The how and my personal reflection on the process
I chose to conduct this experiment by asking people to record themselves on video while dancing to a playlist seven songs I have chosen for them. Video is the only choice of collaborating with people dancing remotely and asynchronously. But, in any case, video has been very important for anthropologists to record dance (and not only) since the invention of the medium (Royce, 1977).
First, I sent the invitation to friends and asked them to send it to their friends and acquaintances. (The text on your left)
I have chosen seven popular laiko songs from the 70’s-80’s of different sub-genres and influences. Arabic, Latin American, Indian, folk Greek etc.
The opposing categories that I recognized at first were Greeks vs non-Greeks, dancers vs non-dancers. These were the criteria by which I would examine the results, by means of comparison (Royce, 1977).
The ending result was ten videos. I expected many more but realized that the most important factor for people actually deciding to do this assignment was their proximity to me (and, consequently, the possibility of me pressuring them to do it). This fact of proximity, though, also changed the way I could interpret the resulting videos. I also realized that the categories I had in mind weren’t so black and white as I’d think; there existed grey areas such as a person from Turkey, not Greek but very close culturally and a person who isn’t a professional dancer but he’s tap dancing and acting. So, this influenced my arrangement/classification of the results. I also chose to participate in this research with my own video, influenced by Katherine Dunham’s participating in the dances of the people she observed (as an anthropologist and a dancer simultaneously) (Bolles, 2015). One of the participants is also my father, who grew up with these songs, knows and practices their respectively associated dances.
One video is of myself. Seven out of ten participants are Greeks. Four out of ten participants are professionally involved with dance. Three out of ten participants are men. Seven out of ten participants danced to all songs, the rest didn’t because of either a misunderstanding or a technological malfunction.
I then made a collective video, setting every video on the same musical moment in a grid. The non-dancers are placed on top. The non- Greeks are placed on the right side. The “guest appearances” (people who performed just one song) are placed in the middle. I made it this way to make it easier for one to notice different sub-categories’ behaviours.
The factors that proved important after the video results.
- The prior knowledge or not of the songs
- The understanding of the lyrics
- The cultural proximity to the songs emotion
- The combination of musical patterns to dance patterns
- The gender
- The enjoyment of the act
Some of the factors, such as a., b. and c. were expected from me beforehand, but it is interesting to note here that the differences I observed weren’t as intense as I thought they would be. The proximity to the song’s emotion, for example, was mostly universal; whether one understood the lyrics or not, painful love songs were recognized, for example, and danced accordingly. D. was more common in dancers, but still mostly there. The gender factor was kind of a surprise. In some of the songs (but also in some feedback loops, which will be mentioned later), it is very apparent that two of the three have certain common traits (inflexibility of the upper body, open arms) while women have more expressive hands and hip and spine flexibility. Maybe my surprise is coming from usually watching male dancers or actors improvise, whose movement is more liberated from manly stereotypes, but this observation proved interesting to me, especially the fact that this difference appeared more pronounced than the previous classifications (Greeks vs non-Greeks, dancers vs non-dancers) I had thought of. Lastly, the enjoyment of the act, or more lack of it, was apparent in one case and that influenced the intensity of the movement but not its rhythm.
First song trends:
a) Lifting the arms towards the sky
b) Spine and hip curved movement
Second song trends
a) Steps to the music
b) Hip swinging
Third song trends
a) Stepping in place/ lifting the knees
Fourth song trends
a) Arms touching the body and then opening up
b) Representational drama in the movement and the facial expression
c) Fast rhythmical steps
Fifth song trends
a) To the left, to the right
b) Elbows and curved fingers
c) Representational drama in the movement and the facial expression
Sixth song trends
a) Towards traditional dancing
b) Hip movement
c) To the left, to the right
Seventh song trends
b) Intense stepping/ lifting knees
Then, I made a feedback loop, which had two steps. For the ones who participated in the experiment 1. A free interview on one’s experience in their participation 2. Watching the collective video together and commenting on what one sees. For the ones who didn’t participate in the experiment 1. Watching the collective video together and commenting on what one sees 2. Watching the three solo video interventions and commenting on them. 3. Feedforward.
Then, I went on to the next Three solo vido interventions.