What good can come from an Early Career Researcher Day… EVERYTHING!

In July the ECR Community held a half-day event on the eve of Panpapanpalya Joint Dance Congress in Adelaide, Australia. We asked participant and fellow dance ECR, Peter Cook, to share some of his reflections of the event.

Coming together with fellow Early Career Dance Researchers in Adelaide, as the pre-event for Panpapanpalya 2018, was an embodied stroke of genius. Organising the opportunity to begin pivotal conversations and engage in valuable networking with like-minded colleagues from around the world set the scene for a productive event. The themes of the joint congress perfectly framed the week.

Dance: reminders of our essences, our entries and exits, refining and defining identities in Dance. Nourishing as artists, as researchers, as educators and as colleagues.

Starting the event, we were asked to unsettle the environment and move. Even though it was only a move of locations we altered and (re)established ourselves and each other, physically. The task was to find someone we did not know previously meet, greet, engage and then be prepared to report back on our new colleague’s significant contributions and reasonings behind attending the event. Given the international cast it was easy to find a new and unfamiliar colleague and provided the ground work for networking.  My new buddy and I continued to introduce each other to attendees on behalf of one another, as our identities familiarised, and the network grew.

Gathering: it always becomes a wonderful catalyst for growth to engage in sharing with like-minded researchers and to experience constructive exploration of ideas with openness and safety.

ECR Day at Panpapanpalya Joint Dance Congress 2018

The program allowed and facilitated our networking opportunities by constantly interplaying the roles of audience and participant.  Groups discussed resourcing and aspirational concepts of communicating amongst ourselves and our stakeholders. Despite being an intimate group, we established strong conversations and then transferred our knowledges to a new group as we transitioned to new colleagues. The world café activity continued the theme of moving as we established strong conversations and then transferred our knowledges to a new group.

Generations: we are beginners, experts, leaders but novices, so many roles to consider.

Generating ideas as an early career researcher opened up consideration of mixed career stages often apparent for dance researchers. We often develop into the role of researchers after establishing other careers and transitioning into academia from varying points. The strength of this meeting was the intergenerational presence. It was a theme within the congress and continued to refute the popular views that a dancer’s life is short.  Having representation from varied generations is satisfying, affirming and motivating. It reminds us that dancers also have a voice and that voice has a past and a future. And it is loud and informed, and it collates, creates and disseminates knowledge through powerful paradigms. And sometimes the voice is heard in and through movement. The common language of this congress.

Learning: Sharing stories and experiences supports us to move smoothly on the continuum from teacher to learner and the myriad of places (in)between.

The assembled panel generously offered their stories both, highs and lows. They shared their stories autoethnographically and provided insights into their worlds, practices and understandings and extended this into the possibilities for our success. Perhaps my favourite concept and key take away was provided by Mabingo, who incidentally tried to convince me that Uganda was a suburb of Auckland. His thought resonated through the congress and reminded me of the many identities that form who we are in this early (or is it previous) career.  The teacher, the learner, the choreographer, the administrator, the advocate, the researcher, the writer, the leader, the follower, the colleague and the dancer. “You just have to turn up”. Thanks, Mabingo, I am glad I did and will continue to do so.

Peter J. Cook is a Lecturer in The Arts at Southern Cross University, in the School of Education. His PhD is titled Understanding the choreographic presence in an artful, digital Dance education. You can find out more about his research here

ECR Day at Panpapanpayla Joint Dance Congress 2018

‘We need to talk’: The diverse voices and shared visions of early career dance researchers

In July the ECR Community held a half-day event on the eve of Panpapanpalya Joint Dance Congress in Adelaide, Australia. We asked one of our speakers, Alfdaniels Mabingo, to share some of his reflections of the event.

It is not common for early career dance researchers from different global corners of the world to congregate and share their professional, academic and research stories, passions and aspirations. What was so special about the Early Career Researcher (ECR) meeting, which was held at the University of South Australia in Adelaide on June 30, 2018 is that it made this congregation a reality. What made it even more inspiring is the diversity of stories, expertise, aspirations, and identities that individuals from different countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America, New Zealand, and Australia brought to the space and the shared experiences.

Seated amidst a sea of bubbling passions, I kept asking myself: ‘What does Early career researcher mean?’. The answers to this question came from a myriad of voices of fellow ECRers. As each individual introduced themselves, I realised the complexity and depth of what ECR means. The representation was so broad, ranging from fresh Masters and PhD graduates, continuing undergraduate and graduate students pursuing different researches, dance performers and choreographers inquiring about their own practices, dance educators who are experimenting with their pedagogic innovations, and interdisciplinarists whose minds seek to imagine the place of dance in a wide range of other knowledge domains such as health, psychology, peace and conflict resolution, and technology, among others.

Alfdaniels Mabingo

The richness of voices and expansiveness of research interests underscored the centrality of dance and the role of dance researchers in improving the human condition. From the dynamic, intimate and informative interactions that we had, I admired the selfless work that each individual is doing to ensure that dance shapes the future that we all imagine. It was clear to me that the curiosities and practices of ECR are producing visions that posterity will refer back to with pride and gratitude. I was so inspired to be surrounded by and immersed in exchanges that deepened my confidence, pride, commitment, and imagination as a dance researcher, writer, performer, and scholar.

Moreover, the meeting provided a platform for meaningful connections. As an early career researcher from a continent and a race that is on the fringes of dance discourse, I have always encountered the challenge of operating in and as a lonely universe. The meeting delivered the people that I can talk to, the people with whom we can peer-edit our works, the people that I can creatively collaborate with, the people that I can co-author works with, the people that I am keen to learn from and share resources with, and the people that I will be proud to call my lifetime friends and colleagues. The meeting reclaimed me from the lonely universe. My vision that the future does not only belong to us, but it rests in how meaningfully we connect with one another was reaffirmed. It was a meeting for and about the future. The interactions signposted us to many possibilities for our different path to cross. As a fresh PhD graduate, this is the place where I want to be.

As I was leaving the venue for the meeting, I deeply thought about the potential that the ECR platform has to empower and enrich early career dancer researchers. I was envisioning the global connections that the initiative can spark. I felt like emerging from a womb that has immense potential to birth more possibilities. The future will not be defined by how fresh we are as researchers, but it will be determined by how we blend this freshness into constructive connections that will elevate and translate our talents, ideas, passions, and dreams into purposeful and impactful action. As early career dance researchers, we need this space more than ever before. We have it. Let’s occupy it. Let’s make it a beehive of stories, connections, celebrations, sharing, inspiration, and support. Let’s paint it with imaginative energies, creative visions, and critical thoughts. As Barack Hussein Obama said: YES WE CAN!

Alfdaniels Mabingo, PhD, is a scholar of dance education and pedagogy from Uganda, East Africa. You can check out his impressive list of publications here and get a glimpse of his Ugandan dance class below.