Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Dancing Across Difference: Transforming Habitual Modes of Being in the World Through Movement

Kimberly Dority, The University of Western Ontario


Although some scholarly work has been done on race, and whiteness, in relation to habit, my account is unique in the way that it addresses the role of movement in habit through dance. Dance is well-suited for exploring habit since dancers cultivate an intimate knowledge of their bodies as habitual dancing bodies. I argue that dancing can offer critical insight into how habitual modes of being in the world may be shifted and changed. Dancers’ mastery of movement not only consists in sedimenting habits within the body, but also includes an active involvement in embodied exploration of what might be changed in the ways they move (Ravn 2017; Damkjaer, 2015; Ingerslev, 2013; Legrand and Ravn, 2009). The specialized ability that dancers’ have to register, disrupt, and confront their own habitual dancing body is unique. Given this, I turn specifically to the experience of learning a new style of dance for an in-depth exploration of how habitual modes of being in the world can be changed through movement. Drawing on my own lived experience of learning Bharatanatyam, a classical style of Indian dance, I argue that the phenomena of disorientation and hesitation revealed through learning a new style of dance create the conditions for double consciousness by disrupting the latent habitual structures within the body and subsequently allowing for the resedimentation of habits.

By disrupting one’s sense of bodily spatiality, experiences of disorientation disrupt the ease, immediacy, and flow of pre-reflective movement. The feeling of delay that arises in moments of hesitation disturbs one’s habitual sense of temporality and enables one to register residual habitual structures in the body as over-determining intentional action. This opens an interval of indetermination that enables bodily receptivity, and makes felt the contingency of habit (the possibility of becoming otherwise). Experiences of disorientation and hesitation are significant because they can open the possibility for double consciousness, which can ground critical reflection. I show that this same process of resedimentation revealed through learning a new dance, I argue, can be applied to racializing perception as well, and can provide an opportunity to understand how to live whiteness differently.