Looking at Pictures as Illustration in Dance History Texts

By Anna Mouat.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Some scholars argue that art works should not be used to illustrate the history of the performing arts. Historic works of art, they contend, should be treated seriously as autonomous, visual documents, not relegated to the role of ancillary, decorative appendages. However, one picture has many uses. Art History legitimately studies visual images from their own perspective; whereas, historians of live performance generally view pictures not as primary objects of study, but as evidence that illustrates performing arts practices of bygone eras. Illustration, by its very nature, is a derivative art form, but nonetheless valid as an appendage to the written or spoken text it exemplifies. Using historic works of art as ancillary illustration does not trivialize the work of art, but merely puts it to another use. Indeed, research demonstrates that students prefer texts with images, because their learning experience is more vivid and engaging. In addition, text-redundant images lead to greater comprehension and recall. Research also demonstrates that there are specific conditions in which the use of visual illustration enhances learning, and others in which images can be irrelevant to, or even interfere with, the learning experience. In response to the issues raised above, this presentation will address the use of historic works of art as illustration in the teaching of Dance History and examine the specific pedagogical conditions which optimize visually rich presentation.

Keywords: Dance History Text Illustration, Pictures, Optimized Visually Rich Presentation, Art as Illustration, Dance History

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.39-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 547.809KB).

Anna Mouat

Associate Professor, Program of Dance, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Anna Mouat, Associate Professor of Dance, trained at the Royal Ballet School, England, and danced professionally with the Paula Ross Contemporary Dance Company. She holds a B.A. in English Language, and an MFA in Modern Dance. She served as Director of the Dance Program at Cleveland State University, and since 1988 has been on faculty in the Dance Program at the University of Calgary. Her writings have appeared in Dance Connection, Dance Current, and the Calgary Herald, as well as in books and periodicals. Her research interests include dance history iconography, verbally abusive teaching practices in ballet, the kinesthetic sense, and writing dance books for children.

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