African dance as proprioceptive art
The following is a research hypothesis derived from experience with learning African dances:
- African dance is essentially not a visual, but a proprioceptive art, i.e. an art form targeting the body-internal sensors (see Proprioception).
- A rhythmic pattern might be perceived as an auditive pattern (in the music one can here) or visual (in a dance one sees). From the point of view of the dancer, the same rhythmical pattern might also be a proprioceptive pattern, i.e. a pattern that the dancer observes with the muscle and touch receptors in his body. The abstract pattern is always the same. You can transfer a piece of music to another musical instrument or you can "play" it with your own body.
- So music in Africa is not necessarily an auditive art. In fact, African polycentric dance can be viewed as a proprioceptive art where the dancer is the only person who can perceive the piece of art completely. The rhythmical structure the dancer feels in the body is then integrated with the auditive music into a "multimedia" experience of great esthetic beauty. So Africans have created an art form for the body-internal proprioceptive senses which have been neglected in other parts of the world as a target for art.
- If one knows the dance, one can perceive the structures in somebody else's dance one observes, but primarily, African dance is not a visual art but a proprioceptive art. The fact that many African languages don't distinguish between concepts of music and dance in the same way as European languages do might therefore be based on the following phenomena: an auditive pattern might be transferred to a proprioceptive pattern and vice versa (the abstract pattern of "music/dance" being the same in both ways of performing it) and both parts of the experience might be integrated into one multimedia "gesamtkunstwerk" in the dancer's/listener's brain/mind.
Questions[edit | edit source]
1) Has this hypothesis about African dance been formulated before? If so, relevant references should be posted here.
- The concept and general idea of the possibility of proprioceptive art appears, too, in Markus Schrenk's article ‘Is Proprioceptive Art Possible?’ (in Graham Priest and Damon Young (eds): Anthology on the Philosophy of Martial Arts. Routledge (2014) 101–116).
- Independently of this entry here, Schrenk argues that (some) Martial Arts can be subsumed under the category 'proprioceptive art'. The formulation "To play ones body as an instrument" can be found there too, and, also, the observation that, in proprioceptive art, the performer is (necessarily) their own audience.
- It is great so see that the concept of "proprioceptive art" finds its application also in African Dance!
2) How is dance and music conceptualized in African languages. Do these conceptualizations show a concept of proprioceptive music (music felt in the body instead of being heard).