Useful and inspirational for dance educators

Lis Engel
Institute of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Copenhagen

Janice Pomer
Dance Composition: An Interrelated Arts Approach
188 pages, pb., ill., CD-ROM.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics 2009
ISBN 978-0-7360-6790-4

Janice Pomer’s Dance Composition – an interrelated arts approach is an inspiring book ,presenting an interrelated arts approach of practical ideas, working with choreography as creative processes in movement and dance education.

When teaching arts based learning processes, it is a classical educational problem to keep a balance between the structured and already known, and the playfulness and openness that invite participatory creation. Pomers book is filled with practical ideas to how you can teach and explore dance and choreography as creative processes of aesthetic learning and communication. It is about creativity in movement and dance as a multidimensional process. The questions opened through choreographic, creative and artistic practices are: what kinds of bodies, movements, experiences, and meanings are expressed and understood? The educational questions are many, for instance, how is it possible to build a teaching and learning environment that can encourage open and experimenting processes of moving, communicating, performing and reflecting? How is it possible in movement and dance education to encourage and open up into a creative event? How can different arts become resources for inspiration in creative learning processes? How can multicultural dimensions become resources for arts based teaching and learning and a source of personal and cultural creativity, transformation and change?

The book has 28 exercises using examples from different arts as inspiration for development of dance themes, exploration, improvisation and composition. They are developed from the simple to the complex, and organized so that it is easy to take ideas from the books in relation to various, applicable teaching and educational themes, thanks to an excellent and helpful overview of themes and exercises in the beginning of the book ( pp. vi-vii). The book is divided in three parts: 1) dance and the visual arts, 2) dance and music, 3) dance and dramatic and literary arts. The themes that are chosen are: shapes, spaces, rhythm, tone colour, emotions and character, words and actions.



Dialogues in education

When movement is investigated in this dynamic and holistic way, it raises a lot of interesting questions about the ontology and epistemology in relation to the concept of movement, experience and meaning in education and life.

Beside the chapters with hands-on ideas for exercises there are 30 interviews from different arts that can be used as an easy and motivating introduction to dialogue and critical reflection on actual aesthetic experience and production. These chapters are an easy and inspirational invitation to reflective and critical dialogues on lived experiences of dance composition and contemporary choreography, both as process and as product. The dialogues inspire to go deeper into practical and theoretical reflections and investigations of arts based education in different themes and contexts in education.

Choreography as research – an explorative journey

Choreography is an artistic practice that takes research through movement serious. Movement is not taken as separated and representational or as just a practical and functional doing. It is investigated as lived co-creation of experience, imagination, intuition, meaning – a lived symbolic inter-being where symbolic is taken as a sign of drama, story, image or as so-called “pure movement”. When movement is investigated in this dynamic and holistic way, it raises a lot of interesting questions about the ontology and epistemology in relation to the concept of movement, experience and meaning in education and life. Movement becomes a theme for aesthetic experience and production beyond traditional polarities of theory and practice, subjectivity-objectivity as developed by contemporary phenomenology and aesthetics. (Merleau-Ponty, 1968; Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Stinson, 1994; Massumi, 2002; Anttila, 2003; Lepecki, 2005; Guattari, 1995; Engel et al., 2006; Kirkeby, 2007; Svendler Nielsen, 2008; Winther, 2009). It is an understanding that is based on contemporary phenomenology as embodied, multidimensional ways of articulation and expression as styles and cultural and unique modes of co-creation of lived body, lived movement, lived space, and lived time. It honours and invites experimenting with themes of shape, force, fragments, and wholes. It invites multidimensional dialogues exploring the living, moving body self as a key resource for creative investigation, exploration and transformation of embodied images of self-world (Parviainen, 1998, pp. 125-128) . It has to do with cultural and historical practices and sensitivities of the what, the how and the why of body, movement and creative processes of fluidity and fixity, the defined and known, and the not yet defined or known.



Education and creativity

The educational scene can be demanding, since the students generally come from very different backgrounds. This can only be solved in a directly context based and creative approach, and this book gives a lot of actual examples that can be used as an opening into interdisciplinary approaches. As such it is a practical resource book about creative processes of dance composition with many and developed examples of what can be inspiring and possible starting points. The main focus is of course the interdisciplinary approach showing how it is possible to work from different sources and create structures which limits possibilities and at the same time maintain a certain degree of freedom.  The book has a well structured form that clearly communicates concrete ideas that can be inspirational for beginners as well as for more advanced teachers in dance composition.

The book does not focus so much on the pedagogical whys and wherefores of teaching choreography. I think that is a very important dimension of a deeper, critical and visionary understanding of the possibilities and importance of arts based teaching and learning processes. These questions should be developed further, through theoretical studies of performance and politics of contemporary dance  as it is done by for example the cultural anthropologist and artist André Lepecki (2005).

In spite of these minor critical comments the book can be highly recommended. It gives invaluable ideas for the integrated uses of arts in dance composition – a great inspiration and a practical help to teachers, whether trained in dance and movement or not.

Links to further information about the author and the book:,, and




Anttila, E. (2003) A dream journey to the unkvown – searching for dialogue in dance education.

Helsinki: Acta Scenica 14. Theatre Academy.

Engel, L., Rønholt, H., Svendler Nielsen, C., Winther, H. (2006) Bevægelsens poetik – om den æstetiske dimension i bevægelse. København: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, Københavns Unversitet.

Engel, Lis (2007) dans, dans, dans – ideer i teori og praksis . København: Frydenlund.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987) A thousand plateau.Translated by  Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota press.

Guattari, F. (1995)  Trans. Chaosmosis: an ethico-aesthetic paradigm translated Paul Bains Julian Pefanis. Sydney, Indianapolis: Power Publications, University of Indiana Press.

Kirkeby, O. F. (2007) Skønheden sker – begivenhedens æstetik. København: Forlaget Samfundslitteratur.

Lepecki, A. (2005) Exhausting dance: performance and the politics of movement. New York, London: Routledge.

Massumi, B. (2002) A shock to thought expression after deleuze and guattari. London, New York: Routledge.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968) The visible and the invisible ed. by Claude Lefort translated by Alphonseo Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Parviainen, Jaana (1998): Bodies Moving and Moved. Vammala: Tampere University Press.

Stinson, S. W.(1994) Research as choreography. Presented at the 109th National Convention of national Dance Association. Denver: National Dance Association.

Svendler Nielsen, C. (2008) Ind I bevægelsen – et performativt fænomenologisk feltstudie om kropslighed, mening og kreativititet I børns læreprocesser I bevægelsesundervisning i skolen. København: Københavns Universitet, PhD afhandling.

Winther, H. (2009) Bevægelsespsykologi – kroppens sprog og bevægelsens psykologi med udgangspunkt i danseterapiformen Dansergia. København: Københavns Universitet, PhD afhandling.













© Lis Engel 2010.

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