Creativity & Cultural Labour, Digital Culture, Emerging Voices

Trans-Disciplinary Fieldwork and Post-Fieldwork at CMCI

Camilo Sol Inti Soler Caicedo

When I mention that I do research on dance, I am always pleased to see faces of interest, curiosity and intrigue. What is even more enthralling for me, and seemingly for those who listen to my doctoral accounts until the end, is the diversity of approaches I used during fieldwork and the outcomes brought about by this. I had the opportunity to interview 19 Colombian Salsa dancers and promoters, in both Bogota and London, and discussed with them several subjects around the strategies that they use to make a living out of almost solely their bodies in an extremely informal and precarious industry. Many of these accounts were not only enriching but surprising as they challenged the assumptions I had as a professional dancer of the style and showed how differently the practitioners’ views are. While some focused on how to create performances that pay homage to their trans-national and post-colonial identities, others aimed to tackle the feelings of disconnection and isolation that are so recurrent in modern cities, and others even lured international audiences through the ambiguous attractiveness of the imagined illicitness and danger of Colombian cities like Bogota.

Camilo Sol Inti Soler Caicedo’s presentation at the CMCI Emerging Voices Conference 2019 @Elena Terranova

With several of them, I also had the opportunity to record their salsa classes to then carry out video-elicited interviews, in which we would sit down together and discuss fascinating, yet often concealed beyond conscious recalling, micro-situations happening on an average salsa class. By delving into these unconscious and fleeting interactions on the dancefloor, I was impressed by the intense emotional display, and the ability of dance instructors to acknowledge and effectively deal with all these emotions while being only barely conscious of it!

Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of my research in CMCI, my findings on the field have taken me in different directions. Even from the early stages, many dancers were able to connect through me, develop and cross-fertilise their business/teaching strategies just by communicating their diverse approaches. While analysing my data, I was also increasingly made aware that one of the biggest problems of the industry orbits around the absence of working standards and unionisation. Thanks to this I have got to know many inspiring and interesting people working on similar issues not uncommon in other dance styles like commercial. Additionally, and partially inspired by my teaching role at the Department of Digital Humanities, I developed an interesting practice-oriented idea of developing “An Uber for Dancers”, which was presented at CMCI Emerging Voices and is currently work in progress in academic, pragmatic, and ethical terms.  Finally, beyond the PhD, my project might present a detailed and accurate landscape, and kinetoscape, of the practice of popular dance, which can be applied both in terms of formalisation of the practice and empowerment of its practitioners.