Reality is, not a lot of people regard dance as a significant source of knowledge or a tool for information management and evaluation. The concentration of dance, or performing arts, has always been more on achieving a work of art that would be staged for entertainment, or to communicate narratives that were easier to digest if they were converted into performance pieces. It is not often associated with academic research (at least not in a similar tenure as other more recognized disciplines), and as for research works about dance, readership is usually evident within the performing arts sector.
Many years ago, I was applying for a position in an NGO and I could still remember overhearing the conversation of the individuals who were reviewing my resume. "What is she going to do for us---dance? She should just stick to the stage." Then the sad part came thereafter --- laughter. I did not get the job. What was even more heartbreaking, many years after, I encountered the same discouragement but this time with my fellow dance colleagues. I was conducting my research in Sierra Leone and was investigating the role of ICH (intangible cultural heritage involving dance, rituals, movement) while incorporating ICH evaluation tools in understanding the chain of transmission of the Ebola virus. Many did not see the connection of dance, nor of ICH, in the humanitarian response like an Ebola outbreak. Nor did they believe in the capacity of anthropological engagement in mapping out the relationship of the Ebola virus and funeral ceremonies through dance movement notation. The amount of skepticism that came my way was more than enough to send me packing. My own colleagues did not see the significance of ICH in a very scientific setting such as an epidemic. This eventually changed later on.
But here was where the problem was - in the labels and borders that were created, in the boxed factions that people fostered and followed. Performers need to stick to the stage, doctors belong in the medical field, artists are not scientists, dancers are not equipped to be humanitarians, women cannot be carpenters, amongst others. You are expected to have both feet in one type of course and to dabble in two or three courses is just simply out of the question.
We all had the tendency to limit our potential (and others' as well). By doing so, we forget that street theater or performance art is quite similar to lobbying and advocacy where socio-cultural issues are taken to a more creative platform. We forget that a visual artist who uses soil as a medium for her artworks analyzes the soil just like how a pedologist investigates the soil's morphology and influence on living and non-living things. We forget the expansive benefit that art (of any form) brought into the world of health and therapy. Or let us mention the much-neglected example - the teacher. We forget that the teacher does not simply teach but also acts, sings, directs, counsels, consoles, manages, etc.
The point - we should not fall into the trap of confining ourselves in boxes, of disregarding the overlapping possibilities of varied disciplines and their contribution to the changes in our communities. The world is changing and we are all growing. For me, I do not like the idea of wearing one hat. I am not just a dancer. I may have started out as a dancer but I am a dancer amongst many things.
It remains a challenge to continue educating individuals about the expanding boundaries of dance and its overlapping role on other disciplines but these days, more and more dance advocates like myself are taking bolder strides to share the potential of dance and its principles. (And for that, I am happy and hopeful.)