Matthew Reason

Where in your body?

‘Where in your body?’ is a single question online audience research survey, piloted for performances of 5 Soldiers by Rosie Kay Dance Company and now also disseminated to Scottish Ballet audiences.

The rationale with this question is two-fold. First I am interested in kinesthetic responses to dance and the ways in which audiences engage with dance in an embodied manner. This questions provides respondents with an opportunity to think about bodies. It asks, effectively, was it a bodily experience for you and in what way, but does so in a playful and engaging manner.

And second, this playfulness was deliberate, designed to elicit talk, to stir a small moment of wonderment, to encourage participants to actively ponder.

The question is not, of course, perfect. It does not circumvent any of the typical difficulties of talk-based research in terms of avoiding subjectivity, bypassing consciousness or getting in any sense a ‘truer’ answer as to what it going on in people’s heads. Nor, it is worth pointing out, does the question access any fundamental truth of the kinesthetic response. That people say it was a ‘leg’ experience does not necessarily mean that in the moment of watching they were feeling it in their legs – and even less so in their legs only.

Indeed, in some sense it deliberately exacerbates these difficulties, making the question and the process of questioning extremely apparent. It makes the thought processes more conscious to the participant, it requires them to think: what do I think? In this manner it is a kind of micro-moment of participatory enquiry, in that it seeks to work consciously with people rather than viewing them as passive objects within the research process. Rather than a question being a transparency through to an answer, this question highlights its materiality in a manner that actively invites participation, contestation, thought, debate. It is this kind of actively engaged spectatorial response that was wanted.

The Where in your body? survey has been used by: Rosie Kay Dance Company, Scottish Ballet, the Royal Danish Theatre and Mind the Gap Theatre Company. A short discussion of the survey in the context of the Royal Danish Theatre can be found here: Reason – Where in your body?


This entry was posted on 15 July, 2015 by in .