In the beginning of my academic career, it was my personal experience of dance practice that provided a direct impulse for studying the phenomenon of dance as art from a philosophical perspective. It was that same experience that drew my attention to the concept of aesthetic engagement proposed by Arnold Berleant. His theory, in my view, captures the fundamental aspects of dance in a unique way.[1] That early study led me to develop and promote the aesthetics of sensitivity, which in turn created a basis for the appreciation of dance as a practice that is inseparable from life.[2] Many problems explored by Berleant – such as the inseparability of perception from action, appreciation of the living and sensing body, and understanding of the space as relational and dependent on the body’s motion – can also be found in the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. His arguments, in my opinion, help explain factors in modern dance such as somatic engagement in the process of its perception or the performative character of an event that is inseparable from its broadly construed context or the environment in which it occurs.

In the course of his academic career, Arnold Berleant has frequently referred to Merleau-Ponty’s thought and, inspired by the latter’s works, employed,, in his own reflection, notions such as those of chiasm, of the flesh of the world, or of the body as a field of forces – which he also used in reference to dance.[3] He has been most acutely sensitive, however, to the remnants of dualistic thinking present in terminology like that of “the interior” and “the exterior,” which he found even in Merleau-Ponty’s work.[4]

This article is a proposal for one of many possible ways of re-interpreting Berleant’s concept of dance as a practice in which elements of an existential nature are tightly connected with aesthetic, cognitive, or environmental ones. In this text, space in dance is not construed as something external to the body but as something emanating from its movement, merging with broadly understood surroundings, and becoming an embodiment of our being in the world.

Included in

Aesthetics Commons



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