Somatics, creativity, and choreography: creative cognition in somatics-based contemporary dance

  • Rebecca Weber

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This doctoral thesis will comprise an in-depth, multidisciplinary and mixed methods research project examining creativity in Somatics-based choreographic practices. The project draws on methodologies from phenomenology, ethnography, close reading, grounded theory, and thematic analysis. It involved data collected from three well-known Somatics practitioners who embody a professional hybridity as artists, authors, and Somatic Movement Educators—Sandra Reeve, Andrea Olsen, and Miranda Tufnell—and who each use their somatic practice as instrumental in their choreography. Each practitioner utilises different Somatics modalities (Move into Life, Authentic Movement, Embodied Anatomy, Alexander Technique, among others) in various settings (higher education, community arts, professional practice, etc.), which provides an international (US and UK) and cross modality scope to examine shared ideologies within Somatics. Data was collected in a semi-structured, open-ended interview process, participant observation of workshops and intensives delivered by the artists, and a close reading of their published texts. It was analysed for emergent shared themes. I posit that these themes identify connections between the identification, definition, and facilitation of creativity within Somatics-based choreographic practice and cognitive psychological theories of creativity. I identify shared elements of the pedagogical environment and argue that they facilitate the development of a refined perceptual ability. This perceptual expertise is presented as a change-agent in facilitating both novelty in movement generation and the generation of meaning, allowing for a discerning, selective retention of this movement material in giving form to that meaning choreographically. Situating the processes within the Interacting Cognitive Subsystems model and theories of embodied cognition, I then propose a philosophical audit-trace of the ways in which this meaning and expertise is developed cognitively in somatic practices, and how that expertise may allow for novelty and creativity in choreography. The research closes with a discussion of implications of my proposal, how understanding these pathways might be instrumental in shaping dance pedagogy to facilitate dancers’ creativity, and what directions this theory produces for future research.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor) & Sara Reed (Supervisor)

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