A conversation about choreographic thinking tools

Scott DeLahunta, Gill Clarke, Phil Barnard

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    This article aims to draw the reader into an interdisciplinary conversation between the co-authors about the use of imagery in dance creation placed under very different disciplinary lenses. The conversation has two points of departure. First, for nearly a decade the choreographer Wayne McGregor has engaged in an interdisciplinary collaborative research with cognitive scientists with the aim to develop new understandings of the choreographic process. A large percentage of this research has focused on imagery in creativity and has resulted in the development of the Choreographic Thinking Tools, currently in use by McGregor and his dance company. One third of this article is dedicated to a description of these developments combined with figures that illustrate the scientific theory lying behind them. The second point of departure and second third of this article brings these ideas into conjunction with somatic practices, as reflected in the writing of an expert practitioner invited to introduce somatics to McGregor’s dance company in the framework of the Choreographic Thinking Tools. The final section that concludes the article reintroduces scientific theory with the goal to articulate some of the contrasts and overlaps between the different approaches represented in this conversation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-259
    JournalJournal of Dance & Somatic Practices
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Author's note: - The journal article is an outcome of a conference presentation at the International Dance and Somatics Practices Conference organised by Coventry University in July 2011. The article confronts long established creative practice and know-how in dance with fresh concepts derived from an original collaboration with cognitive science. It builds on the earlier work written about in "Augmenting Choreography: Insights and inspiration from science” and directly reports on research undertaken into the wider applicability of choreographic tools developed for an individual artist. Several practice-based projects including the development of a Choreographic Thinking Tools Workbook for dance teachers in schools and a research partnership with Trinity Laban vocation dance school are underpinned by the work that has informed this journal article.


    • somatics
    • choreography
    • cognitive science
    • imagery
    • creativity
    • dance


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