WP322 Problematic crossplay: Navigating moments of deviation in a voluntary community of practice

Smart
2024

Abstract

The amateur arts form an important part of the UK’s cultural landscape, with a substantial number of people involved in ‘over 60,000 participant-driven, self-governed amateur arts groups’ (Milling et al, 2014, p.4). These voluntary, part-time groups often draw together participants with a wide range of different skill and ability levels, yet are frequently able to successfully consolidate this mixed ability membership into coherent productions such as shows and performances. How is this challenging feat achieved across the day-to-day running and rehearsing of these groups? Taking an amateur dance company, Richmond Ballet, as a case study, this paper adopts a multi-scalar approach. It first theorises Richmond Ballet as a Community of Practice (CoP) and then addresses what is often identified as a weakness in the CoP model, its overemphasis on harmonious relations. Drawing upon ethnographic participant observation, the paper identifies an episode of crossplay in which a member who should be rehearsing on the dance floor engages with two others sitting at the side. This has the potential to derail the rehearsal and disrupt the group’s voluntary ethos, but the paper draws on multi-modal Conversation Analysis (MMCA) to reveal the intricately coordinated actions with which these risks are circumvented.  Moments like these are likely to occur right across the spectrum of the amateur arts, but the ways in which they are managed are often too subtle and fleeting for other social science methods to grasp. Overall, the paper presents that the combination of ethnography and MMCA as an important resource for advancing CoP research and appreciating social dynamics in the amateur arts.