BrainDance Days: Saturday, May 31, 2014: Final discussion forum

Public concluding discussion:
„Dance, Science, Parkinson’s“

As a conclusion to the BrainDance days we came together in a large circle, in which all participants were first of all asked to make a statement about the past intensive days. We were particularly happy about the honesty of one participant of the Freiburg dance workshops for people with Parkinson’s: The dance classes really bring joy, but for her they remain therapy rather than art. Nonetheless it is nice if artists as well as scientists can learn from them. This was followed by thoughts from the participating artists on morality and ethics as well as on the element of play in dance improvisation, on motivation, on the space of the “other”, or on the question about differentiating between art and therapy. The keywords health and beauty came up. Their meaning changes with a change in society. One Parkinson’s dancer mentioned that slowness cannot simply be connected to beauty since for her it means stress. Then, the discussion turned to the dancing that took place in the museum: This was beauty! By dancing together, we make ourselves accessible. Together we can embody beauty. Or, through dance and art something becomes possible that we could not have anticipated, and the unpredictable brings us closer to beauty?

Many levels were addressed in these four days, and, due to this complexity it is necessary to explore different questions in different spaces under different circumstances, but it is also good to have exchange and to leave accustomed roles, so as to meet in new ways, as we did during the BrainDance days. As a neurobiologist, for example, one does not have to change one’s research approach after these days, but one can become aware of one’s role in the whole and let oneself be confronted by the human and emotional side that often receives too little attention.

It was perceived as singular that, regardless of our different disciplines and languages, we were able to communicate amongst one another by dancing together. This is something we should continue to work on as well as share these values with others. Here it is acceptable to recognize that our verbal expression has limits and that dance can stand on its own. And even if one speaks about art where the next talks about magic and the third about beauty, we all know that we mean the same thing. Dance brings us together. We should use this more often – we should live it.

We thank everyone who visited, inspired, and shaped the BrainDance days.


BrainDance Days: Saturday, May 31, 2014: Talk “What is disease? What is health?”

Talk by Prof. Dr. Niels Gottschalk-Mazouz (University of Bayreuth)
„What is disease? What is health?“

I would like to show some difficulties with the concept of disease at the hand of two lines of discussion. The biological line of discussion leads to a complex discussion on questions about natural functions in biology which can at present not be decided in the discipline, and the possible answers for which do not really help in determining health and disease. The normative-ethical discussion line leads to a multitude of competing ethics, that is, to ethical pluralism. There is thus a scope with respect to what people see as disease both theoretically and practically, that is, with respect to how they understand health and disease. I believe that the relative unity of what we define as disease (as opposed to health and enhancement) is based in a strongly standardized medicalization and in a relatively stable self-concept of doctors. Biologically or ethically this is however unfounded, as I see it.

(from the program booklet)

After this introduction to the philosophical discourse on disease and health, different questions came up in the audience: Who defines disease – doctors, patients, society? How are we to make pain and suffering graspable or evaluate it objectively if it always remains subjective? How can we distinguish between age and disease? Does how we speak about disease determine how we view disease? And why do we talk about the legal or medical definition of disease, when what is actually important is the art of life. Disease remains just one aspect of a person and we must not let ourselves be defined by medicine.


BrainDance Days: Friday, May 30, 2014: Talk “Act your Age”

Presentation by Roberto Casarotto
„Act your age“

»Act Your Age« is an initiative of the Centro per la Scena Contemporanea (Italy), Dance House Lemesos (Zypern) and the Nederlandse Dansdagen (Netherlands). The project was supported by „EU-Kultur-Programm 2007-13“.

»Act Your Age“« is an impulse for the European community to explore the theme of aging (the aging body) through the art of dance. The project aims at doing the following: 1. Initiating a European dialogue between generations. / 2. Creating awareness for the value of this dialogue. / 3. Developing and presenting research and a choreography for older participants who are only rarely seen on stage. / 4. Developing a methodology for dance projects with participants from different age groups. / 5. Developing creative ideas for dealing with the challenges of aging that the European community is facing. / 6. Drawing a new audience that spans generations. / 7. Creating synergies between participating organizations through exchange of knowledge, expertise, and competences.

(from the program booklet)


After Roberto Casarotto had introduced his dance projects, he was asked once more how he came up with the idea of having dance classes in a museum, which we replicated in our Freiburg BrainDance project. His answer was: To introduce the word dance in the right way, to show up the artistic aspect, and, not quite so seriously: Everything you do is art here. A museum is a public space, which entails a new form of visibility. Next, the difference between dance therapists and artists who offer dance classes was discussed. This topic proved to be controversial. Casarotto’s project of bringing teenagers and older people together was also discussed. He reported that the younger participants showed great fascination for the bodies of the older participants, whereas from the other side there was mostly surprise at the fact that everyone looks the same nowadays – where are the curves? In Freiburg as well there was a meeting between the “methusalems” (senior’s theatre) with young people who were impressed by the wealth of experience of the older generation. Casarotto is certain that dance changes the life of dancers as well as of the instructors. Dancing brings joy, it makes people let themselves go, engage with others, build a group, belong to a group, share, focus their energy on physically interacting with others.


BrainDance Days: Friday, May 30, 2014: Internal discussion

Internal discussion round with artists and scientists
„Movement Order / Movement Disorder“

Today’s discussion on movement and movement disorders started with all participants introducing their personal interests and questions. This resulted in a broad scope. Themes included, for example:

  • harmony/perfection and the conscious breaking of these in art
  • how training is helping dancers but can also block them
  • how movement is synchronized
  • suppression of the body / taboos
  • the connection between brain and body
  • research on rats about basic movement with respect to dopamine
  • deliberate and unintentional movement

The discussion started with the question: where does a movement begin? Both reward systems in the brain (e.g. dopamine) and a multitude of motivations in dance improvisation (imagination, etc.) were taken into account. We asked how movement influences our emotional state and what movement and movement disorders can mean for our identity. For example, a physical disease will entail a change in the family situation (family identity). And, if people with Parkinson’s (in England) only negatively talk about movement but positively after dancing, does this not mean that dance has positive effects on identity?

At the end of the exchange the following question was posed: Is there a way of dissociating the word movement order from the association with good and movement disorder with bad?



BrainDance Days: Friday, May 30, 2014: Dance workshop (Parkinson’s)

“Dance and Parkinson’s”

Our BrainDance-Dance workshop took on new forms today. As usual we met in the “Museum für Neue Kunst,” but for the first time this happened during the opening hours of the museum, so that security staff as well as visitors were present. Our initial circle was supplemented with additional chairs – today BrainDance conference participants as well as other interested parties and relatives were present.

Suddenly our group was full of new faces including professional dancers. The group was large and full of energy and creativity. We tried many things, laughed a lot, and I believe that the two hours were inspiring for everyone.


BrainDance Days: Friday, May 30, 2014: Dance workshop (Research II)

“Dancing your research” (Shahar Biniamini)

Warming up took place in sitting position on the second day. The feet were supposed to write sentences and words. This was then repeated with arms, head, and torso. The execution of words was to become bigger and various qualities such as “screaming” or “whispering” a word were attempted. Subsequently, exercises between partners focused on leading the movement of body parts. The partner’s touch determined the location of a movement impulse as well as the intention. Each participant then developed a small individual sequence. The class ended with presentations of trios that were made up of individual sequences and transitions. During the whole workshop other aspects than dance were the focus, however. How can words be embodied? How do emotions influence bodily expression? How can in a short period of time a functioning group dynamic be built?

(Lisa Klingelhöfer, workshop participant)

BrainDance Days: Thursday, May 29, 2014: Physical Thinking

Physical Thinking
By Monica Gillette and Mia Haugland Habib

Similar to our three open practices in February, March, and April, Monica and Mia presented our Freiburg BrainDance-Project and showed two sequences of their movement research on the symptom of slowness, inspired from poems by Renée M. Akargider.

These performative project presentations were followed by a response by Dr. Michael Tangermann, who asked people with Parkinson’s whether “Physical Thinking” had any effect on them. Renée M. Akargider responded that personally they did not have to fight with the pre-thinking of movement but with achieving daily tasks, which is also frustrating.

Then, Tangermann turned to Mia and Monica and asked whether the combination of reduction of a movement to 50 % (as in the movement score that had been worked on) and stage experience (exaggeration…) had brought insights on how to fight against the diminuation of movements for Parkinson’s patients.

As the audience joined the discussion, Parkinson’s dancers were once more addressed: We have talked much about how dancers have learned much about Parkinson’s; but have you also learned something by dancing? This was followed by an honest response. We talk much about the theory but in praxis it all looks different. Already the evening is quite long for sitting down, and the symptoms are not only what is visible. This brought us all back to reality. Another response, however, addressed a fear of the future that is improved by dancing. And another comment was that dancing brings joy but that the joint coffee, cookies, and conversation in the aftermath are the real opportunity to learn from others.


BrainDance Days: Thursday, May 29, 2014: Talk “Can working with dancers advance science?”

Talk by Shahar Biniamini and Atan Gross
„Can working with dancers advance science?“

Prof. Atan Gross, Professor for Biology and dancer Shahar Biniamini have established a dancing class for scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. After an exercise together with the audience, during which were imagined to be magnets that are attracted by their neighbour’s, the talk began:

Dance and Science

Sharar spoke about his live as a dancer and choreographer. He described his time as dancer in the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv as well as how after being in contact with people who do not come from dance his wish to collaborate with them increased. This wish became reality when he met Atan Gross. Atan spoke about his live as scientist at the Weizman Institute in Rehovot, where he investigates the secrets of human body cells, as well as about his lifelong wish to dance. Atan and Shahar described how their collaboration has positively changed their professional perspective. Shahar described how this collaboration has changed his life with regard to his artistic goals and his way of teaching movement. Atan reported how the same collaboration seems to improve his scientific creativity. They also spoke about the difference between scientific research and research as a value that dancers and scientists share since both groups are in a continuous process of research. Dancers collect knowledge in their body and analogously scientists nourish knowledge in their brains. Both analyze information on dynamics, however with different goals. Shahar also spoke about the importance of dance as an experience and as a tool for exploring oneself, as a tool that is not only used by dancers and through which the “dance-user” becomes researcher as well as object of his research. Shahar and Atan reported on their experiences in the new course that they are organizing for PhD students at the Weizman Institute as well as on a specific workshop that for the first time brings professional dancers, choreographers, movement researchers, and scientists together. In both cases all participants explored the connection between dance and science and sought a common language for this. Atan and Shahar closed their presentation by discussing perspectives for the future and by presenting their new “Thinking Science”-dance group, which recently took up its work in TelAviv and Rehovot.

(from the program booklet)

 After the speech Ulrich Egert (University of Freiburg) provided an instantaneous response. He remarked that scientists have two brains, so to speak: the scientist’s brain and the brain of the father/dancer. When the scientist is shut off, the real scientist emerges, that is, the best ideas come up. Dance seems to be a singular possibility for this. Later it was asked whether we could not engage in any other creative activity in order to achieve the same effect. The answer was: being creative is possible in many ways but while dancing you yourself are the tool.

The dance classes for scientists serve Shahar Biniamini as research on the purity of movements by non-professional dancers who for the first time connect brain and body in this way. He reported that he never corrects students and that dancing instructors continuously change in order to offer a broader knowledge. Shahar Biniamini also reported that scientists have created movement scores for dancers. Atan Gross wants students to go away with the feeling that it is legitimate to also do things outside of the lab. Inside the lab one remains an individual and one submits to a hierarchy. While dancing, however, we can reach emotional states that we could never have reached by ourselves.

Like this morning in Shahars dance workshop: Like individual cells, over time we constituted an organism. The discussion ended with the sentence: I believe that dance can change everyone’s life.


BrainDance Days: Thursday, May 29, 2014: Internal discussion

Internal discussion with scientists and artists:
„Reflecting different methods of research in dance and science“

Today’s roundtable discussion started with Sara Houston, who introduced her research on the influence of dance classes for people with Parkinson’s. Her methodologies include qualitative research (e.g. movement analysis by Laban, interviews, diaries…) and quantitative research (scientific measurements), and these methodologies can complement one another.

In the subsequent discussion scientists articulated doubts as to the objectivity of qualitative research, and it was discussed how the gap between qualitative and quantitative research could be breached. Atan Gross (Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel) then called dancers “movement scientist,” who understand things that scientists will never understand, but who also need scientists at their side in order to prove their findings. Dancers on the other hand argued: Do we need to prove everything? Dance speaks its own language and the best result is if we do not talk about it after the dancing class. The discussion then moved to the general method in scientific research of starting with extreme reduction in order to even be able to conduct measurements. This reduction is mirrored in some artistic research, while some prefer to first of all broaden the focus. All agreed that mixed approaches can have positive effects if after the exchange everyone goes back to their discipline in order to let what has been learned feed into one’s work.

Robert Casarotto entered the discussion by reporting on a project that brought doctors, nurses, and people with Parkinson’s together for dance classes, which allowed interaction between these different fields and held some surprises for doctors about the physical abilities of their “patients.”

The necessity and continuous attempt to understand the other or to approach the other was then discussed. It is about daring to enter new situations, such as a dance class (for scientists). And it works two ways since the instructors also learn while they are teaching. Shahar Biniamini (Tel Aviv), for example, reports giving dance classes for students of medicine in order to break his own habits by watching how their thoughts become movement. And for the students the project continues: There is to be supervision by dancers as well as scientists.