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Ilya Vidrin (Northeastern University)

Ilya Vidrin

Ilya Vidrin
Image Credit: Ilya Vidrin

Fellow in Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"

December 2023

Partnering Taxonomies: An Ethics of Physical Interaction

Given the plurality of practices and traditions, dance poses a sort of problem for people interested in shared activity. How we view dance matters; as a form of entertainment, as religious and/or spiritual practice; as reflective, somatic practice; the possibilities go on. While certain approaches may overlap, there may also be implicit competing values that contribute to ideas of rightness and wrongness. Each form of dance has its own set of normative commitments—these are what distinguish one practice from another. Indeed, each form of dance partnering involves visual and kinesthetic markers that guide reasoning about what people see (as observers) and feel (as participants). There may be multiple social imaginaries vying for the same space, and it is certainly possible to draw on and from multiple imaginaries at the same time. Yet how can we respectfully and ethically choose and discern between competing social imaginaries? By focusing on the role of reasoning and understanding, I believe we stand to gain a clearer picture of how expectations about interactions inform the dynamics between partners. This, in turn, affords a picture of what partners can actually achieve in and through their connection. I am particularly interested in considering what features of interaction are necessary for maximising the affordances of the partnership. I say this not as a utilitarian interested in maximising good simpliciter, but as a social epistemologist thinking about the contingent goods that are present in relation (e.g. care). The epistemic orientation assumes that there are things that are knowable in dancing together, while the ethical orientation assumes that partners are responsible for the things they ought to know.

Dr. Ilya Vidrin is Assistant Professor of Creative Practice Research and core faculty at the Institute for Experiential Robotics at Northeastern University (Boston, USA). Born into a refugee family in the United States, Ilya’s work engages with and investigates ethics of interaction, including the embodiment of care, trust, cultural competence and social responsibility. As an interdisciplinary research-practitioner, Ilya’s research draws on concepts and methods in social epistemology, performance philosophy, ethics of care and cognitive psychology. Ilya has been featured as one of Dance Magazine’s "25 to Watch" (2022) with close collaborator Jessi Stegall, and has been an artist-in-residence at the BallettxSchwerin (Germany), MIT Media Lab, Harvard ArtLab, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, North Atlantic Ballet, Ballet Des Moines, Jacob’s Pillow, the National Parks Service, The Walnut Hill School, Interlochen Arts Academy, Boston Center for the Arts, Le Laboratoire, Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and New Museum (NYC).