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Simply stated, research is a systematic evaluation of information and experiences that can help answer a question or series of questions. There are many different understandings and approaches to the concept of “research,” particularly in the field of dance. It happens formally through controlled studies and critical analysis, as movement research during the choreographic process, or casually in the studio through trial and error with our students. Research in dance education can be associated with dance science, history, ethnography, anthropology, choreography, pedagogy, race and gender studies, health sciences, communications, and myriad other areas of the dance field.
Although research is prevalent throughout dance and dance education, there can still be a lack of understanding about what constitutes “research” in the field. According to Maria Gabriela Estrada (pictured below), the Research Advisor on NDEO’s Advisory Council,
It is imperative to demystify the concept of dance and dance education research. Dance research has a myriad of approaches across a broad spectrum of contexts. Embodied research practice is inherent in the choreographic process of creating, in learning dance practices, whether these take place in formal learning settings or while acquiring cultural traditions. Dance education research can be part of an analysis of pedagogical approaches and learning processes, ecosystems to develop community, and support strategies to transmit values, such as confidence or empowerment. Dance education research can be as specific as focusing on the kinetic analysis of the process of landing from a given jump or as broad as the study of the evolution of dance training through centuries.
NDEO recently conducted a survey in October and November 2022 to gather our membership's areas of research, what populations were being addressed, what challenges were faced in the process of inquiry and gathering resources, and the membership's concerns regarding inclusion, diversity, sensitive topics, or trigger language related to dance education research. The survey also asked for definitions of dance education research and why it matters. Survey respondents’ answers highlighted a broad range of understandings and approaches related to the topic:
There are many different types of research and many different ways of knowing. There is not one all-encompassing definition on what research is or should be. I believe dance education research matters to improve our pedagogy, for use in advocacy/activism, and to help move policy. - Gregory Youdan, Jr., Independent Researcher
Research in dance education (or dance) is research in the teaching/presence of human movement and/or dance theory, history, or dancING. It is research that places body movement or dance as art as central to the research question—the doing of dance, dance as artistic practice, its origins/histories, cultural considerations, or its future. Of course, “education” research in Dance contains content about teaching and learning for all people, all contexts. - Donna Davenport, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Just as assessment informs curriculum and differentiated learning for students, research ideally informs decisions in dance pedagogy and dance performance. - Martha H Eddy, CMA, RSDE, RSMT, EdD
Research is systematic and ethical inquiry that generates new knowledge that is publicly shared. We need rich stories about the value of dance education for advocacy purposes. - Matthew Henley, Teachers College, Columbia University
It is clear from survey responses that research is happening in many different ways among our membership. While many are working through academic institutions, a significant portion are conducting research independently. Some have been published: in academic journals, in compilations of research, or in books they authored entirely. Others self-publish in digital or print formats, or are still working to be published. Research is happening through scholarly inquiry, as well as creative and community-based methods. Members are using a variety of research methodologies, including qualitative, quantitative, experimental, applied, theoretical, creative, ethnographic, and critical. There are a wide range of understandings and approaches to dance education research among our members, but all agree that research can have a significant impact on the field of dance education. As Bonbright asserts, “There are all kinds of research and, together, it strengthens dance education as a discrete field.”
Jenni Girtman From the NDEO 2022 National Conference; Courtesy of Yi An by Arlynn Zachary; Courtesy of Alexandria Davis by Kirk Donaldson;