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Neurocognition and Dance
Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant

Supported by the Australian Research Council Linkage Project scheme, ADT is collaborating with an international team of researchers on a new research project “Thinking Brains and Bodies: Distributed Cognition and Dynamic Memory in Australian Dance Theatre”.

Researchers come from a range of academic disciplines – Psychology, Dance, Anthropology, Cognitive Science and Cognitive Neuroscience – in an interdisciplinary effort to investigate and understand thinking in dance.

The three-year research project is motivated by dance offering a multifocal lens on human cognition and thinking. Processes such as creative thinking and innovation, social and group influences on improvisation and memory, the coupling of perception and action, embodied cognition, motor control and sequence learning will be explored. Interdisciplinary research, in turn, offers dance artists, choreographers and audiences new expressions and methods for thinking about dance, communication and cognition. The project uses a range of investigative techniques – longitudinal, neuroscientific, and ethnographic – inspired by “Dance Engaging Science” and MOTION BANK supported by The Forsythe Company and Volkswagen Stiftung.

The “Thinking Brains and Bodies” research project commenced with a workshop at ADT in Adelaide, February 27-28, 2014. Facilitated by Scott deLahunta from MOTION BANK, the ADT company, artistic directors and research team met and discussed studio and research processes.  Cognitive interviews and focus groups were conducted and future experiments sketched. A hallmark of the project will be close collaboration between researchers and ADT members in the design and planning of the research studies.

Broadly speaking, the aim of five empirical studies is to investigate the nature of distributed and dynamic thinking in dance by investigating creative processes, memory, and expertise.

A research forum is planned for late 2014/early 2015 and results of studies, as they are written up, will be made available.

 The research team:

  • Professor Kate Stevens, The MARCS Institute & School of Social Sciences & Psychology, University of Western Sydney
  • Professor Kim Vincs, Deakin motion.lab, Deakin University
  • Professor James Leach, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Mike Nicholls, School of Psychology, Flinders University
  • Elizabeth Old, Associate Artistic Director, ADT
  • Dr Scott deLahunta, MotionBank and Coventry University
  • Professor David Kirsh, Interactive Cognition Lab, University of California at San Diego

More information about the research project may be obtained from Project leader Prof Kate Stevens: +612 9772 6324 or kj.stevens@uws.edu.au.

Adelaide Festival of Ideas

In 2016 as part of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas a discussion forum “Thinking Brains & Bodies” featured in the program. The researchers and ADT dancers presented the outcomes from the final stage of this fascinating research topic.

Listen to the session here.