Cheryl is based in Canada. She has taught academic writing in education for over twenty years and now presents her dancing/writing methods to dance students and writing teachers. She encountered CAP following her PhD process and here she reflects on her experiences and those of her dancers, in turning to it post-research.
What has CAP given you?
Post-research CAP gave me a context for understanding how the writing process I had observed with the dancer/choreographer participants could be understood and developed as a parallel practice to choreographing. Framing the writing process as a practice with which one dialogues takes both processes into the metacognitive realm in a really grounded way.
CAP helped me to see a way forward for developing a pedagogical approach to teaching writing skills to dancers that supported dancers in identifying and validating their bespoke processing traits/habits/paths as they operated across both disciplines.
What benefit does CAP have for the dancers you work with?
By the end of their research sessions the participants had each arrived at the self-understanding that the howness of their processing style was not bifurcated between writing and choreographing but bridged the two disciplines. As one participant put it she was able to tear down die mauer im dem kopf (the wall in the head) between her creative and writing processes.
Can you tell me about how you have used CAP?
CAP can be used to enable writing for dancers. It develops bespoke processes with dancers to find their way with creative practice.
For me, it helps me to sense my gut reaction that lets me know when I’m on/off track. There’s a shifting back and forth from inside to outside, from experiential perspective to reflective stance, and from bodily to detached viewpoint. It’s like the ocean.
It’s a practical writing strategy that gives access to the ‘liminal space’ in order to think about the whole. By employing CAP strategies such as opening, situating, delving and raising one can find dominant relationships. The dancer and practice speak to each other. It becomes possible to read the idea.
What does the practice mean to you?
The “practice” is the metacognitive voice in your head that steps back and responds when you describe your experiences during a creative/writing process. That voice spoke in metaphoric language as the participants talked about their experiences with writing versus choreographing. The metaphors identified the effect they experienced and also described the nature of the roadblocks/obstacles or alternatively the way through those issues.
Practice as a detached word contains judgement, criticality and the dialogic. There is a back and forth that enables a shifting between inductive and deductive modes. Through the inductive, generation of practice is realised. Through the deductive curation for an audience comes the possible. Thus, practice is a spiralling inwards and spiralling outwards.
Practicing CAP allows me to attend to the somatic and this is key to being able to move out of panic; to settle down.
Accessing the liminal
For me, there are three ways to access the liminal by using CAP:
Firstly, it helps me to get the idea out. In order for this to happen the process needs to be physical from the beginning. This can involve verbalising.
Secondly, it helps me to discover the patterns of my argument. I can do this by playing around with structured improvisational scores.
Thirdly, it helps me to let it come. By walking away from exploring a bunch of ideas that which is significant is revealed. For me one of these significant ideas is contrast.
Sitting with the materials
Through CAP, it is possible to shift between context and detail. This is to shift from the global (metacognitive) to details. It provides shape by looking for rigid structure within which to create, not a correct way, just your way.
Trust is important. One has to wait for that which will emerge. This is a process of unlearning a reliance on rules whereby I can figure out what the parameters are for me. It enables us to be reflective about what is needed.
Finding ways with CAP
We can find ways through CAP by remaining in the half-light, moving through the room, incrementally following the sense of the body so that discovery and exploration remain.
Locating hooks and anchors to pin ideas onto, asking what is the form that wants to emerge. Listening for the Aha! moment that comes out of the blue. Here it is important to reject the notion of there being a right way. Rather attend to a sense of associations, the street view, where one must ask what are my characteristics? Am I generator of gatherer?
One can stay in the half-light until you get something. That which flows through.
Alternatively, one can work by gathering everything in one’s arms and waiting for something to emerge. By starting with a symbolic whole and filling in the bits one must ask: Who am I as a processor? As I start to move, what do I bring?
Developing practice with CAP
CAP allows me to find personal strategies that will work for me. It can be used as a tool to access your personalised way of creating. It honours your way of working. It provides a process of forwarding that is not forced.
Preparation is essential and one must do the work and then step back. Sometimes one must step back when you hit a wall. Hitting a wall is an indication of overload. Here, one can allow the felt sense to put you back on track.
It is a process of editing, a condensing discipline that allows the work to radiate and ripple through.
Contextual note for the photos
These photos reflect how a metacognitive writing process can be complementary to CAP’s phases, particularly to Raising, Anatomizing and Outwarding, and how this supports a dancer-scholar creating academic papers. PhD dance student, UL, identified the problem in her writing as “too many repeated ideas with slightly different iterations,” which felt familiar to having “many similar movement motifs and I can’t decide which one I like the best.”
The solution of literally cutting up the problematic essay section into individual sentences was “analogous to fragmenting my choreography…by making clips of my video, editing just what I want to see and then comparing what I have. I force myself to make decisions that way.” Her comments illustrate how her felt sense (Opening, Situating and Delving) of how a writing problem mirrored a choreographic problem (Raising) prompted her to elaborate (Anatomizing) on a familiar type of solution and reflect (Outwarding) on how her choreographic strategy could cross disciplines.
The photos therefore document a writing strategy similar to her dance-making strategy: she fragmented and re-chunked the repetitive sentences, decided on the best version for each chunk, reassembled those to “take it from the top” as she did when choreographing, and then, sliding her laptop alongside, redrafted the section.