Paper presented at the Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar, University of Sydney
Abstract In Western culture, the concept of presence holds a cluster of different connotations. Theatrical and performance studies have generally focused on the intrinsic actor’s ability to impact audience’s attention or the mutual relationship with the audience, what Zarrilli (2012) refers as the ground for the emergence of presence as experience. Is presence a state that our minds can regularly experience, or is a special condition that can be accessed only under very particular circumstances? What is the role played by a larger ecology that includes audiences, different performers and unusual environments, in shaping the experience and perception of presence? I investigate presence’s variations by tackling the phenomenon of stage presence, and I am developing a cognitive ethnography (Hutchins 1995) that addresses questions of embodied cognition in three different dance forms: Contemporary Ballet, Contact Improvisation and BodyWeather. By adopting a phenomenological approach, which requires a direct engagement with the different dance trainings and contexts of practice analysed, I tackle the diversity of the cognitive ecologies in which stage presence is understood and performed, addressing the variations in which embodied skills are enacted, and emphasize how different aesthetics and cultural factors shape habits, social cognition and perception of self. Aim of this project is to develop an ecological model of presence which considers not only audiences and performers perceptual relationship but the global cognitive ecology of the performance, including performers co-presence and how they construct meaning, the socio-cultural context and the situatedness of the performative event.