I attended a talk at the Southbank University on the 30th of November 2016, given by Henry Daniel, a professor of Dance and Performance Studies from the Simon Fraser University Canada. He has been in Britain researching at the University of Bristol as a visiting Fellow. He was invited to Southbank by Maria. He told an amusing story about being caught up in a struggle between disciplines as a PhD candidate. He was told by his supervisor when he started his PhD in the late 1990s that his thesis was about 80,000 words, not choreography. He wrote 80,000 words. When his external examiner read it she said something along the lines of ‘this is all well and good Henry but what about your choreography’. He had to then revise his thesis writing his choreography into every chapter and producing a DVD of his works. This situation seems to have fed hs passion for practice-based research and transdisciplinarity.
The talk given by Daniel revolved around two projects of his, one he is rounding up and the other he is just beginning. The first Project Barka (2011 – 2014) explores the legacy of Columbus’ trip that leads to the ‘discovery’ of the West Indies. He advertised for Dancers who had felt in some way Columbus voyage had impacted them and their families and at the audition, for a dance project to explore this on the topic he found the none of the dancers were from his background. He decided to go ahead and a three-year project evolved. Through Contemporary Nomads which starts this year and will end in 2021, Daniel will be looking at the relationship of choreography and movement to the movement of people around the world. His projects bring multiple histories together in an event.
Daniel says that he enjoys working in a transdisciplinary context because you get to look at other disciplines through your disciplinary lens and therefore produce knowledge which transcends them all. Self-reflexivity is one of his tools. He uses it as a starting point for engaging with others and finding common ground.