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Photo: Elin Osjord. Performers Kristina Gjems & Sally E Dean.
Photo: Elin Osjord. Performers Kristina Gjems & Sally E Dean.

The Somatic Costume Dressing Room – Choreographing Attention through Touch & the Poetic

PhD Candidate Sally Dean's doctoral project

Academic summary

This research is situated between costume design and costume-based choreography, where material agency and sensorial relationships are under-researched artistically and theoretically.

Referencing the ´anthropology of the senses´, our ocularcentrism western era still prioritises visual, external experiences over the internal, tacit and tactile. This research advocates and interrogates the material and sensorial agency between costumes and bodies and the primacy of the sense of touch in the design-choreographic encounter.

My key research question is: How do we choreograph attention through the touch of Somatic Costumes?

Somatics and my training in Somatic Movement Practices will be the bridge to experiencing, designing and choreographing between costume and body. Choreographing attention begins with attending to the internal, tacit, tactile experiences of the wearer - a somatic approach.

The methodology of ‘Wearing Research’ will be applied to activate material and sensorial agency through exploring the effects of the materials on bodies through different dressing rituals. What is the artistic and performative potential of dressing/undressing? How can the costume become the choreographer?

This research builds upon my ongoing collaborative Somatic Movement, Costume and Performance Project (SMCPP) since 2011, where Somatic Costumes were designed to elicit psychophysical awareness in the wearer starting through the sense of touch or ´haptic´. The SMCPP Project began opening the important need in costume and choreography discourse to further understand the role of the live body and touch in artistic practice and research.

The final artistic outcomes aim to contribute to both costume and choreography discourse and contexts. They will include two key formats: guided one-to-one sessions (The Somatic Costume Dressing Room) and an immersive sensorial costume-based performance to include the audience as ‘wearers’ (Give Them Wings & We Shall See Their Faces). Additional outcomes include at least two peer-reviewed publications, presenting at conferences and a practical handbook for costume designers/choreographers.

Project facts

Project title The Somatic Costume Dressing Room – Choreographing Attention through Touch & the Poetic
Project manager Sally Elizabeth Dean
Oslo National Academy of the Arts
Start date
End date
Project status Concluded
Department Design

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