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On the Origins of Theater


Mirosław Kocur

This book presents an interdisciplinary investigation into the emergence of the actor and theater. Scholarship helps us to realize how we have evolved to who we are today and to understand the transformative power of performance. The author proposes to boost and advance theater studies by reviewing new research in anthropology, archaeology, paleoanthropology, classics, ethnography, physics, cognitive science, neuroscience, theater anthropology and performance studies. Referring to his fieldwork in Bali and Tibet, and to his professional experience in theater, the author explains the role of bipedality, toolmaking and trance in the evolution of the performer, examines the performativity of space and writing, and argues that ancient culture emerged from dance.
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Chapter 5: Dance as a Source of Drama


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Chapter 5:  Dance as a Source of Drama

Every long-distance runner can be recognized as an archetypical dancer. As a result of evolution, the human body developed for endurance running. Thus, movement is the most natural way of exploiting all our potential. In the brain, the motor centers overlap with the cognitive ones. Body activity incites intellectual activity. The use of complex tools fostered the emergence of language (Stout et al. 2009). Genealogically speaking, human dance preceded culture and made it possible.

A good dancer had a brain that was trained in construing complicated structures, including semantic ones. From a neurological perspective, dance constitutes a complex, multi-dimensional logistic problem. The basal ganglia play an important role in coordinating rhythmic body movement (Brown et al. 2006), and, thus, the same part of the brain that participates in coordinating the face muscles when one uses one’s voice (Lieberman 2013). There, too, the “speech gene” FOXP-2 is located, which I discussed earlier in Chapter 1 (“On the Origin of the Performer”). Did dance stimulate the emergence of speech?

Scholars and scientists who oppose the domination of neuro-science, especially in its present, still initial state of development, also recognize the fundamental functions of dance, although rather as an effective metaphor. The Californian philosopher Alva Noë, whom I have already mentioned in Chapter 1, in the title of his second book refers to moving Out of Our Heads. He insists: You are not your brain...

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