Polysémie; A Somatic Approach to Cross-Cultural Communication

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Polysémie; A Somatic Approach to Cross-Cultural Communication
Simmons, Haley Ann
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In a three-stage, research-based choreographic project, I posed the question of how we may better assimilate into a foreign culture. Can we call upon the body – the personal "architecture" of our interaction with the physical world – to bridge cultural differences? If so, how can we shed our daily cultural understanding and habits, even those of which we have little awareness, to embody another set of cultural understandings and habits? The tools of Laban Movement Analysis illuminate prominent body attitudes and can provide awareness to one's own "body culture" and those of other "cultural bodies" themselves communicating with proficiency, and assimilating naturally to the environment. Developed by dance theorist Rudolf von Laban, Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) is a method for describing and documenting movement. Movement is a universal aspect of human nature; it may be a thread that binds, even when language divides. Using the LMA principles of Body, Effort, Shape, and Space (BESS), I analyzed a sampling of the body attitudes and communication practices of white Eurocentric French people of my age demographic, and compared it to a sampling of prominent body attitudes in my own culture, the predominantly white 18 to 25 year old population at the University of Florida. My experiments and conclusions led to a choreographic process, in which I tested the practice of awareness and application of "body culture" to create moments pointing towards cultural assimilation. The resulting product of this research, Polysémie, is a choreographic exploration of the use of certain tools from Laban Movement Analysis to decipher the complexities of cross-cultural communication and, ultimately, our understanding of communication as a whole. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Fine Arts, summa cum laude, on May 8, 2018. Major: Dance
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College or School: College of the Arts
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Advisor: Elizabeth Johnson, Trent D. Williams Jr., Joan Frosch. Advisor Department or School: School of Theatre and Dance

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!"#$%&'#()*+,*-.+&#/0*1*2+3&"0.*+,*!"/%&4&0/30(%*5%'%0&67*1*8+.39%* :; <*=''3%* > 1* -0..*:;>? > !"#$%&'() !" #$%&'()"!**+$&),"'$"-+$.. / -01'0+&1"-$%%02()&'($2 3&145"#(%%$2. !"##$%$&"'&()$&*+(,-&./)""#&"'&0)$1(+$&123&412/$ -&5267$+,6(8& "'&9#"+631 & In a three stage research based choreographic project, I posed the question of how we may better assimilate into a foreign culture Can we call upon the body the personal architecture of our inter action with the physical world to bridge cultural differences ? If so, how can we shed our daily cultural understanding and habits, even those of which we have little awareness, to embody another set of cultural understanding s and habits ? The tools of Laban Movement Analysis illuminate prominent body attitudes and can provide awareness to one's own "body culture" and those of other "cultural bodies themselves communicating with proficiency, and assimilating naturally to the environment. Developed by dance theorist Rudolf von Laban, Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) is a method fo r describing and documenting movement Movement is a universal aspect of human nature; it may be a thread that binds, even when language divides. Using the LMA principles of Body, Effort, Shape, and Space (BESS), I analyzed a sampling of the body attitudes and communication practices of white Eurocentric French people of my age demographic, and compare d it to a sampling of prominent body attitudes in my own culture the predominantly white 18 to 25 year old population at the University of Flo rida My experiments and conclusions le d to a choreographic process, in which I tested the practice of awareness and application of "body culture" to create moments pointing towards cultural assimilation. The resulting product of this research, PolysÂŽmie, is a choreographic exploration of the use of certain tools from L aban Movement Analysis to decipher the complexities of cross cultural communication and, ultimately, our understanding of communication as a whole 6789:;<-86:7 ovement analysis is an integral aspect of daily communication. To decip h er meaning in conversations, respond to the needs of an infant, or asses s strangers on the street, we regularly r e ad and respond to the language of the body, if only on a subconscious level. The primacy of somatic communication or the kinesthetic manner in which one instinctually analyzes body la nguage to garner meaning suggests we may strategically use our body language and subsequent an alyses to foster re lationships and cre ate positive social intera c tions ( Wood ) More specifically, I am interested in how the an a lysis of human movement may furt her cultural self awareness and cultural communication. The related work of dance theorist Rudolf Laban and social psychologist Julia T. Wood lays the foundation for understand ing the intricacies of body level communication. Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) invented by Rudolf Laban, provides a codified approach to examining movement. As described by Professor Parul Shah, LMA is a method for observation, description, prescription, pe rformance, interpretation, understanding, and d ocumentation of all varieties of human movement and expression." It was developed along side Labanotation, a notation system used to score choreography and thus became a new language for movement practitioners and choreographers; however, the use of LMA ex pands beyond its original dance application. I n her text Interpersonal Communication: Every Day Encounters, Julia T. Wood categorizes nine forms of non verbal communication which form the basis of my research. For specificity's sake, the cultures bei ng c ompared in this research are that of people of my own demographic: white 18 to 25 year old male and female United States citizens to those of a similar demographic in Paris, France. My c omparative analysis of culture was conducted by reviewing contemporary cultural artifacts, such as news broadcasts, contemporary dance choreography, popular films, and my own visual analysis and bodily experience in each country. My research aims to define cultural differences in body attitudes so that one may further unders tand what isolates and defines tourists within foreign cultures. In order to fully immerse oneself in a foreign culture, there must be a cognitive understanding of the prominent body attitudes which are embodied in one's own culture. LMA asserts that movem ent is an outward expression of inward intention, and therefore a psychophysical ex pression of the human condition (Shah). This psychophysical connection is what I am utilizing to facilitate assimilation and communication. From t his comparative analysis em erged a codified approach for communicating with possible ease an d awareness, both cross culturally and within one's own culture. Bodily tension and subconscious habits inherent in one's culture of origin can hinder assimilation; in another culture, these habits might be perceived as divergent from the norm, and easily be misinterpreted. It is my assertion that avoiding this kind of misinterpretation requires repatterning of body attitudes. This is the mate rial explored within PolysÂŽmie a choreographic work that embodies atypical body attitudes to explore this research in an "alternative world." M


H ALEY S IMMONS !"#$%&'#()*+,*-.+&#/0*1*2+3&"0.*+,*!"/%&4&0/30(%*5%'%0&67*1* 8+.39%* :; <*=''3%* > 1* -0..*:;>? : =>83:;:?:@A My choreographic process is primarily rooted in research, academically, as well as within the cast i tself by means of the dancers' participation and collaboration and me analyzing their movement choices and body attitudes in real time The process occurred in three stages: ground research, embodiment an d choreographic representation. The ground researc h required me to determine the prominent body attitudes that distinguish French and North American culture. To determine these body attitudes, first I developed a k inesthetic glossary based on Wood's research, which served as the basis for physical analysi s using the Laban paradigm. Psychology recognizes nine aspects of non verbal communication ( Cherry). In order to research and apply LMA to these elements of non verbal communication, I first consulted Interpersonal Com munication: Everyday Encounters by Julia T. Wood. This text provides definitions for all nine forms of non verbal communication within the context of Social Psychology The following glossary defines Wood's nine forms of non verbal communication using the Laban categories of B ody, E ffort S hape, and S pace (BESS) (Figure 1) B(C0+4"DE "#$%&'(%'#)!*+,&&-./ Term BESS Definition Facial Expressions Facial expressions are commonly understood forms of communication; they convey emotion intimacy, aggression, etc Facial expressions can clarify the specific energy and dynamic a person is embodying. Gestures Gestures an expression of movement usually isolated to the face and limbs can be used to establish rapport with people, such as waving to an acquaintance in the hallway. They are widely understood within a given culture and can be embodied with a variety of efforts weightiness, sense of space, and time, which color the interpretation of their meaning. For example, an enthusiastic wave thrashing wildly through th e air occupying a large kinesphere, is interpreted differently than a polite, short, shake of a hand held close to the torso. Paralinguistics Paralinguistics are the vocal communication beyond words, such as pitch and vocal range, "it's not what you say, it's how you say it." Paralinguistics allow listeners to decipher meaning beneath the words, such as detecting sarcasm, humor, or hostility. Vocal choices dem onstrate efforts, a grunt that sounds like a punch is interpreted differently than a sigh that glides through the air. Posture Body attitudes which are a full body expression of movement including the spine and whole torso are similar to gesture in how they e n compass many Laban categories. For example, f olding the arms in front of the body could be interpreted as discontent or "I don't agree, due to cultural context. Whereas hands clasped behind the back could be, "I respect you and am giving you my full attention." This is the shaping of the body which may reflect intention. Proxemics Proxemics refers to one's kinesphere, or one's concept of personal space. How much space the body occupies can establish intima cy, aggression, power, etc. The di stance the limbs travel from the core can express intention as well; a reach with full extension to the edges of the kinesphere reflect stronger desire than a reach that barely escapes the trunk of the body. Eye Gaze Eye gaze communicates interest, attr action, and sometimes trustworthiness. Eye gaze can also dem onstrate different efforts, a direct glare with bound energy reads differently than indirect gaze or a lofty wink. Haptics Haptics is communication through touch, such as a comforting pat on the arm, or a stern handshake to convey power. This is how people shape themselves in response to each other, and the dynamic they use in addition to shape. In Western culture, a pplying the dynamic of "wring," to a handshake conveys more aggression than "f loat" which may i mply weakness or submission due to the often gendered qualities implicated in our culture's adherence to ideas of masculinity and heteronormativity. Appearance Consider the goth style movement, using dark colors to create an intimidating appearance, thus establishing one's self apart from the social norm. Effort wise, appearance can reflect internal attitudes, such as a young woman wearing a sundress might exude lightnes s and free flow of energy simply from her clothing choice. Artifacts Artifacts could include a police uniform, an online avatar, or a docto r's coat. These are images that are imme diately associated with meaning and can be understood without verbal commu nication. :"($;& 0%.1&!-.% 2.,2%.'/!,3!"%$4.-!5(%../ 6!7%3#$#'#,$&!3,.1%4!8/! 9-+%/!:#11,$&!8-&%4!,$!#$3,.1-'#,$!3.,1!;%<&!8,,=! <1=62%&!"22$/(6"2, 6 ! Using the glossary, I analyzed movement from choreographer Nathalie Pubellier's Six, an example of current contemporary dance choreography in France and Le Got Des Autres a French film. From the stylized movement I saw, I expanded my research to include news broadcasts which surveyed the general pu blic to examine their pedestrian movem ent ( FRANCE 24 Live News Stream: All the Latest News 24/7). Moreover, I reviewed an article analyzing the French gestures for expressing emotion and reviewed their findings within the scope of LMA (Kelly). I drew conclusions about French expressions, body attitudes and proxemics, which I then compared to that of my own North American culture by analyzing the film Clueless (1995), Mark Morris' Crosswalk (2013), as well as observing the body language of my peers The cultural artifacts examined were chosen to represent the predominantly young white community in the University of Florida's College of the Arts, to mirror that of the white Eurocentric demographic in France. The difference in the cultural body attitud es is further clarified by contrast in the subsequent stages. My second stage of the research focused on practical and anecdotal application, employed while living in France for six months For this second stage, to facilitate communication and attempt as similation, my goal was to situationally adapt to and emody what I determined were the prominent French body attitudes Simultaneously, I explored abandoning my movement habits that reflected the North American paradigm. In the final stage of choreographic application, I utilized the information I gathered in the prior stages to create a


POLYSƒMIE: A S OMATIC A PPROACH T O C ROSS C ULTURAL C OMMUNICATION !"#$%&'#()*+,*-.+&#/0*1*2+3&"0.*+,*!"/%&4&0/30 (%*5%'%0&67*1*8+.39%*:; <*=''3%* > 1* -0..*:;>? @ modern dance work. In choosing dancers, I sought after those with strong improvisational abilities as a large component of the piece wa s improvising in a world build upon the framework of communicative research. Structurally the piec e reflected the research process: the choreographed movement emerged directly from the glossary (Figure 1) and the improvisation score acted as a practical application of the research. The dancers learned the glossary bases of non verbal communication and a separate movement based "language" invented for the work. This language, along with their assigned character roles, was further explored b y putting characters in a controlled environment and setting that included accom p lishing a task. The dancers envision ed themselves in a park with each character having a specific goal, and communicating with the others bearing that goal in mind. Evidently proxemics became a key element in facilitating assimilation, as French and North American concepts of kinesphere are vastly different. Therefore the concept of proxemics was explored in a conceptual and representative manner through the prop of helium ba lloons. The dancers tre ated them as obstacles and play things, using them to explore their own respective kinespheres, and contrasting their sense of weight to that of the balloons. Throughout the piece, the balloons represented the adaptive nature of kine spheres and the cast's ability to physically embody cultural adaption. 9>#

H ALEY S IMMONS !"#$%&'#()*+,*-.+&#/0*1*2+3&"0.*+,*!"/%&4&0/30(%*5%'%0&67*1* 8+.39%* :; <*=''3%* > 1* -0..*:;>? A cultur es, like the French, it is likely just a part of saying hello. In comparison to the American kinesphere, the French concept of "personal space" is a s ignificantly smaller kinesphere. The French appear unphased when kinespheres cross. For the French, to sit close on a subway car is far from inappropriate. T o hug or kiss a stranger they just met is expected. S maller kinesphere is reflected in their gesturing as well. The French generally keep their arms closer in towards their torso, gesturing more with the f ace, rather than making exuberant arm gestures like their American counterparts How might an awareness of one's concept of space be used to assimilate? When traveling to France, an American might want to check the size of their own kinesphere, asking them selves how much space is required for their comfort in social spaces. In France, the supersized American kinesphere could shrink to accommodate their new surroundings. T his will align their body attiud es to mirror those around them, creating a likeness and familiarity between strangers, rather than ostracizing themselves with their physicality. Under the umbrella of "Effort" within BESS, there is another element that differentiates American and French culture. Time, which regards decisiveness, intuition and timing, is treated ver y differently in both countries ( Longstaff ). B oth cultures are mono chronic, meaning that they view time as a linear concept, yet it manifests very differently. In French culture, the linear perspective regarding time allows for a direct flow of energy towards a given task, focusing singularly on whatever thing or task in which one might be currently engaging. In the United States, the emphasis on multitasking creates an indirect flow of energy, constantly shifting focus between m any aspects of one's life at once. The different concentration of energetic flow is important to understand for assimilation because it can directly affect communication. Communication between two Frenchman may be very direct and purposeful, whereas in th e United States, conversations may be more indirect, and constantly being altered by various outside stimuli. When attempting to assimilate in to French culture, an American may want to consider providing their full attention to the exchange, prioritizing a direct flow of energy between the parties involved in the conversation. This can be done by directing gaze, mirroring posture, and regarding proxemics. Simply turning the shoulders toward the conversation partner, and holding an easy gaze between parties facilitates a steady flow of energy. C omparing the French and American cultural tendenci es of body level communicatio n provides the opportunity to inves tigate the psychological term "mirroring" which refers the subtle and often unintentional mimicry of body attitudes, by which one may increase likeness an d empathetic bonds with others ( Tipper, Signorini, and Grafton ). Ap plying this concept with a knowledge of BESS allows one to consciously re pattern one's own movement to better adapt to any given society. Understanding the French body attitudes is essential to blending in, and understanding better their culture. If one t ravels to a foreign culture with the aims of maintaining their habitual patterns of social interaction, they will not experience the culture with the same depth and richness of someone who seeks to understand through assimilation As my research progresse d to the second stage the concepts above became physically embodied. The practice of consciously shrinking one's kinesphere through awareness of proxemics and meditative visualization helped me find ease when navigating pathways on crow ded rush hour Paris ian Metros. For me, a dopting the French attitude toward time created a simpler mental state, allowing for appreciation and indulgence in the French way of living. It also re patterned daily habits so that there was an easy, seemingly natural assimilation t o a new way of being. This reduced poten tial for "homesickness" as well there was constant attention to my neural repatterning and less indulgence in prior movement habits and mental attitudes. I t is in moments of social doubt that success can be found by employing the mirroring techniques explained by Tipper, Signorini, and Grafton The act of subtly mirroring body language creates genuine likeness betwee n strangers and interactions a re often positive and empathetic. By communicating within a new schema, a different approach to living emerges and coexisting with others in an entirely different culture is an easily attainable feat. The experiences and data from the first two research stages led to a wealth of material to sort through for choreographing. The non verbal glossary (Figure 1), the diffe rentiating perspectives of mono chronic time, the concept of mirroring and kinesthetic empathy, and the practical experience in France all act ed as choreographic inspiration for my work. From my glossary I crea ted a root phrase exploring gesture, posture, and proxemics. This served as the backbone for PolysÂŽmie and a part of a formula for creating a movement language for the dancers. Elbows raised toward the sky embodied the French kinesphere, tight toward the c enter, yet in proximity, the dancers remained close, letting their kinespheres cross As they lunged through the space, turned underneath themselves, and sank to or rose from the floor, the dancers represented the French ability to compact their kinespher e as well as the ease with which they weave in and around each other (00:02:15 00:02:38) This language became the only means of communicat ion in their performative world and through the improvisational score they use d it to communicate with one anoth er. Proxemics were further explored by introducing a prop: helium balloons Representatively, balloons are an ideal miniature kinesphere; for me, the way in which they interact ed with the space represented the adaptable nature of the kinesphere. Their arr angement in the space and impact on the dancers was meant to convey one's unique abilit y to grow and shrink kinesphere In the dance d uring the park scene the balloons were spread through the space like trees


POLYSƒMIE: A S OMATIC A PPROACH T O C ROSS C ULTURAL C OMMUNICATION !"#$%&'#()*+,*-.+&#/0*1*2+3&"0.*+,*!"/%&4&0/30 (%*5%'%0&67*1*8+.39%*:; <*=''3%* > 1* -0..*:;>? B in a park, their spacing architecturally embodying larger kinespheres tha t accommodate each oth er when moving in a large space (00:04:10 00:05:05). At other points in the dance the dancers bustle d in a tight circle of balloons like bees in a hive (00:03:30 00:04:10) The balloons we re also a ctually clipped to dancers' costumes which counterac ted the per ceived weight of the object as the dancers sa nk under the ironically imagined weight of the balloons (00:01:52 00:02:12). This represented the adaptable nature of weight and space. People are completely in control of the percei ved amount of space they occupy as well as its sense of density. We can grow and shrink our kinespheres at will. Another term, haptics (communication through touch) and proprioception (unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation through the senses), was embodied by the dancers successfully accomplishing choreographic partnering tasks. Using their sense of organic physical logic, I assi sted them in building partnered phrases S tarting from a frozen posture drawn from improvisation, they built phrases in full contact with one another. They moved logically from one partnered move ment to the next, then reverted back to the start ing point to repeat each time adding on another move me nt an accumulation (00:02:45 00:03:50) T his accumulative process created a specifically organized and continuous flow of energy, which as my prior research determined is the key to conversing. -:7-?<#6:7 As a choreographer, r esearching communication through movement was simultaneously challenging and rewarding While dance is typically a non verbal art form often with intentions of communicating ideas or narratives, to delve into an analysis of what is natural wa s intellectually stimulating. The of ten subconscious body attitudes that dominate communication are the subtle truth that permeates verbal communication. As a result of this research, communicating and choreographing with a new found sense of clarity was inevitable I now find myself searchin g for meaning in the body attitudes exhibited on television, in person al conversations, and between movers on stage. My research demonstrates that the capacity with which we can ease assimilation is within feasible reach, and can be tested in a variety of cross cultural applications; from study abroad advisors to Peace Corps t ra i ning, this information is valuable and universal. The importance of this research is t hat the somatics and dance fields add valuably to the wealth of general and anthropological mov ement research in the field, and further validate the importance of dance and choreography as academic pursuit s Building upon my work to date, I am interested in applying this choreographic structure to create more works that study communication. More specifically, I am ponderi ng what it may mean to teach improvisational score s which create language, develop characters, and place them solidly in to movement "scene s ," with a distinct group that does not all speak the same language. H aving a gr oup of dancers, and potentially non dancers, engaging in communication on the body level entirely absent of vocalization, would create an ideal set of circumstances for further analysis of this research. !-F7:G?>;@=>78# I'd like to thank my prof essors, Nita Little, Ric Rose, Isa Garcia Rose, Elizabeth Johnson, Trent D. Williams Jr. Wanjiru Kamuyu, Michael Foley and Dr. Joan Frosch W ithout your faith and guidance I would not have found my artistic voice. I' d also like to thank my family for their unwavering support which has sent me everywhere from Gainesville, Fl orida to Paris. Lastly, I would like to thank my friends, who have elevated my process as incredible cast members, support systems, study buddies, and c heerleaders. I truly could not have done this without every last one of you. 9>B>9>7-># Cherry, Kendra. "What Are the Nine Types of Non verbal Communication?" Verywell About, Inc., 9 June 2016. Web. 1 Nov. 2016. Finney, Melanie K. "Non verbal Issues." France DePauw University, 26 Jan. 2001. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. FRANCE 24 Live News Stream: All the Latest News 24/7 FRANCE 24 Live News Stream: All the Latest News 24/7 France 24, 8 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. Hackney, Peggy. Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals New York: Routledge, 2002. Print. Heckerling Amy director. Clueless Paramount Pictures 1995 Kelly, Morgan. "Don't Read My Lips! Body Language Trumps the Face for Conveying Intense Emotions." Princeton University Trustees of Princeton University, 15 Jan. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. Le Got Des Autres Dir. Agns Jaoui. Perf. Anne Alvaro, Jean Pierre Bacri, Alain Chabat. Canal+, 2000. DVD. Longstaff, Jeffrey Scott. "Effort Elements, Factors, States, & Drives." Laban Analysis Reviews 19 Mar. 2010, www.laban dynamics_eukinetics/element_ factor_state_drive.htm. Morris, Mark choreographer Crosswalk Jacobs Pillow Dance Interactive, 25 July 2014, morris dance group/crosswalk/. Pubellier, Nathalie, choreographer Six Youtube 8 June 2017, nIo.


H ALEY S IMMONS !"#$%&'#()*+,*-.+&#/0*1*2+3&"0.*+,*!"/%&4&0/30(%*5%'%0&67*1* 8+.39%* :; <*=''3%* > 1* -0..*:;>? C Shah, Parul. "Laban Movement Analysis and Notation." e PG Pathshala National Mission on Education through ICT 19 Mar. 2014, Simmons, Haley Ann, choreographer PolysÂŽmie Youtube 10 Apr. 2018, Rochefort, Harriet W. "Intercultural Differences and Misunderstandings." Understand France Phillip Rochefort, 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. . Tipper, Christine M., Giulia Signorini, and Scott T. Grafton. "Body Language in the Brain: Constructing Meaning from Expressive Movement." Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Frontiers Media S.A., 21 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2016. Wood, Julia T. Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub., 1999. Print.