Welcome to aea365! Please take a moment to review our new community guidelines. Learn More.

Arts, Culture, and Museums TIG Week: Dance as a Means of Documentation, Exploration, Interpretation and Communication of What and How We Value by Vincent E Thomas and Geri Lynn Peak

This post was originally released on AEA365 in 2023, and was so popular the first time around, it is being reshared from the archives at the request of the Arts, Culture, and MuseumTIG.

I’m Vincent E Thomas, a dancer/choreographer/professor. I move the body as a way to unearth layers of self for deeper understanding of our purpose. This is a throughline that permeates all aspects of my teaching and creative work.

I’m Geri Lynn Peak. I practice evaluation through the lens of spiritual demography creating more durable and useful practices balancing spirit guidance with methods to serve collective transformation. Dance is my ashe, the Yoruba word meaning power, life energy: universal power to bring out words into being.

Photo Credit: Dubscience Photography & Film “The Mamas” from a Baltimore Girls performance at Artscape 2015. Instagram: @mrdubscience. Used with permission.

At Eval2021, Marcel Foster and I presented on a panel together, and someone in the audience asked for more information about movement-inspired evaluation approaches. I had one to offer, inspired by an interactive session led by Vincent. When the call for ACM TIG blogs came out, Marcel invited us to create this conversation. And here we are: a dialog woven asynchronously, as one might improvise solos into a cohesive piece.

VT: There are four core values I introduce in space to aid in movement journeys.

  1. To be full of my value and free of judgment
  2. To be curious about my learning
  3. To acknowledge the many faces, names, bodies, minds, experiences that are in the room and to know that each are valid and valued
  4. To have serious fun!

When I think about the word ‘evaluation’, these core values help in shifting the lens from a somewhat oppressive tool to one that recognizes one’s humanity. It is possible to be free of judgment as we lean into having an analysis, a critical analysis. Shifting the language helps shift the space and the intentions of each person in the space. Can this bring one closer to freeing up the body/mind/energy? Does this allow one to find more honesty in the moving body- unapologetically?

GP: Movement uncouples constrictions imposed by what systems and funders value, liberating community’s responses to become holistically informative and truthful, allowing expansive envisioning and story-sharing. These values provided a container for exploration. Even the shift of body from one poster to another impacts intentions, emotions, as with Social Presencing Theater. Movement expands our vocabulary for analysis.

VT: I have found this approach of grounding the space with these values (used in teaching, choreographing, artistic processes, and community engagement workshops), allows one to work from and embrace a place of truth and freedom to explore, investigate, play in the creative and artistic playground. In the course Movement Enhancement Skills for Men, these four values permeate the space for the group of young males (from various campus disciplines) who welcome and embrace them- freedom to express, freedom to create, freedom to see others and themselves…freedom to simply be. They speak to this in their reflective journal submissions. It is a way of opening up their minds (to think beyond what they know), bodies (to move and create in ways unimagined) and of course, their sense of being in the world (in community with each other and their other community circles). Movement and dance teach how to be in the world, how to imagine and reimagine our place in the world, and how we relate and integrate with others. This is serious fun.

Photo Credit: VTDance; Towson University Repertory for Men, Choreographer- Vincent E Thomas

GP: Dance has always provided a means of documentation, exploration, interpretation and communication of what and how we value. I recognized this in Vincent’s workshop, playfully exploring Love and Forgiveness. Inspired, I experimented with his prompts adapting them to tell community stories. Moving Measures is a tribute to Vincent’s creative ingenuity and the deep knowing that can be unleashed through movement.

Hot Tip:

Vincent circled everyone facing outward, allowing people to move more anonymously, with minimum self-consciousness.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Arts, Culture, and Museums (ACM) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.