Shared creativity in dance

Exploring the roles of flow experience and metacognitive strategies: imagery and sense awareness in group creativity in dance improvisation.

In creativity research, improvisation is seen as a window to understand creativity as a process. Improvisation aims to gives dancers a chance to explore movement beyond habitual patterns and to discover unknown possibilities and bodily solutions. However, the nature of creativity here is very dynamic. The solutions for given problems may occur while listening to the music score, or be discovered through the dance, or even appear later, after the improvisation is finished. Moreover, dancers usually use their bodies and movement as tools to think with, so the ideas come through dancing and dancers think in mostly non-propositional ways. Even though improvisation plays an important role in contemporary dance practice, as a part of a creative process and as a creative product, research in this field is limited and fragmented.

This project focuses on group improvisation as a unique way to understand how, people collaborate together, and new ideas appear from social interaction. It explores the interdependency of individual cognitive strategies; the use of multi-modal imagery and sense awareness; and group processes within collaborative creativity, and the role of flow experience and its individual versus group character is investigated. Although the primary focus of the research is dance, it will also have implications for other collaborative group practices.


Emma Redding; Trinity Laban (TL) Conservatoire of Music & Dance; experimental and observatory studies

Research Fellow
Klara Łucznik

Jon May, John Matthias, Adam Benjamin (Plymouth University), Emma Redding, Scott deLaHunta.

Further Reading
  • De Spain, K. (2014). Landscape of the Now: A Topography of Movement Improvisation. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199988280
  • Hefferon, K. M., & Ollis, S. (2006). “Just clicks”: an interpretive phenomenological analysis of professional dancers’ experience of flow. Research in Dance Education, 7(2), 141–159. DOI:10.1080/14647890601029527
  • Kirsh, D. (2011). Creative cognition in choreography.WEB
  • May, J., Calvo-Merino, B., deLahunta, S., McGregor, W., Cusack, R., Owen, A. M., … Barnard, P. (2011). Points in Mental Space: an Interdisciplinary Study of Imagery in Movement Creation. Dance Research, 29(supplement), 404–432.DOI:10.3366/drs.2011.0026
  • Sawyer, R. K. (2000). Improvisation and the Creative Process: Dewey, Collingwood, and the Aesthetics of Spontaneity. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 58(2), 149.DOI:10.2307/432094
  • Stevens, C., & McKechnie, S. (2005). Thinking in action: thought made visible in contemporary dance. Cognitive Processing, 6(4), 243–252.DOI:10.1007/s10339-005-0014-x