Community-based creative dance for adolescents and their feelings of social wellbeing
Oliver, S. (2009) Community-based creative dance for adolescents and their feelings of social wellbeing, no. 316.
The thesis contextualises creative dance as art in a community setting. The participants were teenage members of a community-run creative dance company. The aim was to explore any links young people make between their creative dance experience in a community class and their feelings of social well-being. The literature gives a brief historical overview of dance as a performing art and of the nature of aesthetics and creativity. It considers the art of dance as a form of communication, and the conditions for creativity to flourish. It looks at Bourdieu‘s (2005) theory of ‗habitus‘ and ‗field‘ in understanding the social experience which the dancers derived through creative dance. Consideration is given to theories and accounts of adolescent development and how community interaction can affect the dancers‘ feelings of social wellbeing. The methodological approach is hermeneutic phenomenology, with influences from ethnomethodology and social constructionism. The ontological principle is that personal meaning is socially constructed. Epistemologically the study is informed by the belief that knowledge is generated through the creative dance experience. The main data collection method was semi-structured interviews with the dancers (n=10), supported by observation of dance classes (n=7; filmed: n=4), group discussions (n=3) and graffiti walls (n=8, completed by the dancers). The data were organised and analysed thematically using a method of presentation inspired by Bourdieu‘s concept of a ‗social trajectory‘ - a lifetime journey of social encounters – offering headings under which the data were loosely organised. Selected observations are presented on DVD. The responses suggested a dance ‗journey‘ from preparation to performance, which allowed further organisation of data. The emergent themes included the dancers‘ motivation for dancing, their feelings about the creative process, experiences of social interaction and of taking control of one‘s own identity, through all the stages of experimenting with movement, refining the dances and performing. The main findings are: the dancers attached importance to company membership because it offered a means to clarifying self-identity through physical and artistic endeavour; the creative dance context gave them freedom to explore their movement capabilities and to interact socially, and thus gave them a means of negotiating their ‗habitus‘, i.e. adopting and adjusting social norms and values on their own terms. Performing was a celebration of achievement and confirmation of identity as a dancer. The study contributes to the understanding of how adolescents make sense of their identity in their social context through their creative dance experience and how that influences their feelings of social wellbeing.