'The dancing body embodies its own form of knowledge'
Suzan Tunca was the first dancer to receive her PhD from PhDArts at Leiden University. Her work focuses on the relationship between the physical and metaphysical. 'It took a while to find the right tone and language for this.'
Doing a PhD at ACPA means not only writing a traditional dissertation, but also creating an artistic work that explores the same question. In Suzan Tunca's case, alongside her scientific work, this resulted in a dance performance in which she explores the relationship between the physical and the metaphysical. 'I wanted to formulate an alternative to the dualism between mind and body,' she explains. 'I do that by considering the physical as intrinsically linked to the metaphysical. The latter can also be called mind, spirit or soul, depending on the domain of knowledge you engage with from the dance experience.'
In particular, this 'metaphysical' can be experienced intuitively, which makes dance an interesting medium for exploring it. 'The dancing body can reveal new perspectives on the relationship between the body and the mind or soul,' says Tunca. 'My performance SEI therefore focused on how the dancing body can be a creative interface between these two domains.'
'Mediator between mind and matter'
For scientific reflection on this question, Tunca relied on a hypothesis by Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. 'They argue that there would be a kind of “background reality” that is neither physical nor mental,' she says. 'This world makes itself known sometimes through the mind, and at other times through matter, but can also be a mediator between the mental and the physical, while at the same time transcending that role.'
In that theory, body and mind are no longer completely separate, but rather form a continuum of knowledge. 'For example, you can think of thoughts as a very subtle form of materiality, while the body represents a very dense materiality. I explored the conditions for attuning the dancing body to that underlying world.' Dance thus provides a means to arrive at a form of knowledge that cannot be reached in other ways.
Further developing artistic research and passing it on to trainee dancers
Now that her research is complete, Tunca is focusing on her jobs as head of the Academy of ICK Dans Amsterdam and teacher at Codarts. 'My PhD was a personal quest, but research should of course always be able to speak to more people. I hope I have been able to create a meeting space for further dialogue with the practices and thinking of other artists and academics, and to encourage artists to carry out in-depth research in and through artistic practice. I hope in this way to contribute to making indispensable importance of the arts to society clear from different perspectives.'
'With young dancers, I’m going to continue to help them develop artistic research in and through the dancing body towards a meaningful embodied vision of dance, in preparation for professional practice. I would also like to lay a foundation in dance education for young people to see their own bodies not only as dancing bodies, but also as bearers of an epistemological potential that embodies its own forms of knowledge.'