Back It Up

To what extent can we archive social dance?


For my master's thesis in Media Design at Piet Zwart Institute, I explored documentation and archiving of ephemeral arts, focusing on social dancing. The intangibility of social dances creates a disruptive beauty of pure fulfilment in the moment, a true sense of flow, as well as a yearning for the fleeting memory that may be lost forever. How can we record and archive it to pass down not only the steps but also the culture?

This research is a synthesis of examples and experiments to approach the question: to what extent can we archive social dance? A series of experiments supported by psychological theory, personal graphical approaches and interviews with dancers create a collected view on the matter of documenting social dance and the means in which we could do it.

The publication is divided into three segments. Part one looks at preserved social dances, analyses previous graphical notation systems and suggests how these could be developed. Part two investigates how the brain processes dance with regards to time perception, memory and flow, and how that shapes perception. Finally, part three compares dance to language and discusses what non-verbal communication among social dancers is, and how a difference in perception could harm the process of passing down dance person-to-person.

You can view the digital version here: Karina Dukalska - Back It Up

Printed copies of the publication are available. Please contact me if interested.