Response 1 – Mediums Matter: Dance as an Artistic Medium (11.1)

By Adrienne Raw, SUNY, Cortland

Dance with Me: Response to “Mediums Matter”

In the introduction of her piece, Kamp writes that dance “connects academics and practitioners with similar concepts acted upon differently.” Dance, she argues, can be analyzed using the same rhetorical lens through which we consider art and literature and argument. Her purpose is to teach readers this rhetoric of dance and through that teaching demonstrate the importance of making these connections between the academic analysis of rhetoric and the creative expression of art. This sentiment of bridging separate spaces is at the core of her piece and it’s what allows her argument to highlight not only the rhetorical nature of dance but the interdisciplinary drive we should all be pursuing as teachers, scholars, students, and creative individuals.

I will freely admit that I am not a good dancer. Much as I love to watch it and appreciate the excellence of the medium, my dancing is limited to when I’m home alone in my pajamas taking a break from work to flail about to the latest pop music hit. I can’t sit down in front of a dance performance and tell you whether the dancers are any good nor break down the choreography, costumes, or props for their deeper meaning. I don’t know the rhetoric of dance, but Kamp opens up that world by pairing clear analysis with video examples that illustrate her definitions. Through Kamp’s eyes, I can begin to see the ways in which musical pairings, strategic use of props and costumes, speed and flow of movement, and a myriad of other visual and auditory elements combine to create meaning within dance. In making this world of dance accessible to readers Kamp herself does the work of bridging the gap between academic (me) and practitioner (her). This connective work serves as an extra layer to her argument, highlighting the necessity of bridging these gaps.

Yet there remains a gap, sometimes nothing more than a crack in the sidewalk and sometimes a seemingly uncrossable chasm, between academic theory and creative practice. As Kamp argues in her conclusion, we often see the study of art—whether that’s dance or literature or theatre or visual art—as separate from its creation or even its consumption. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the sentiment that critically engaging with art ruins our ability to enjoy consuming or creating it. Yet this act of critical engagement, as Kamp demonstrates, can succeed in opening new worlds of understanding. In reading this piece, I got to engage in the kind of exploration of new spaces that should excite us as students of the world in which we live. This is the message that stays with me from Kamp’s colorful, creative analysis: art is rhetorical and engaging with it rhetorically can create passion through understanding. Dance may be the avenue through which she advocates for this academic and practitioner partnership, but it is a partnership we should be embracing regardless of our field.