A Casting Call for Dance Scholars
Weeks, Sandy, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Imagine opening a professional journal with the expectation of reading a dance or dance-related article only to find a blank page. Of course, that will never happen, but it concerns me that dance continues to lag behind other professional fields in scholarly publications. Ironically, most of us (dance professionals and physical education teachers) have valuable, creative, and scholarly contributions to make to our profession. So, why do so few of us publish?
The answer to this question was approached from two perspectives. First, what is the importance of scholarly activity in educational dance? And how do we encourage individuals, whether they are our students, our colleagues, or whomever, to become involved in this process? To help answer these questions, I called on a few past and more recent National Dance Association (NDA) Scholar/Artist Award recipients, who were selected by a committee of peers in recognition of their exceptional work.
The 2010 Scholar/Artist Gayle Kassing wrote that these activities in dance are vital for expanding the field (personal communication, December 8, 2010). Creating such a continuous body of knowledge supports both performance and education. Along these same lines, the 2003 NDA Scholar Artist, Janice LaPointe-Crump expressed her view of the importance of scholarship by saying that it is vital to the advancement of the profession and maintenance of a healthy balance between the status quo and innovative thought (personal communication, December 12, 2010). Furthermore, she added that discovering new or overlooked information; applying contemporary theoretical frameworks from other fields; formulating new pedagogies that are informed by advances in body-mind science, medicine, culture, and technologies; and examining artists and their work are some of the ways scholarship advances dance in both practice and theory.
Comments made by the 1999 Scholar/Artist recipient Sandra Minton also emphasized the importance of scholarly activity in dance, especially of dance research that reveals connections between dance and education in general (personal communication, December 7, 2010). According to Minton, "The fields of music and visual arts have a long history of published research documenting the educational value of those fields, which ultimately led to those subjects being included in the school curriculum. It is unfortunate that dance entered this area of endeavor rather late, as it could have been used to endorse the educational value of dance, thus playing a role in the establishment of more dance programs in our schools." As more evidence is provided, perhaps the number of dance programs or dance units within physical education curricula will expand.
Over the years, the areas of investigation in dance have expanded exponentially. The 1986 Scholar/Artist, Aileen Lockhart maintained that "not only have we maintained interest in choreography/composition, modern dance, and history, but we have also been occupied with new areas of investigation, especially in the dance-related challenges associated with special populations, with body-oriented problems related to fitness, dance injuries, kinesiology for dancers, and psycho-physical techniques" (as cited in Weeks, 2010, p. 73). During the time that Lockhart was the NDA Scholar/Artist, much more attention was being given to aspects of dance management, administration, and leadership; to movement analysis; and to recording movement. Today, the areas of research continue to expand at an amazing rate, and with this growth comes an increased need for scholarly activities in these new fields.
But how do we encourage individuals to publish? Maybe we need to look first at who is considered a dance scholar. This is certainly not a new question. In her 1985 Scholar's address, Mary Alice Brennan asked, "While the choreographers compose and the dancers dance, who is tracing the roots of our art, or probing its societal and cultural context, or analyzing its movement styles, establishing its scientific base or uncovering its educational values? …