Call for Papers: TDPT 13.2 Special Issue on Performance Training and Well-Being.

Image: Arvin Singh Uzonov Dang, July 29, 2020.
Performance: Magnat, V. (2020). ’alhut (Hul’q’umi’num’ word meaning to honor, to look after, to be very careful with, to restore).

An Embodied Land Acknowledgement honoring the Sc’ianew First Nation’s traditional, ancestral and unceded territory (V. Magnat, 2020).

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)

Special issue Performance Training and Well-Being to be published June 2022

Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors

Guest editors: Dr. Virginie Magnat, University of British Columbia, Canada (virginie.magnat@ubc.ca) and Dr. Nathalie Gauthard, Université d’Artois, France (ngauthard@orange.fr).

Performance Training and Well-Being (Issue 13.2)

Conceived as a way of foregrounding the relevance of performance-based artistic practices in response to the current health crisis caused by the global pandemic, as well as a way of challenging neoliberal conceptions of creativity and performance as hallmarks of capitalist productivity, adaptability, and efficacy, this special issue will explore the relationship between performance training and the notion of well-being, broadly conceived, to reignite, reconfigure, revitalize, renew and/or reimagine their inter- and/or intra-action.

We seek contributions by performance and theatre studies scholar-practitioners, artists, educators, and activists ​committed to critically and reflexively investigating the cultural, social, political, ecological, and spiritual dimensions of performance training modalities that have the potential to promote, enhance, restore, and sustain the well-being of practitioners, audiences, and other/more-than-human participants and collaborators.

We are committed to integrating the perspectives of non-Western and Indigenous scholars and artists, and welcome contributions examining the ethical implications of conducting research on performance and well-being in the neoliberal academy, as well as decolonizing approaches to performance training that take into account the ​well-being of culturally diverse communities.

This special issue will therefore respond to the urgent need to acknowledge and to include multiple ways of knowing and being within Eurocentric paradigms that still inform dominant knowledge systems.

The contested term “well-being” is intended as a generative provocation. In this light, potential contributors are invited to engage with topics and questions such as:

  • Performance Training and Well-Being:
    • What approaches to performance training and well-being are currently in the making?
    • How do they depart from or extend dominant conceptualizations? Which performance contexts are they designed for?
    • How is the relationship between performance training and well-being investigated beyond the studio, via Skype/Zoom, MOOCs and other interactive platforms in the global pandemic era?
    • What is the impact of neoliberal economics on this relationship in the context of the current health crisis?
  • Intersectionality and Interdisciplinarity:
    • How do performance training modalities that have the potential to promote, enhance, restore, and sustain well-being take into consideration gender, sexuality, ability, class, race and ethnicity?
    • How do they respond to neurodiverse trainees?
    • How are interdisciplinary performers, such as dance-theatre practitioners or intermedia artists, exploring the relationship between performance and well-being?
    • How has training that was originally developed to foster well-being within the context of artistic performance been adapted by qualitative researchers and educators for the purpose of arts-based inquiry, pedagogy, activism, community or health work?
  • Bridging Practice and Theory:
    • Which emergent critical methodologies can we deploy to investigate the relationship between performance training and well-being?
    • How do relatively new paradigms such as ecocriticism, new materialism, posthumanism, affect theory, and neuroscience influence scholarly and artistic explorations of the relationship between performance training and well-being?
  • Documentation and Dissemination:
    • Which practices of performance training that value and promote well-being have not been systematically documented and disseminated?
    • Which non-Anglophone practices have received less critical attention and how can new translations or archives engage us in dialogue with them?
    • What is the place of documentation in practice-as-research approaches to performance pedagogy and well-being?
  • Histories and Lineages:
    • What does archival research reveal about the lineages and historic practices exploring the relationship between well-being and performance training?
    • How are non-Western and Indigenous appoaches to the relationship between cultural practice and well-being decolonized, reclaimed, and revitalised in contemporary performer training?
  • Re-newing Performance Training:
    • How can existing systems, exercises and practices be reconfigured in ways that value and foster well-being?
    • How can we re-evaluate the foundational premises of performance training through current interdisciplinary research on the relationship between artistic practice and well-being? What are the implications for transmission processes and how might a focus on well-being inform pedagogical innovations?

Context: Performance Training and Well-Being in the Global Pandemic Era

Anthropologist and performance studies scholar Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston observes: “Today, in the age of COVID-19, . . . politicians, scientists, and the media are telling us that the future of this world lies in our own individual hands, that by taking appropriate measures of social distancing and staying at home we can divert the tide of the pandemic” (In Search of Lost Futures, forthcoming 2020). She provides a counter-perspective by referring to Arjun Appadurai’s view that “individuals can improve their well-being by strengthening their collective capacity to aspire (2013: 188).” How can performance training be employed to enhance individual well-being while developing our collective capacity to aspire to a future in which social justice, cultural diversity and inclusivity lead to building healthier communities?

In a pre-pandemic era discussion of creativity, performance, and community that now sounds ucannily prescient, performance studies scholars Anne Harris and Stacy Holman Jones also point to Appadurai’s concept of the social imaginary: “In a nearly-ubiquitous discourse of creativity as entrepreneurship and innovation, Appadurai’s social imaginary offers a different role for creativity, one that is intimate, transmitted through sociality rather than capital,” enabling the creation of “newly imagined communities” (“Creativity, Intimate Publics, and the Proxemics of Pop Up Poetry Performance” 96). They argue that “drama and theatre performance returns us to the body, to the ineffability of corporeality itself,” and reminds us of “the importance of touch and connection and the political possibilities that develop from the ground up, person-to-person and body to body (Hill and Paris 2014)” (p. 97). Drawing from anthropologist Edward T. Hall’s “science of proxemics” that examines distances in human exchange and distinguishes between public, social and personal space, they hypothesize that the popularity of immersive performance experiences might stem from “our need to create contact and a sense of community with others ─ a mechanism for forming a ‛rapid response’ community ─ a network of people to whom you can turn in moments of need and crisis” (97-98). They remark that while this type of experience can be “standardized, instrumentalized and commodified,” it can also resist neoliberalism by creating “a new ‛imaginary’ and politics of encounter in Appadurai’s terms” (98). Which performance training models are conducive to social imaginaries and the creation of imagined communities to which we can turn in these challenging times?

A politics of encounter and possibility is invoked by Hannah Yohalem in her examination of the development of contact improvisation: while she acknowledges that “the implied universality of the body in contact improvisation absolutely resulted from white racial privilege,” and specifies that this practice was “not conceived as a stable alternate social structure nor as an attempt at political revolution,” she contends that it “sought to generate a different experience of the self: as both an individual and as part of a social group. The idea was to benefit each dancer without either dancer becoming subsumed by the pairing or fully closed off within the self” (“Displacing Vision: Contact Improvisation, Anarchy, and Empathy” 4; 7). She points to Peter Kropotkin’s anarchist theories and his notion of “mutual aid,” which Steve Paxton understands “as the basis for both personal and social longevity and development within contact improvisation” (6), and she suggests that “Kropotkin’s model of a mutually beneficial community built out of individual freedom” influenced the development of this dance practice as a form of resistance to the American model of democracy. What forms of performance training need to be developed to resist, destabilize, alter, and/or transform current neoliberal models of democracy empowered by global capitalism?

In a 2016 discussion about movement improvisation, Paxton’s collaborator Nancy Stark asks Barbara Dilley about Contemplative Dance Practice, a performance practice informed by Buddhism and prioritizing self-care, personal awareness, kinesthetic delight, and an open space that fosters non-judgemental forms of explorations. This practice is potentially conducive to experiential moments of “egolessness” where relationship to environment becomes the source of movement improvisation. Dilley explains: “I’m a particle, I’m somebody, and then I’m a wave ─ I’m fluid, not fixed . . . A wave is an energy form that is without a centre” (5), while Stark evokes “a great desire and excitement about bringing it all together ─ spiritual practice, physical practice, art practice, life practice, politics, philosophy…” (A Wave, a Particle, a Wave”  6). How can performance training simultaneously foster self-care and egolessness, prioritize process over product and cultivate kinesthetic delight, while decentering and reconfiguring anthropocentric conceptions of creativity?

In their discussion of the implications of intercultural philosophy for contemplative and transformative education, Claudia Eppert, Daniel Vokey, Tram Truong Anh Nguyen, and Heesoon Bai observe: “The current emphasis on contemplative practices as means for individual stress reduction devoid of attention to the social service and social transformation dimension is imbalanced” (“Intercultural Philosophy and the Nondual Wisdom of ‛Basic Goodness’: Implications for Contemplative and Transformative Education” 138). They provide the example of Shambhala Buddhism teachings that require practitioners “to keep eyes open during mindfulness-awareness meditation” so that they may be able to “attend simultaneously to what is happening ‛inside’ and ‛outside’ him/herself, eventually realizing their inseparability” (138). They further contend that “contemplative practices that lack attention to their ontological, epistemological, and ethical embeddedness run the risk of being coopted and consumed by neoconservative and neoliberal marketplace logics (Vokey, 2014)” (142). They suggest that identifying global possibilities of solidarity crucially hinges upon destabilizing “Eurocentric attachments to notions regarding autonomy or sovereignty of the self” and fostering notions of interconnectedness and interdependency that preclude imposing one’s values upon others in the name of a global ethics that perpetuates “the mind-set behind colonialism” (144-145). What are the implications of intercultural philosophy for contemplative performance training mindful of social service and social transformation?

In the 2012 Aboriginal Healing Foundation report entitled “Dancing, Singing, Painting, and Speaking the Healing Story: Healing through Creative Arts,” Linda Archibald outlines three interconnected models: creative arts-as-healing, creative arts-in-therapy, and “a holistic approach to healing that includes creative arts, culture, and spirituality,” an Indigenous model that “encompasses culture, language, history, spirituality, traditional knowledge, art, drumming, singing, dance, and storytelling . . . a comprehensive, holistic approach aimed at restoring balance” (2-3). How can non/anti/de-colonial forms of performance training honor contemporary Indigenous perspectives on holistic healing practices informed by traditional ways of knowing and being?

When discussing her experience of dancing at a potlach, Kwakwaka’wakw scholar Sarah Hunt states: “If I say I am dancing, what does it mean to you now? I am dancing not for you, but in the footsteps of my ancestors, who taught me how to resignify Indigeneity, or more specifically Kwakwaka’wakw knowledge, such that it does not lose its meaning and power in the face of colonialism” (“Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept” 6). How are Indigenous scholars and artists reclaiming cultural practices such as the potlach, which colonialism sought to eradicate, and asserting the power of performance as an embodied way of knowing that is critical to resignifying Indigeneity today?

Relationship with the environment beyond the dualism of nature and culture is explored by artistic communities in the performing arts through their discourses, practices and expertise. Researchers have investigated the relevance of this type of artistic exploration to current debates on environmental issues in the humanities and social sciences (Autant-Mathieu 2013), including the anthropology of nature (Descola 2005, 2015), the question of the sensible (Laplantine 2018), ecosomatics (Bardet, Clavel and Ginot 2019), as well as literary and theatrical ecocriticism. How do the “schemes of practice” understood as “psychic, sensorimotor and emotional dispositions, internalized through experience acquired in a given social environment” (Descola, Par-delà nature et culture 190) account for the ways in which human societies organize their relationship to the environment, and how can environmentally-conscious performance practice and training contribute to ecological well-being?

Works Cited

Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
– – -. The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition. Verso: 2013.

Archibald, Linda. “Dancing, Singing, Painting, and Speaking the Healing Story: Healing through Creative Arts.” Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2012.

Autant-Matthieu, Marie-Christine, editor. Créer ensemble. Points de vue sur les communautés artistiques (fin du XIXe-XXe siècles). Montpellier, France: Éditions L’Entretemps, 2013.

Bardet Marie, Joanne Clavel, and Isabelle Ginot. Ecosomatiques. Penser l’écologie depuis le geste. Montpellier, France: Deuxième époque, 2019.

Descola, Philippe. Par-delà nature et culture. Gallimard, « Bibliothèque des sciences humaines », 2005 (in paperback: Folio, 2016).
– – -. L’écologie des autres : l’anthropologie et la question de la nature. Versailles, France: Éditions Quae, 2016.

Dilley, Barbara, and Nancy Stark Smith. “A Wave, A Particle, A Wave – Talking with Barbara Dilley about Inner Aspects of Practicing Movement Improvisation.” Contact Quarterly, Winter/Spring 2017, pp. 22-27.

Eppert, Claudia, Daniel Vokey, Tram Truong Anh Nguyen, and Heesoon Bai. “Intercultural Philosophy and the Nondual Wisdom of ‛Basic Goodness’: Implications for Contemplative and Transformative Education.” Philosophy East/West: Exploring Instersections between Educational and Contemplative Practices, edited by Oren Ergas and Sharon Todd. Wiley-Blackwell, 2016, pp. 129-151.

Harris, Anne, and Stacy Holman Jones. “Creativity, Intimate Publics, and the Proxemics of Pop Up Poetry Performance.” Creativity in Theatre: Theory and Action in Theatre/Drama Education, edited by Suzanne Burgoyne. Springer, 2018, pp. 89-104.

Hunt, Sarah. “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept.” Cultural Geographies in Practice, vol. 1, no. 6, 2013, pp. 1-6. 

Kazubowski-Houston, Magdalena. “Introduction.” In Search of Lost Futures: Anthropological Explorations in Multimodality, Deep Interdisciplinarity, and Autoethnography, edited by Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston and Mark Auslander. Palgrave, forthcoming 2020.

Vokey, Daniel. “Contemplative Disciplines in Higher Education: Cutting through Academic Materialism.” Contemplative Learning and Inquiry across Disciplines, edited by Olen Gunnlaugson, Edward W. Sarath, Charles Scott, and Heesoon Bai. State University of New York Press, 2015, pp. 253-27.

Yohalem, Hannah. “Displacing Vision: Contact Improvisation, Anarchy, and Empathy.” Dance Research Journal, vol. 50, no. 2, 2018, pp. 45-61.

Further Resources:

“Culture, Creativity, Health and Well-Being” Research Cluster’s Weebly site: https://eminencecluster.weebly.com

“Culture, Creativity, Health and Well-Being” Research Cluster webinar “Being Creative for Health and Well-Being” (October 22, 2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DgfyO90wEI

Virginie Magnat’s video presentation “In Search of Healing: Artaud’s Quest for Alchemical Theatre and His Encounter with the Tarahumara” for the 2020 Poundmaker Indigenous Performance Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2vhTyWkJ30

’alhut (Hul’q’umi’num’ word meaning to honor, to look after, to be very careful with, to restore)

 Embodied Land Acknowledgement honoring the Sc’ianew First Nation’s traditional, ancestral and unceded territory (V. Magnat, 2020): https://youtu.be/_VcAQ2WkoWM

Oral Land Acknowledgement providing historical context about colonialism in Canada and addressing the current political context of the post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission era (V. Magnat, 2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NmNPfdz8oI

To Make a Submission:

To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue please contact Virginie Magnat (virginie.magnat@ubc.ca) and Nathalie Gauthard (ngauthard@orange.fr) for an initial exchange of ideas/thoughts or email them an abstract or proposal (max 300 words). Please consider the range of possibilities available within TDPT: Essays and Sources up to 6500 words; photo essays; shorter, more speculative, essais up to 3000 words and postcards (up to 200 words). All contributors could extend their work through links to blog materials (including, for example, film footage or interviews). Questions about purely digital propositions can be sent directly to James McLaughlin at jimmyacademy@gmail.com along with ideas for the blog. Firm proposals across all areas must be received by 1st March 2021 at the latest. We look forward to hearing from you.

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training has a number of formats:

  • “Articles” features contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-6,500 words)
  • “Sources” provides an outlet for the documentation and analysis of primary materials of performer training. We are particularly keen to receive material that documents the histories and contemporary practices associated with the issue’s theme.
  • “Training Grounds” hosts shorter pieces, which are not peer reviewed, including essais, postcards, visual essays, book or event reviews and the new format, Speaking Image. We welcome a wide range of different proposals for contributions including edited interviews and previously unpublished archive or source material. We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts to be re-reviewed.

Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on the online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal blog: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/

Issue Schedule:

1 March 2021: proposals to be submitted to Virginie Magnat (virginie.magnat@ubc.ca) and Nathalie Gauthard (ngauthard@orange.fr)

31 March 2021: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution

April to End August 2021: writing/preparation period

Start Sept to end October 2021: peer review period

November 2021 – end January 2021: author revisions post peer review

June 2022: publication as Issue 13.2

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