Briefly, in two to three sentences, summarize your current research.
My research looks at the intersection of dance practices and digital cultures and follows two main trajectories: The first examines how social and popular dance forms circulate through social media and how dance artists of various stripes use the internet as a platform for disseminating their work. The second explores how dance researchers can use online exhibits, mapping tools, and other digital modes of representation in the practice of historical research and argumentation.
Which areas do you feel occupy the borders of your discipline? What lies just beyond those limits? How does considering those divisions impact your research practice?
Dance as a physical, artistic practice has existed for longer in academia (1930s) than dance as an object of scholarly research (1980s), but both are quite new as academic pursuits. So academia is its own kind of border for dance, but because borders are also sites of intense possibility, academia is perhaps the only site where my discipline proper, so-called Dance Studies, can exist. Making any declarative statement regarding what lies just beyond the borders of the discipline feels risky since the field is in flux. But I guess I would say that what we're seeing is a sharpening of boundaries and distinctions as the umbrella field of dance research becomes more specialized as a series of sub-disciplines related by dance as a common object—with the simultaneous expectation that faculty members can work intra-disciplinarily as well as inter-disciplinarily. In other words, the same dance professor might teach technique, choreography, history, criticism, and cultural studies, even though each of these constitutes its own area of expertise.
If we only look at Dance Studies, which in a U.S. context is making a strong case for its alignment with the humanities and to a lesser extent the social sciences, then I would say that what the sub-discipline of Dance Studies wants to exclude, the academic profession includes as expected competencies. I would still say that cognitive science, digital humanities, and data-driven movement/choreographic analysis are on our collective radars as border-approaches to watch, though there remains a difference of vocabulary, investment, and relevance that creates a barrier between these approaches and Dance Studies proper. On the other hand, popular culture, non-Western dance forms, and continental philosophy are de rigeur, having themselves had to fight for a place at the table.
Overall, I think that Dance Studies, which is defined by an object of analysis rather than method of analysis, has proven to be pretty fluid. The divisions do impact my research, though, in terms of what my colleagues and mentors expect from me for tenure and promotion. My first project, my tenure-project, is a book—not because the field is old fashioned, but because writing books analyzing dance, rather than making dances or performing in them, is still a fairly new thing. I would even call it radical. So I have a political commitment to the idea that dance artists, choreographies, and dancing deserve book-length analyses.
My second project, though, is digital—or rather, both digital and archival. I'm not so much of a boundary-crosser that I want to forsake legibility to my field—as it is, dance remains a curiosity in the university. I try to work in a way that mitigates against having to justify being a dance scholar in the first place.
Where do you position your research in relation to others within your discipline? Do you see those lines of demarcation at times becoming blurred?
I would say that I align with the theoretical interests of many in Dance Studies, I just happen to be looking at quirky digital objects. That said, more people are writing about dance online and in popular culture, so there's some familiarity, if not always fluency, among scholarly audiences that I can expect now that hasn't been the case in the past.
What research topics are you interested in exploring when you are not doing ‘work-related’ research?
I have a hard time distinguishing what is and is not work-related. Because I am a teacher, I am interested in how we learn, and how I can modify my teaching to reflect current theories of learning. Because of the aforementioned expectation of intra-disciplinary expertise, I often do supplementary research, again, to improve my teaching beyond those domains in which I consider myself 'expert.' In my case, having practiced ballet for a very long time with the intention of a professional career (an aspiration set aside due to disdain for pointe shoes and an insatiable intellectual appetite), I have been doing a lot of research into ballet pedagogy, as I quickly discovered that extensive knowledge as a practitioner did not immediately translate into teaching ability. Stemming from purely personal interests, I research canine behavior and training—but nothing has taught me more about education than teaching my dog tricks!