Fall 2014

Movement: A Dance and Sociology Collaboration

Moodle site: Course


Hannah A. Holleman (Section 01)
Paul D. Matteson (Section 01)


The most recent World Social Science Report published by UNESCO, focused on Changing Global Environments, highlights four urgent, interrelated challenges facing our generations: unprecedented ecological degradation, global inequality, poverty, and sociopolitical discontent. The report, based on contributions from scientists around the world, suggests addressing such challenges requires making creative spaces, across disciplines and differences, to envision alternative futures, ways of living, and ways of understanding and interacting with one another as well as with the rest of nature. This course provides such a space through a unique collaboration between Dance and Sociology. We will explore how the arts and sciences together allow us to better understand the world we live in today and think through the social transformations needed to address these serious challenges.

Broader social realities affect us differently, depending on our social location, at the bodily level. Inequality, poverty, and ecological degradation are imprinted physically on all of us in ways we rarely consider—with enormous health, emotional, and psychological consequences. Scholars refer to this as the “corporeality of social life” and have sought ways to examine, as we will in this course, these realities through traditional research and creative activities. In the studio simple but innovative task-based movement activities will allow us to rethink how we move through space in relation to one another in ways that shape, and are shaped by, the society in which we live. Collaborative movement exercises will draw attention to our conscious and unconscious interactions with those around us, as well as with the rest of nature. Through such efforts we will make concrete connections between macro-level phenomena and everyday lived experience that inform and complement our scientific inquiry.  In the classroom we will introduce methodological and theoretical tools sociology offers to address questions such as: What are the social drivers of the challenges highlighted in the most recent World Social Science Report? How do we understand the impact of broader social trends on our everyday lives? How do our everyday activities contribute to broader trends? How do personal and societal beliefs about environmental and social issues develop in different places and times? How do communities work across differences of age, gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, and ability, to address challenges such as inequality, poverty, and ecological degradation?

This course is reading and writing attentive, while also involving regular movement activities. We will introduce the work of movement-based artists such as Keith Hennessey, Sean Dorsey, David Dorfman, and Deborah Hay, who interrogate a range of social questions as well as personal issues. We will also look at performance troupes such as The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, a diverse ensemble of individuals that represents for Bill T. Jones, “the world in which I want to live.” Readings will include recently released scientific reports focused on global ecological and social issues, scholarly articles within the social sciences, and books written by visionary sociologists who both study and engage in the work of social change, from W.E.B. DuBois to Juliet Schor. Our class will host guest lecturers and performers, and take at least one field trip to observe an artistic performance. No experience in social science or dance is necessary or expected. There is only one section for this course and both Professors Matteson and Holleman will be present in every class.

Fall semester.  Professors Holleman and Matteson.

If Overenrolled: Dean handles this.


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014