Conceptualizing Care in Partnering

Performance Research 27 (6-7):26-31 (2023)
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Dance, as a mode of physical interaction, offers opportunities to care and be cared for, but this does not mean that dancers will, in fact, care. There may be no moral motivation underlying a lift, dip or intricate sequence of coordinated action. Choreographic scores may (knowingly or not) encourage merely perfunctory movements that are a poor simulacrum to care. Moreover, the caring that is expressed through dance need not transfer to other walks of life. I am not alone in knowing spectacularly talented dancers whose behaviour off the dance floor is far from ethical – from the arrogant and petty to the flagrant abuse that plagues institutions of art and culture. This article considers how dance can illuminate both the acts and sentiments of care, conveying particular ethical orientations that trouble straightforward, absolute moral reasoning. The article frames an enquiry into the relation between ethics and aesthetics of care, drawn from feminist epistemologists Joan Tronto, Maurice Hamington, and Nel Noddings, as well as my own performance research on partnering. I frame a zone between technique and competence, foregrounding care in dance as both a technical and ethical issue. I will consider the necessary conditions by which dancing together can manifest care, rather than suggest blanketly that it always does or even that it should. To make this argument, I will describe and analyse Considered Care, a duet I created in the autumn of 2021 in collaboration with Boston Ballet. This performance research project provided the material from which to consider the concept of need, a condition of care in a dancing situation. I will conclude by considering the relationship between needs and trust in conceptualizing care within partnering.



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Ilya Vidrin
Northeastern University

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