‘The great thing about collaboration is that it never is perfect.’ - an ethnography of music and dance collaborations in progress
Kossen-Veenhuis, Tomke Helga Marie Folkerts
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‘Art worlds’ (Becker 1982) tend to be treated as autonomous spheres but there have always been artistic enterprises that combine different art forms. Contemporary dance theatre is an example of such an intersection: the collaboration between music and dance worlds requires a network of different kinds of artists to produce a coherent artwork. This PhD research investigated the social interrelations of musicians and dancers and the development processes in a collaborative music-dance production. The artists are part of a multi-component network where all parties ideally need to cooperate closely in order to present a coherent artistic performance. In this context music and dance are codependent and an intrinsic understanding among the artists is expected. However, this is not inherent to all participants and projects. For artists from more than one discipline to make a coherent artwork means to challenge the conventional characteristics of their own art worlds (Cope 1976; Becker 1982). Otherwise barriers in communication and behaviour develop rapidly and irreparably. This study sought to understand the development of new music and dance productions and the involvement of their participants in a systematic way. This led to the investigation of cross-disciplinary communication, hierarchies and creative approaches. The research is based on two case studies, the ethnographies of work in progress of dance companies, using observation and interviews as the main methodology. The systematic study of the processes during collaborative work uncovered hindrances including limitations in the financial budget, committed production time and physical requirements of the artists and how those have been handled when approaching these projects. This study also defined differing expectations towards collaboration, varying listening approaches of musicians and dancers to music and differences in performance practice as challenges of the process. The overall aim was to provide new insights into the process of producing collaborative art works, improve the planning and execution of them and connect the academic fields of music and dance.