“The Nomadic School of Moving Thought”: An ‘expanded’ space for attentive relational learning by Sonia Ntova












Facing a human-induced environmental crisis (Braidotti, 2013), political and economic instability and injustice (Stein et al. 2017), and a growing neoliberalisation of education (Harris, 2005) this experiment tried to challenge these issues by questioning the space of education through the lens of choreography.

How can the tools of ‘expanded ’choreography be situated within the milieu of the pedagogic act?” This question drove the research of the participatory choreographic project “The Nomadic School of Moving Thought” in 2020. The project explored the intersections between unconventional choreographic tools and pedagogy, aiming at shifting learning from being mind- centered to ‘bodying’-centered by exposing the importance of the multiplicity of the relational body within the learning process.

“The Nomadic School of Moving Thought” is conceived as an ‘expanded ’choreographic space that contains different locations and performative activations with the purpose to activate the moving thought and create affective performative spaces. It is a rhizomatic book of suggested choreographic compositions and it applies materialistic attention to the embodiment (Ulmer, 2015) and supports ‘bodying ’(Manning, 2012) as the action of continuously forming a body.

The book explores critical ways of practicing and composing inter-relational encounters in everyday life, beyond the dance field. It unfolds a performative movement education oriented towards an alternative understanding of thinking and raises questions towards sensorial and affective dimensions of being in the current era.

The research took multiple directions on ‘making, attending, performing’ (Cvejić, 2017: 24) for both learners and the dance practitioner following a rhizomatic approach (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). Rhizome has been used as a method to deform habits of thought, and as a tool to entwine things together and create a dynamic multilayered constellation, by not following a linear structure.

Extract from the book“ The Nomadic School of Moving Thought”

‘Expanded’ choreography introduces a more broaden understanding of choreography and movement and opens up possibilities as to where and with whom choreography can exist. It activates relationality and conjunctions and it entails a more than human ontological intention. ‘Expanded ’choreography (Cvejić, 2015/ Ingvartsen, 2016/ Ölme, 2017) has been used as a creative imaginary milieu of the articulation of concepts, questions, actions, aesthetics and philosophical thinking. It allows the activation of movement and non-movement, includes human and non- human elements, and develops the manifestation of performative ideas under a contingent creative and critical thinking process.

For the composition of the choreographic practices I have applied two concepts: materialistic attention to the notion of embodiment and ‘bodying’. Barad (2003) refers to ‘embodiment as a matter not of being specifically situated in the world, but rather of being in the world in its dynamic specificity’ (Barad in Ulmer, 2015: 39). Manning, trying to rediscover values in the learning process, materializes the concept of how thought moves independent of the human subject. “…thought is not first in the mind. It is in the bodying… In the ecology of practices… of how thought moves, how it moves us, and how it moves the world” (Manning, 2015: 208). So ‘bodying’ (Manning, 2012) is the action of continuously forming a body.

Materialistic attention to the notion of embodiment can acknowledge that, movement knowledge is not only produced within the human, and also can recognize learning as an embodied, affective, relational understanding (while emphasizing the complex materiality of bodies immersed in social relations of power).
Based on this understanding the practices of the book propose:

  • to be attentive in ‘bodying ’in various situations
  • to acknowledge thoughts as equal parts of the body activity and re-identifying learning through the whole body
  • the idea of an ecological body as a way of constantly becoming and creating knowledge

The pedagogic act in this project was focusing on activating emancipatory potentials between humans. Affirming uncertainties, risks and possibilities within the communication (Biesta, 2004) I applied what Rogoff mentions in the academy as ‘potentiality, actualization and access (Rogoff, 2006). Learners were situated as active creators in the teaching-learning process, which permitted diverse learning processes to occur without predicting the end of the process. This offered a more democratic perspective of participation.

In addition to the concepts of equality, democracy, emancipation, and politics (Biesta, 2004/ Rancière, 2009) between humans, I tried to create spaces to think differently about ourselves (Braidotti, 2018), and the effect of the non-human in the knowledge production system.

Educators from different disciplines of art and science as well as movements, nature, objects, senses, bodies, time, and concepts were the participatory body in this research for two months. Participants shared their critical embodied imagination and different qualities of knowledge generously, with a sensorial emphasis, acknowledging that we may affect matter and that matter also affects us.

Expanded choreography became a method of an open-ended choreo-thinking to set into action the relational learning of the participants as it exposed:

1. The sensorial bodying as a dynamic way of learning
2. Choreography as a very complex, dynamic, pedagogic and socio-material entangled tool that can be transformative and emancipatory for the participants (learners and teachers).
3. Potentiality to infiltrate political, economic and cultural structures for a more sustainable future, raising questions towards sensorial and affective dimensions of being in the current era.

Following a materially informed post-qualitative methodology (MacLure, 2013/ St. Pierre, 1997) the research captured the moving relationship between discursive practices, imagination and material phenomena. The creative analytical process revealed three affective performative spaces. These ‘spaces ’allow the contingent and dynamic relationship between the discursive and the non-discursive, the linguistic and the material, bodies and movement, the epistemological and the ontological, the participants and the readers to disrupt, interrupt, negotiate, negate and co- exist. These are spaces that bring attention to the non-linguistic nature of knowledge that exists within a movement-informed creative learning process and the entwined relationship between humans and non-humans in it. They illustrate the intersection between pedagogy and expanded choreography while keeping data alive (MacLure, 2013: 229).

Fusing participants’ temporalities into a spatial form, offered me a space to imagine a conceptualization of temporality itself; temporalities that “irrupt” (St. Pierre, 1997) into sensations and unfold choreographic spaces. Participants shared choreographic attentive ‘planetary dimensions’ (Braidotti, 2014), and their collective temporality brought a new world.This map below is an assemblage of “heterogeneous components or forces…” (Feely, 2019: 6). It is composed as a ‘space of discourse, fantasy and corporeality ’(Massey, 1999) assembling different material of the participants, driven by wonder (MacLure, 2013) and invites the reader by ‘Departing, Traveling and Arriving’ to bring multiple belongings into the context and generate new temporalities (St. Pierre, 1997).

Digesting this process, expanded choreography in this project can be seen as a dynamic political apparatus to change the way human participants understand ‘the learning body as part of the whole ’(Barad in Ulmer, 2015) and re-evaluate the basic principles of our interactions with nature in times of this urgent ecological crisis (Braidotti, 2013/ 2018).
Due to the pandemic of 2020, the project started with a need for mutation and the actualization of it, took an individualistic focus. The participants never met. They worked individually in their own time and space around Europe. Pierre Bourdieu (1998) refers to mindfulness practices as a structure of learning to turn away from civic responsibility and the cultivation of collective mindfulness.
As the project aimed for collective learning, “The Nomadic School of Moving Thought” keeps on being shared. It continues to embrace uncertainties and permit changes and different ways of activation with its main core suggesting the body as a collective ontological space that functions with care for equal relationships in the world. Please visit this website for further information: https://unpluggeddance.com/workshops-posts/workshop-1.

Photo: @unpluggeddance



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