Ethnochoreology as an Interdiscipline in a Postdisciplinary Era: A Historiography of Dance Scholarship in Serbia

By Rakoèeviæ, Selena | Yearbook for Traditional Music, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Ethnochoreology as an Interdiscipline in a Postdisciplinary Era: A Historiography of Dance Scholarship in Serbia


Rakoèeviæ, Selena, Yearbook for Traditional Music


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Introduction

Although (ethno)choreology within European scholarship maintains its continuity as a methodologically and theoretically grounded discipline, there is an ongoing need among scholars to re-evaluate its traits and achievements and (re)position it within both the social sciences and/or humanities.1 Sustained scholarly attention to basic questions about the nature of the field of study encourages discussion and debate about a number of issues, including the name of the discipline and whether it should specify the object of research (e.g., Lange 1981:5; Giurchescu 2007:5; Koutsouba 2008:227) or designate the "perspective" of its investigation (Giurchescu and Torp 1991:1; Ivanova-Nyberg 2011:31). These ongoing dialogues also support debate on the basic epistemological and methodological orientation of "constructing dance knowledge" (Gore and Bakka 2007:93), which during recent decades has fluctuated between empirical and hermeneutic poles (Bakka and Karoblis 2010:179-84).

Ethnochoreology, from its beginnings, has been continuously linked with related fields of study, initially including folklore, ethnology, and ethnomusicology, and from the late 1970s, dance anthropology (Giurchescu 2014:299). In this way, it is an interdisciplinary and eclectic area of scholarly research in which definitions are too general and boundaries are hopelessly vague. This ambiguity is not only evident in connection with cognate scholarly disciplines, but, adding to the confusion, in relation to the work of dance researchers who name their field studies as dance ethnology (Dunin 1991:203; Zebec 2005:45), dance ethnography (Buckland 2006:8), and dance anthropology (Lange 1975:v; Grau 1999:164). Alternatively, some scholars position themselves in-between, trying to "find a theoretical framework in which ethnochoreological, aesthetic-analytical, and anthropological perspectives could be integrated" (Giurchescu 1999:44).2 As an ethnochoreologist from Greece, Maria Koutsouba recently formulated her personal scholarly experience in the following words: "During the last fifteen years as a new dance researcher, I experienced a complex hermaphroditism" (Koutsouba 2008:229). In such a whirlpool of basic disciplinary contexts, it could be said that ethnochoreology continuously suffers from an identity crisis.

However, in the institutional contexts of the scholarly traditions of European countries, the situation is much clearer. For example, due to the dedicated work of the sisters, Ljubica and Danica Jankovic, ethnochoreological research in Serbia can be officially dated from 1934 and the discipline itself was inaugurated at the highest national academic level of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts in 1964 (Jankovic 1964:92; Ilijin 1973:203). In Croatia, thanks to the involvement of the ethnomusicologist and ethnochoreologist Vinko Zganec, ethnochoreology was established as an independent field of research at the Institute for Folk Art in the early 1950s (Zebec 1996:94-95; 2009:137).3 In Hungary, ethnochoreology has been recognized as a distinctive scientific discipline since the beginning of the 1950s due to the work of the prominent researchers György Martin and Ernö Pesovár, followed by László Felföldi, whose work was linked to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Felföldi 2007:159). Though usually designated as folk dance study, ethnochoreology was established as a scholarly discipline at the University of Trondheim in Norway in the early 1970s by virtue of the devoted work of the ethnochoreologist Egil Bakka, both in research and educational programmes (Bakka 1991:54-55). At the University of Limerick in Ireland, the first graduate programme terminating in a Master of Arts degree in ethnochoreology has been offered since 1996, led by ethnochoreologist Catherine Foley (Foley 2012:222). These examples combined demonstrate the institutional status of ethnochoreology in locales throughout Europe. …

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