The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of the nature versus nurture debate relating to dancers’ behaviors. This debate discusses whether human behavior is influenced more by the surrounding environment throughout one’s life, or their genes. In the efforts of my study, I will focus on the ideas of conformity and obedience. I plan to recognize the natural reactions as well as the influenced decisions of dancers using these themes as they navigate their way through the current Covid-19 pandemic.
By definition, obedience is obeying someone of a higher status and relies on a social power. Whereas conformity is moving along with those of equal status and depends on the need to feel socially accepted. I plan to incorporate both of these concepts to determine the effects on dancers during the Covid-19 circumstances, and how Covid-19 potentially acts as a form of authority by generating vigilance or even fear, compared to a motivator of more empathy and care. At the University of Florida, the School of Theatre and Dance have created protocols to ease the minds of both students and staff members. I believe that these unnatural, but necessary norms bring out and challenge the obedience that we innately hold as humans. For instance, dancing in boxes that are taped on the floor to ensure six feet of distance or wearing masks that not only cover half of our faces, but also prevent our breath and expressions. Though many answers can be placed into the two camps of nature or nurture, research into epigenetics—the study of heritable changes in gene expression due to environmental factors—establishes the argument that your genes’ functions are more important than the specific genes you possess. This essentially also proposes the idea that epigenetic changes do not change your DNA sequence, but they can alter how your body reads a DNA sequence. Many of these everchanging factors like stress, diet and physical activity influence genes and which ones are essentially turned on and off.
To pursue this study, I plan to interview and further read into studies that have been previously done regarding obedience and conformity. For my investigation, I would like to have a group of volunteers that will allow me to collect data on these dancers. One of my main goals is to identify what breaks the psychological restraint that these protocols have established and enable a sense of freedom using dance. I believe that conformity could be a possible reason as to why dancers act one way compared to another while in the studio, for reasons such as lacking a live audience, physical distance, and so on. I want to choreograph a dance as a part of my research and use the process as a lab to discover the boundaries that our instinctive obedience and conformity create for dancers. For this piece, I will explore the cause and effect relationship between the dancers as they are withheld from lots of physical contact. This notion challenges the dancers as they must create a relationship beyond touch, inviting creative thinking and problem-solving into the space.
Overall, I plan to engage a study on how Covid-19 affects dancers mentally and physically. This insight will come from the ideas of obedience and conformity that result from an unestablished authority under Covid-19 protocols. In my study, I will utilize surveys along with other anonymous methods to understand psychological affects related to epigenetics and the nature versus nurture debate.