Non-sighted and sighted Brazilians dancers' dialogues: drawing path to propose dances in Education Course
Ida Mara Freire
The right to the education has been making possible for the youths and adults with special education needs to go in search of qualification in several areas of knowledge of the Brazilian higher education. The arts belong to one of them. The article aims to investigate, starting from a project on the dance teaching for students with blindness, the present "invisible paths" in the teachers' education. It aims to elucidate the nature of the dance and the implication of the teaching for youths and adults with blindness, examining descriptively the concepts of perception, body, dance and blindness, and to contribute with the consolidation of the teaching of dance in them Brazilians public school.
"In the dance we have to do, to try... with the blindness too. Because if you have blindness you will have to dance with it. There you have to do in the dance the best, not even you can not see. To try to understand what you are doing, through the feeling, to understand with the feelings, not with the eyes, did you understand? With other part, with other things for you to do the dance, you have the blindness and won't be able to see, the exercises that they are doing of the dance, you will get, through the arms or through the speech, to get to do the dance. That I think." (José, non sighted)
"I believe that when you speak the world dance it seems that you are as spectator or observing something. When you speak “to dance” it refers to me an action. When you dance is... there is the whole creative process and the involvement of the dance, you will feel, observes from a certain focus. It seems that when you see the dance you are seeing the whole. It is in that sense. I don't know if I made myself clear.”
(Albertina, sighted student of the course of Education)
In reading this paper the reader will find a reflection on the teaching of dance in Brazil, having as reference the research entitled Dance for Youths and Adults with Blindness: Noticing invisible paths in the teachers' education. It concerns a study in process, and for that reason I chose to narrate in the first person. I explain that such characteristics do not invalidate the experiences presented, but rather, they are validated as that I sought for to portray them the best way possible. Merleau-Ponty (1996 p.5) recommends: the real should be described, not built or constituted. I start the text with an overview of the teaching of dance in Brazil. In the first part I describe my perception of the difference in the Brazilian education context. I argue on the estrangement between teacher and the student, many times caused by the little knowledge of the one teaches about the lived experience of the one who learns. I propose the dialogue as the link between me and the other. In the second part, based on Merleau-Ponty, I examine the concepts of blindness, body and dance. I understand the blindness as perceptive experience. And I present the body and the dance as phenomenon of the expression. In the last part, reflect on the contribution by students with blindness for the development of the research on the teaching of dance and the inclusion of the discipline entitled Dance in the School Space in the Course of Education of the Federal University of Santa Catarina.
The teaching and the dance teacher's education in Brazil
It may seem redundant to talk about "teaching to dance" in a country know worldwide for the Carnival and the Schools of Samba. But, not to talk may mean lead you to a fantasy. Initially, two aspects will be briefly approached in this discussion: first, the teaching of dance, and second, the professional education of the dance artist. Now, in Brazil the teaching of dance has been offered in three different institutions: in the basic education, in the free courses and in the higher education. The promulgation of the Act 9394/96 in December of 1996 make explicit that the four artistic languages, namely, visual arts, dances, music and theater; should be contemplated in the Teaching of Art in the country. Affirmatively, in the second semester of 1997 the Ministry of Education and Sports (MEC) published the National Curricular Parameters elaborated by specialist professional aiming to indicate, among others, parameters for the approach of the dance as knowledge area in the school context.
This prominence to the dance brought to the surface the absence of qualified professionals to teach it. It is evident that the increasing number of university courses in dance; the indispensable support of the funding agencies to the area of the dance; the creation of research groups; the growing offer of dance courses in cultural workshops; and the impact of the national and international festivals of dance on the audience, has altered the panorama of the Brazilian dance. However, the teaching of dance in the public schools has been left under the teachers' responsibility, who in most case does not have experience or even pedagogic reflection on dance, thus neglecting its artistic-educational character. (Marques, 2003; Strazzacappa, 2004)
As a researcher in the Center of Sciences of Education at Federal University of Santa Catarina, I have constantly been evaluating my professional performance regarding the commitment of this public and free institution, in the knowledge production and in the teachers' education and researchers meet the need and interests of the children, young, men and women who make up the multicultural Brazilian population. To look into this diversity, the present article includes another aspect of the teaching of dance, namely, the different body, specifically the dancer with blindness.
The theme of art teaching for students with education needs is shown incipient in the Brazilian research. The public education policy of social inclusion of this minority has had with it the appeal of the media that mixes civil rights, information, fiction, religiosity and social work. That demands that the public forms an opinion originating from a reflection and criticism not always available. This speech obscure, somewhat finds echo in the teaching of dance for these people, and has been practiced, a many times, by unskilled professionals in many free courses. It is urgent the knowledge production in this area, seeking to provide the basis for both the action and the educational reflection present in this context.
The perception of the difference in the teaching of dance
In my own life history, the perception of the difference was always present. As an Afro-Brazilian woman, I appear singular in a plural society. As a consequence, in my difference, I notice and I am noticed by the world. The descriptions that I present are impregnated of the experience with dance that I lived. In a positivist perspective, this could be an adverse situation to do research. But, what makes sense to focus here is that I and the world are one in the other (Merleau-Ponty, 2000 p.121). There is something present in my life experience that is present in the life of other people. In the pressing objectivity of the experience of the dialogue made possible by the dance, this can be revealed.
Hannah Arendt (2000, p. 82) examines this objectivity when noticing that it was after a long coexistence experience and in a continuous conversation that the Greeks discovered that world that we have in common is habitually considered under infinite number of angles, which correspond to the several points of view. The Greek learned how to exchange with their fellow citizens the way that the world looked and opened to them. This way, the author stresses, the Greeks learned to understand - not to understand each other as individual people, but to look at the same world from the point of view of the other, to see the same in very different aspects and frequently opposite. Thus, I hope, with the presentation of this article about the perception of the difference in the context of the teaching of dance, to contribute with the dialogue between "us" and "them."
The arguments that I present reveal that the distance between the student and the teacher sighted can be the result of the ignorance on the part of the latter about the experience with the student's blindness. Also, I proclaim the dialogue as a bridge that links me with the other. One of the memories that I bring with me on this estrangement between teacher and student is shown in the everyday of the education inclusion. Several times I came across teachers struggling to work with the cultural diversity and the individual differences present in their work place. The school inclusion and the respect to the individual differences adduce new challenges for education in general and teachers' education specifically. I found, several times, that the inability of working with the difference causes the corporal distance. The possibility to be close to what is not familiar is denied. To notice the difference can be aching, because we are leaving our comfort zone. But, growth induces leaving the cocoon, to go the direction of the other. To notice the other in myself. Such attitude presupposes two actions: to approach and to know. The contact with the different moves me away of my own ignorance. My body is expressed, so that I notice and I am noticed.
As a researcher-dancer, I looked at the body: mine, the teacher’s and the student’s as the fabric of the same flesh, and I wondered if the body was the reason of the estrangement. And if it could not also be the way for contact the bridge between "us" and "them". The experience as a dancer raised in me a peculiar perception of the world; I noticed the different nuances in one same experience, and the multiple perspectives of a given reality. And that has altered my understanding of the world. Thus, the growing knowledge of the dance went on involving my life as a whole. The dance was not limited to what the body lived inside the studio; it was made present in the everyday. Clearly, I could see that during a research when observing how a child, with congenital blindness in their 18 months of life, explored the space; in contact with the floor the child crawled attentive to the textures, the temperature, making explicit in the body a cartography of the world around. At this time I had the insight of noticing the essence of a dancing body. That was the first step of the connection of dance and the blindness.
The following step contributed significantly to implement the project of dance teaching for youths and adults with blindness. The participation in an exchange involving Brazilian and British researchers whose goal was the change of experience on the theater and dance teaching in the public schools and in the community. Comparatively, I noticed, on one hand, that the expressiveness of the dance, the wealth of the gestures and the popular manifestations were a strong point in Brazil. On the other hand, I came across the hard reality that our children and youths were not having the opportunity to develop their corporal artistic abilities in the school setting. How could I contribute to change this context? Starting from my professional insertion in the higher education, preparing teachers to work with students with blindness, I began, in 1998, the project that involved them in the teaching of dance. Consequently, I had the concern of explaining countless times, that the intention of the project did not aim at the social assistance, or at the exploration in the "world of the blindness". The attitude was of examining how the dance would facilitate the realization of blindness as a perceptive experience, and the teacher as spectator, who questioned the indifference posture and the inertia towards the body. In sum, in the proposition of this project, I seek of a mutual and intentional experience on seeing and not seeing.
Next, inspired in the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, I examine the concepts on blindness, body and dance with the intention of revealing the present invisible paths in the teachers' education, based on the experience of dance teaching for youths and adults with blindness and education students. My expectations are to find strong arguments that anchor the proposition of the teaching of dance in the education course, so that the children and the youths, particularly the ones with special education needs, can learn how appreciate the dance as a curricular activity in the Brazilian public schools, and not just in free course.
The blindness as perceptive experience
What is blindness? That subject began to do echo during my first classes in the course of teachers' Education for students with special education needs. When teaching on the terminologies adopted in the area, I noticed a certain gap between the theory and the practice, for instance, between the concept of blindness and the life experience those classified as blind. Also, I noticed that there was a discrepancy between the definition that the sighted teacher had about the blindness and that of student who could not see. Some definitions about the blindness called my attention. I noticed, for instance, that those based only on the visual acuity seemed insufficient to me. I began to notice the complexity of the term blindness as I felt closer with people with blindness.
Seeking a sense that a many times the words conceal, I discuss, now, how the blindness has been defined and interpreted both by those who see and by those who do not. I know that it will be revealing my own conceptions and ideas about the blindness. However, I learn that it is in the experience of the dialogue that a common land is constituted between me and the other. As Merleau-Ponty (1996, p. 474) examines, my thought and yours form only one fabric, my statements and those of the interlocutor are claimed by the state of the discussion, they are insert in an operation common of which none of us is the creator. We are collaborators to one another, in a perfect reciprocity, our perspectives slip one in to the other, and we coexisted through a same world.
Therefore, what is investigated here is not only what blindness is, but also how and by whom it is noticed. The definitions denote a perception of itself, of the other and of the world and they adhere to my body as the tunic of Néssus. Merleau-Ponty (2002, p. 171) refers to the tunic of Néssus to describe the universality of feeling, it clarifies that it is on that that our identification, the generalization of my body, and the perception of the other rest. Sadao Omote (1994, p.47), for instance, it supports the approaches centered in the person with special needs, alleging that they ignore a central point: the social construction of the disability. What the author calls our attention to is that we cannot ignore the other in the life of a person with blindness. And this is explicated when I ask a person what blindness is? Their answers show the other. The perception of the other by those who cannot see is silent; it is not an object that is before oneself, but of an invitation, sometimes a confrontation, or still, a challenge to be unfolded.
Tatiana, a participant adolescent of the research, narrated to me the following episode:
“One day I was in the center [of the city] walking with somebody, then I went home. There, when I met a person like this, that approached me and bumped into me, bumped into me and did not even apologized. I was with the cane. I do not know, bent cane... the person did not even come to me, nor apologized. Then, I didn't understand anything else... simply. I got nervous, and then I left... There in the handrail of the new bus terminal, we pass over there, they don’t apologize, we ask to pass, and nobody allows! "
Maybe, the indignation of Tatiana concerns is other person that she feels in herself. The fact that this person did not express with words, or even an affectionate touch, an apology makes her live the opacity of the perception of another on herself. She feels the other; however, the other silences what he/she feels for her. This way, the blindness is defined in the reactions of the other. The objectivation of each one by the glance of the other is felt only as painful because it takes the place of a possible communication, writes Merleau-Ponty (1996, p. 484). In this case, it must assume that we are part of one same fabric, this adherence disturbs, it causes pain, as narrated in the history of Hercules. Will this be the intersubjective constitution between who sees and who is seen?
I think, then, that to define blindness is necessary to go beyond what is given. I should intend to know the history of that body as an interlacement of my own body. The history of one’s life permeates the history of my life, being configured a peculiar way of being in the world. Singular beings, contributing to the plurality of the world. A being who does not use the vision as priority sense to know the world. The blindness is no longer an object and becomes a perceptive experience. It concerns more of working with the invisibility than with the darkness. Blindness is for those cannot see what invisibility is for those who can see. To present the blindness as an experience makes possible to present my life as open to the other. When I interview people with blindness, I feel that my speech is comforting. When I ask: “could you tell about your experience with blindness?” When introducing my speech this was, the communication happens, the other speaks about his/her life experience. This speech makes me recognize in him, and him in me. We are one in the world, Néssus tunic on us, the universality of feeling adheres us.
If on one hand, the perception has a characteristic of making us feel like pulling out the tunic of our body, because of the pain that causes, what will our destiny be then? Will it be the same as Hercules? The contact with the other may stop representing our death, but who knows, may represent our liberation. The dance is a co-existence possibility, to be one with other in the world. In the next item, I will try to make explicit the dialogue between youths and adults with blindness and the students of the education course, participating in a dance project, examining the concepts of body and dance.
Body, Dances and Phenomenological Expression
The dancer's body with and without vision makes me review my judgment on what body is, what dance is, what beautiful is, and essentially the one what seeing. Because what is being presented there is much more than the evident. The phenomenological look suggests that the spectator sees, observes several times that body in scene, see it in different perspectives and distances, look attentively, pay attention to the parts and to the whole, apprehend each detail.
Although it can seem to be paradoxical study about blindness to emphasize the role of seeing, as Merleau-Ponty (2000) suggests that the visible and the invisible result in two aspects of one same reality, I suppose that seeing and not seeing are two sides of the same coin. To elucidate that supposition, it may be necessary to have in mind the following question: What is seeing? The author explores this inquiry when revealing obscure aspects of the understanding around the perceptive faith: firstly, he seeks to clarify the statement that the world is what we see, and that; however, we need to learn to see it. Secondly, he turns it in a twofold question: what is seeing? And what is us?
When examining more carefully on seeing, I notice that the author of The eye and the spirit, finds, in the painter, an example of the perceptive faith. In other words, the unshaken faith in the world of perception, without which the artist could not accomplish his/her work. And this happens, for instance, when the painter lends his body to the world and transforms it in painting. Merleau-Ponty says (2003: 17): My movable body counts in the visible world, it is part of it, and it is the reason why I can drive it in the visible. This way, writes the philosopher: the vision hangs by the movement. It is only possible see what you look at. It indicates, this way where the enigma lies: my body is at the same time sighted and visible.
Based on the writing narrative, spoken or danced, of the body of those who sees and of the body of those who cannot see, I invite the reader to deepen our knowledge on the connection between the visible and the invisible, because close to the body is language. Maybe here, we can discuss what Merleau-Ponty asks: what is us? Retaking Arendt's quotation about the Greeks' intense conversation with one another, for us to understand different points of views, there is the need for us to communicate. After perception established as the basis from which we built all our certainties, the world of silent communication rest on the perception, and in this level, the expression, happens be it as painting, writing, or speech. It is of this way that the authentic or original speech appears (CARMO, 2002 p. 106).
The notion of body that permeates the proposition of dance teaching is described in the Phenomenology of the Perception. For Merleau-Ponty (1996, p. 271), the body is the place of the phenomenon of expression, in which the visual experience and the hearing experience, for instance, are pregnant one of the other. And expressive value founds the pre-predicative unit of the noticed world and, through it, the verbal expression and the intellectual significance. My body, examines the author, is the common texture of all objects, and it is, at least in relation to the noticed world, the general instrument of my "understanding". It is the body that gives meaning texture not just to the natural object, but still to cultural objects as the words.
The body of those who cannot see puts us before a problem raised by Merleau-Ponty (2000) about our difficulty of understanding – how can the movements of a body organized in gestures or in conducts to introduce us with somebody that is not us - how we can find, in those shows, other thing but what we put in them. The possible answer seems to be me in the perception of the other and in the dialogue, but at the time and space of the dance.
Based on the theory of the phenomenological expression (Müller, 2000), I present the dance as expression that makes possible both a contact experience with the new, and the possibility of other experiences. This mean that I "know", beforehand, that what I do can be done by other, as well as that what the other does can be done by me. Thus, the other and the world exist beforehand for me as reality expressed. In other words, close to my presence field, many others are expressed. Paraphrasing Merleau-Ponty, the dancer lends his body to the world and he transforms it in dance.
In this radical alterity that the blindness presents itself to those who see, it is not only a matter of noticing the limit, but, on the contrary, of identifying the co-existence. In short, to be the other of the other. I learn when dancing with those who cannot see that I establish new references in my body, seek a connection with other through the breathing, which can, in some moments, to become audible and visible. I look to the space having my own body as a starting point. I look for an authentic movement forged in my senses and in my corporal memory. I create, thus, a dance originating from my experiences lived. The contact with the other invites to run risks, I can get lost, but maybe to find something in me that was lost. Also it challenges me to be receptive and comforting. In the space-time of dance, I encounter with my infinite others. Even in a solo. I don't dance alone; I look for in me not a copy of a movement, or the automatic repetition, but a new reading of an old gesture, "a return to the same things". I return to the point that my gesture reveals the co-existence with the other myself.
In this dance, the main element of connection with the audience is not the narrative or the autobiography, although it is guided by from the lived experience, but the perception of what is being expressed. The audience is invited to do its own journey. The dance linked with the personal narrative, as analyzes Albright (1997), proposes that the spectator becomes a witness. In my understand, what the dance as expression provides would not be only the transformation of spectator's role, but also the transformation of his ways of seeing. Therefore, what is treated here is the aesthetic experience that transforms both the dancer and the one who sees him. Here is a relevant aspect for the teaching of dance: the appreciation.
Few are the Brazilian studies about the relationship between the audience and the dancer. However, the growing number of people with physical, mental and sensorial differences in the artistic context has caused a silent disturbance. Maybe, due to the fact that shortly before the dance shows constituted as space of grace and of perfection. The body different from this ideal ends up causing instability in our aesthetic concepts. I suppose that we should take advantage of this opportunity to review our concepts of what is the beautiful. In this case, the dancer with blindness, on the stage, may lead us to that reflection. He/she is not there just for being a right, or to entertain us, but this presence means an invitation to the appreciation of the dance, in its entireness and invisibility. A dance that only that body, because of its specificity, can perform. There is, then, the need to prepare that dancer, their teachers and also them audience.
Dances and Blindness: invisible paths in the teachers' education
In sum, I reflect that the dance and the blindness present themselves as ways, though transformers, still unknown in the teachers' education. In contact with the dancers who cannot see the students of the course of education, participants of the research, are confronted with their prejudices, they notice and learn how to dialogue with the difference. The dancers with blindness also expand the knowledge on what is seeing and what is not seeing. The participants of both groups are invited to revise their concepts constantly about perception, body, dances and blindness. In the life experience, after a dance class or when coming across with the other, all begin to notice changes in their way of being in the world.
Based on the research developed in these last fifteen years about blindness and dance and teachers' education, I emphasize the contribution that the life experiences that the child, the youth, the man and the woman with blindness have provided for the knowledge production and beyond, that has made possible the understanding of our existence in an appearance world that demands spectator. I point out that it was from this knowledge that I was motivated to propose the curricular discipline entitled “Dance in the school space” offered to the students of the Course of Education of UFSC. The content aims at the following aspects: a) The History of the dance in the occident; b) principles of the dance education: to appreciate, to see, to performer and to create; c) The dance system developed by Rudolf Laban, Bonnie Cohen, Steve Paxton, the Brazilians Klauss Vianna and Ivaldo Bertazzo; d) The experience of seeing and not seeing in the dance: the dancers of Degas and the video dances; e) The practical classes include moments of reflection, reading of texts, observation of videos and reports of experiences.
It is aims at preparing teachers as reflexive and critical spectators, capable to act with the present diversity in the school context, in a creative way, attentive to the interpretations that one can have of the different body in the context of the arts. It is expected that the teacher notices the student in a co-existence relationship, co-creators of the artistic process. However, it seems indispensable that the own teacher apprehends the aesthetic experience from yours their living expediencies. António Nóvoa (1992, p. 16) mentions self-awareness as part of the teachers' identity process, considering that everything decides in the reflection process that the teacher carries out about his/her own action. He says: It is a decisive dimension of the educational profession, as the change and the pedagogic innovation are intimately dependent of this reflexive thought.
The teaching of the dance here approached, far from seeking entertainment, or accounting for a temporary political calendar of social inclusion, invites the teacher and the audience to see or not to "see" for them to know. That attitude is characterized in a search of the understanding on our life process.
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