. 2001. “Improvisation in African-American Vernacular Dancing.” Dance Research Journal 33 (2) (Winter): 40–53. doi:10.2307/1477803.
Keevallik, Leelo. 2010. “Bodily Quoting in Dance Correction.” Research on Language & Social Interaction 43 (4) (\#nov\#): 401–426. doi:10.1080/08351813.2010.518065.
Puri, Rajika, and Diana Hart-Johnson. 1995. “Thinking with Movement: Improvising Versus Composing.” In Human Action Signs in Cultural Context: The Visible and the Invisible in Movement and Dance, edited by Brenda Margaret Farnell and Drid Williams, 158–185. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.
Ravignani, Andrea, Daniel L Bowling, and W Tecumseh Fitch. 2014. “Chorusing, Synchrony, and the Evolutionary Functions of Rhythm.” Frontiers in Psychology 5. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01118.
Sacks, Harvey, and Emanuel A Schegloff. 2002. “Home Position.” Gesture 2: 133–146. doi:10.1075/gest.2.2.02sac.
Schober, Michael F., and Neta Spiro. 2014. “Jazz Improvisers’ Shared Understanding: a Case Study.” Frontiers in Psychology 5 (August) (\#aug\#): 1–21. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00808.