The Art and Science of Partnering

As a social epistemologist rooted in feminist ethics and moral psychology, my scholarly research focuses on the concept of partnering. I am particularly interested in the interplay of ethics and physics within human interaction. I seek to understand the pursuit and realization of morally-tinged intentions through codified and improvisational movement practices. I study basic elements of interaction, including touch, gaze, gesture, relative position, and proximity in relation to underlying ethics like consent, care, trust, and discretionary power. I focus on how partners negotiate shared action by considering what kind of goals partners strive for (spiritual, aesthetic, cultural, moral), as well as what kind of methods of evaluation they employ from within practice (by partners themselves) and outside of their practice (by educators, therapists, coaches, etc.).

This work lives at the Partnering Lab, an applied research initiative that investigates the complexity of physical interaction across disciplines. The lab conducts formal and practice-based research on ethical physical interaction, using specialized wearable technology for kinesthetic motion captureMy primary research interests in technology focus on illuminating the complexities of physical interaction. I have been drawn to ways in which technology can reveal nuances in power dynamics, implicit biases, and unseen boundaries of non-verbal communication. This work has led to collaborations with a range of technologists, engineers, clinicians, and roboticists, to challenge what is measurable and what is lost when reducing the possibilities of physical experience. Our technology has been used in lecture-demonstrations and performance, where sensors worn by dancers capture and render salient subtle elements of movement, including relative position (infrared proximity, gyroscopic orientation), acceleration, intensity and duration of pressure, and muscular activation (EMG). Movement data is synthesized into a notational system which can be read by live musicians, as well as trigger live and pre-recorded sound samples.

My approach to partnering was developed through dance training in ballroom, Argentine Tango, ballet, contact improvisation, and contemporary styles, as well as practice-based research residencies at Jacob's Pillow, Centre for Dance ResearchNYU Center for Ballet and the Arts (in collaboration with Argentinian Tango dancer, Valeria Solomonoff), Harvard ArtLab, and with professional dancers from companies including the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, The Cambrians, Chicago Hubbard Street, Boston Ballet, and The Royal Swedish Ballet. This work also emerges from controlled studies in academic spaces (Harvard, MIT, University of Illinois-Urbana, Coventry University), as well as clinical settings in hospitals and outpatient centers. 

My teaching method prioritizes ethical social practice. I have developed an approach called Somatic Partnering, which offers tools for dialogue by fusing theory and physical practice. The training model is tailored for different audiences, from performing artists in dance and music, to medical practitioners, educators, and corporate professionals. Somatic Partnering also serves as a professional development for those whose practice involves collaborative decision-making.