Human perception is defined as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something”. In the context of an audience perception, Katherine Profeta in Dramaturgy In Motion, explains perception as something based on what an audience member already knows and recognizes, arguing that, “we need to have a learnt what a glass is first before we see the glass sitting on the table and pick it up.”
According to philosopher Alva Noe’s theory, “everything that we see is relative to what we expect to see, or what we know, what we think we’re going to see.” In this sense, an audience member’s reception of an art form is limited to their existing knowledge, experiences, associations and expectations, and are therefore unable to imbibe anything ‘new’. Noe expands on this idea through the quotation, “It’s easy to write a good song. You choose a melody that everybody recognizes but no one has heard before.” In other words, an audience’s experience of something different is only possible within the context of familiarity, and even an artist requires the familiar as a pretext to create the new. This two-fold relationship between association and innovation has come to be known as the ‘paradox of novelty’.
I find the role of perception in adding value and meaning to an art form, both for the audience and artist, especially crucial to our understanding of the development and reception of dance. In terms of the development of a dance, Aakash Odedra’s explanation of the relationship of Kathak and Bharatanatyam (which he equated as his mother and father in dance) to his current contemporary dance style, reinforces this idea of retaining an element of the old in order to create something unique. He shared, “anybody could have choreographed a contemporary piece with Turkish dancers. What made it unique was my training in Indian Classical Dance.” Looking ahead at our trip to Greece, I believe this understanding of perception will be pivotal to our interaction with the refugee camp inhabitants. We will be coming in with a newness for the inhabitants, both in terms of our dance choreography and our presence as visitors. In order to communicate with them effectively and with empathy, we must embrace openness and attempt to establish an element of familiarity (e.g. Greek greeting, familiar gesture etc.) – this in turn will encourage them to be more receptive to the new.
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition "Perception." Accessed 6 Jan 2018. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/perception. Profeta, Katherine. 2015. Dramaturgy in Motion: At Work on Dance and Movement Performance. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press,