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Moving to the Rhythm of Spring: A Case Study of the Rhythmic Structure of Dance


Event Summary

Lecture by Isabelle Charnavel
Associate Professor of Linguistics, Harvard University

This talk investigated the principles governing the perception of rhythmic structure in a dance-music event on the basis of a case study. We took as a starting point Lerdahl & Jackendoff’s (1983) conception of musical rhythm as the interaction between grouping and meter and examine to what extent it can apply to dance. Then we explored how the rhythmical structures of music and dance interact in a single event. Our exploration was guided by a detailed examination of the opening of Stravinsky’s Augurs of Spring as choreographed by Nijinsky (1913), Béjart (1970), and Bausch (1975). By comparing these minimal pairs of dance-music events, we adapted the formal methodology of linguistics to other cognitive systems. Our general goal was to shed further light on the organizational principles of mental representations by comparing several cognitive systems in order to distinguish between general cognitive properties and modality-specific or domain-specific properties.

This event was co-sponsored by the Motion and Meaning project at the Neubauer Collegium and the Center for Gesture, Sign, and Language at the University of Chicago.