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Thinking with the Body


Abstract and Figures

To explore the question of physical thinking – using the body as an instrument of cognition – we collected extensive video and interview data on the creative process of a noted choreographer and his company as they made a new dance. A striking case of physical thinking is found in the phenomenon of marking. Marking refers to dancing a phrase in a less than complete manner. Dancers mark to save energy. But they also mark to explore the tempo of a phrase, or its movement sequence, or the intention behind it. Because of its representational nature, marking can serve as a vehicle for thought. Importantly, this vehicle is less complex than the version of the same phrase danced 'full-out'. After providing evidence for distinguishing different types of marking, three ways of understanding marking as a form of thought are considered: marking as a gestural language for encoding aspects of a target movement, marking as a method of priming neural systems involved in the target movement, and marking as a method for improving the precision of mentally projecting aspects of the target.
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Thinking with the Body
David Kirsh (
Dept of Cognitive Science
University of California, San Diego
To explore the question of physical thinking using the body
as an instrument of cognition we collected extensive video
and interview data on the creative process of a noted
choreographer and his company as they made a new dance. A
striking case of physical thinking is found in the phenomenon
of marking. Marking refers to dancing a phrase in a less than
complete manner. Dancers mark to save energy. But they
also mark to explore the tempo of a phrase, or its movement
sequence, or the intention behind it. Because of its
representational nature, marking can serve as a vehicle for
thought. Importantly, this vehicle is less complex than the
version of the same phrase danced ‘full-out’. After providing
evidence for distinguishing different types of marking, three
ways of understanding marking as a form of thought are
considered: marking as a gestural language for encoding
aspects of a target movement, marking as a method of
priming neural systems involved in the target movement, and
marking as a method for improving the precision of mentally
projecting aspects of the target.
Keywords: Marking; multimodality; thinking, embodied
cognition, ethnography.
1. Introduction
This paper explores how dancers and choreographers use
their bodies to think about dance phrases. My specific focus
is a technique called ‘marking’. Marking refers to dancing a
phrase in a less than complete manner. See fig. 1 for an
example of hand marking, a form that is far smaller than the
more typical method of marking that involves modeling a
phrase with the whole body. Marking is part of the practice
of dance, pervasive in all phases of creation, practice,
rehearsal, and reflection. Virtually all English speaking
dancers know the term, though few, if any, scholarly articles
exist that describe the process or give instructions on how to
do it.1
When dancers mark a phrase, they use their body’s
movement and form as a representational vehicle. They do
not recreate the full dance phrase they normally perform;
instead, they create a simplified or abstracted version a
model. Dancers mark to save energy, to avoid strenuous
movement such as jumps, and sometimes to review or
explore specific aspects of a phrase, such as tempo,
movement sequence, or underlying intention, without the
mental complexity involved in creating the phrase ‘full-out’.
Marking is not the only way dancers ‘mentally’
explore phrases. Many imagine themselves performing a
phrase. Some of the professional dancers we studied
reported visualizing their phrase in bed before going to
1 Search by professional librarians of dance in the UK and US
has yet to turn up scholarly articles on the practice of marking.
sleep, others reporting mentally reviewing their phrases
while traveling on the tube on their way home. Our
evidence suggests that marking, however, gives more
insight than mental rehearsal: by physically executing a
synoptic version of the whole phrase by creating a
simplified version externally dancers are able to
understand the shape, dynamics, emotion, and spatial
elements of a phrase better than through imagination alone.
They use marking as an anchor and vehicle for thought. It is
this idea that a body in motion can serve as an anchor and
vehicle of thought that is explored in this paper.
It is a highly general claim. It has been said that
gesture can facilitate thought, [Golden Meadow 05]; that
physically simulating a process can help a thinker
understand a process [Collins et al 91], and that mental
rehearsal is improved by overt physical movement.
[Coffman 90] Why? What extra can physical action or
physical structure offer to imagination? The answer, I
suggest, is that creating an external structure connected to a
thought whether that external structure be a gesture, dance
form, or linguistic structure is part of an interactive
strategy of bootstrapping thought by providing an anchor for
mental projection. [Hutchins, 05, Kirsh 09, 10]. Marking a
phrase provides the scaffold to mentally project more
detailed structure than could otherwise be held in mind. It is
part of an interactive strategy for augmenting cognition. By
marking, dancers harness their bodies to drive thought
deeper than through mental simulation and unaided thinking
Hand Marking
Fig 1a
Fig 1b
In Fig 1a an Irish river dancer is caught in mid move.
In 1b, the same move is marked using just the hands.
River dancing is a type of step dancing where the
arms are keep still. Typically, river dancers mark
steps and positions using one hand for the movement
and the other for the floor. Most marking involves
modeling phrases with the whole body, and not just
the hands.
Kirsh, D. Thinking with the Body, in (eds) S. Ohlsson R. Catrambone Proceedings of
the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX: Cognitive
Science Society. Pp 2864-2869: 2010.
2. Methodology
To explore the role of physical activity in dance cognition
we were fortunate to study the creation of a new dance piece
by the noted choreographer Wayne McGregor, the resident
choreographer of the Royal Ballet in London. WM created
the dance we studied with his own company, Random
Dance, a group of ten extremely talented dancers. An
eleventh dancer from a different company in Europe joined
the group for the first period of dance creation.
The dance company’s process of creation occurred
in two phases: a three week episode at the University of
California, San Diego (UCSD) in the winter of 2009; and a
second period in London, in the late summer of 2009, just
preceding the official première at Sadler’s Wells Theater.
Method: During each phase, written notes were taken in
real-time. During the UCSD phase, fifteen students took
notes; during the London phase, a single experienced
ethnographer took notes. Both phases, UCSD & London,
were exhaustively videotaped using five high definition
video cameras placed on the walls, and, whenever possible,
two standard video cameras were placed on the ceiling. The
whole rehearsing process, 11AM to 5PM, five to six days a
week was captured. Video footage exceeds 110 hours
(times 5-6 cameras) and captures all scheduled interactions
between choreographer and dancers during the dance
making process.
Cognitive ethnography requires acquiring a detailed
knowledge of a community of practice, and then using that
knowledge to illuminate specific episodes of activity.
[Williams 06]. To acquire knowledge of the community of
practice we interviewed the choreographer as well as the
dancers repeatedly. We also reviewed all notebooks, and
used our interviews as an opportunity to discuss specific
moments of creative activity. The choreographer was
interviewed for between forty and sixty minutes on digital
video each morning and night. The dancers were
interviewed at the end of each rehearsal, Our aim with the
dancers was to have them reflect on specific elements of the
rehearsal that day, and wherever possible, to show us
through movement the dancerly decisions they made. Four
dancers were selected and interviewed for thirty minutes
each day. About 70 hours of interviews, in total, were
To code the video we used ELAN, a free software
system developed by the Max Planck Institute for
Psycholinguistics, designed originally for studying gesture
and small-scale interactions. Systematic audiovisual
analysis depends on having a well-defined vocabulary of
coding a classification of activity and phenomena. After a
few days of ad hoc coding a formal vocabulary was
established by the whole team (20 people) to characterize
ongoing activity. After the UCSD phase of capture, we
reviewed the video data and selected special phenomena,
such as marking for more detailed coding. In the London
phase, we interviewed dancers explicitly about marking to
probe them on their own views about marking. These
interviews were undertaken in addition to the normal 30
minute ones we conducted. In several such sessions, we had
the dancers come before the camera and dance in full a
phrase they knew well; we then asked them to show us
several ways they might mark that same phrase, and to
describe the reasons they would mark one way versus
another. We also interviewed them in a less structured
manner, often returning to the question: When do you
mark, and how?” which led to multiple follow up questions
and nuances of speech, as well as spontaneous performances
from the dancers. The videotaped answers, with the
corresponding gestures and markings, were transcribed and
analyzed in detail with ELAN. On this basis, we created a
hierarchical taxonomy of marking, yielding the three parent
groups reported below. Intercoder reliability in
distinguishing these parent marking types exceeded .9, on a
sample of 25 video snippets of marking among our most
experienced coders (n=3).
3. The Gross Function and Structure of Marking
At the highest level, three functions of marking can be
1. Marking-for-self: dancers use their body to encode an
aspect of a phrase for themselves. This may be for
reinforcing memory, reflecting on sequence, or for
scrutiny of spatial relations, among other reasons.
2. Marking-for-others, dancers use their bodies to encode
an aspect of a phrase that others can focus attention on.
For example, before a new performance,
choreographer, choreographic assistant, and lighting
manager review all phrases on stage for space.
3. Joint-marking: two or more dancers run through a
phrase as a tightly coupled team, verifying timing and
grips jointly for each other.
Small vs. Large Marking
Fig 2b
Fig 2c.
Figs 2a, 2b, 2c show the contrast between small
and large marking. In 2a, a male dancer is
remembering a step, using his hand to small
mark it. In 2b, a female dancer is showing how
she marks a pirouette. She uses a formal gesture
for a pirouette that she learned as a ballet dancer.
Her marking is small and conventional. In 2c, a
second female dancer marks a phrase using
movements that are of comparable size to those
in the full phrase. She is clearly modeling the
There are also a few things to note, at the highest
level, about the structure of marking.
Variability of size: Marking comes in a continuum of sizes,
from very small to full size (but less energetically). In
‘small marking’, the amount of movement is minimal; the
marking movements tend to be in the upper body (hands and
head mainly), and the objective is to review the steps, the
relationship between simultaneous movements (arm and leg
together), and occasionally to attend to timing. See figs 2a
and 2b. In extreme cases, such as Irish river dancing (fig 1),
marking may be done exclusively with two fingers marking
foot rhythm, position, and movement. When marking is
very small, it is a form of gesture. In larger marking,
especially when the function is to show the floor space
required by a movement, or to show off the structure of a
phrase to someone else, the movements may be full size but
with less intent, emotion, or energy than the real movement
(fig 2c). They are imperfect models of the complete phrase,
but lacking certain attributes, such as intensity, motion
dynamics, or fine detail.
Substitutability: A movement in one body part can represent
the movement in another. Hand movements and head tilts
regularly stand for the motion of different body parts: a
hand movement may represent a leg movement, a head turn
may represent a torso turn or a whole body turn; if the legs
perform in parallel, one leg may stand in for two. This too is
shown in figs 2a and 2b. See figs 3a, b for a standing
version and fig 1 for finger version.
Idiosyncratic vs. Conventional Marking
3a. 3b.
Fig 3. In 3a a dancer marks a leg movement with
his hands in his own idiosyncratic manner that is
a hybrid of conventional ballet marking and
personal style. In 3b A dancer from a strong
ballet tradition offers a conventional small
marking with her hands.
Conventional: In classical ballet and other formalized dance
forms, dancers are taught to use specific gestures as ways of
marking certain moves. These are a conventionalized form
of small markings. For instance, as seen in fig 2b, the
female dancer marks for the interviewer with her hand to
show that, at a certain point in the phrase, a pirouette is
required. In fig 3b she shows us a gesture for a pas de
bourrée. These small gestures refer to a complex sequence
of full moves well known by ballet dancers. We observed
that dancers who do not rely on a ballet vocabulary still
mark in a way that is reminiscent of ballet marking; but each
dancer has personal idiosyncrasies that violate convention.
In fig 3a, for instance, a dancer with deep training in both
modern and ballet represents a leg movement with his arms,
a hybrid marking that is part conventional and part personal
Aspectival: Marking typically represents an aspect of the
full phrase, with some forms of marking focusing solely on
tempo, others focusing on sequence, still others focusing on
spatial position. For instance, when dancers mark for space
they will keep the scale of the full phrase, but other aspects
will be ignored or only partially represented, such as the
dynamics of the phrase. At other times, just the movement
of the upper body or the torso orientation may be marked
and the movement of a leg or arm is left completely
unmarked. Evidently, when dancers mark they are
attending to only certain aspects of the phrase.
4. Analysis
Is it plausible to see marking as a vehicle of thought?
There are a few promising ways to approach this question.
Perhaps the most obvious line is that marking is a type of
gestural semiotic system, possibly like a linguistic code. If
gesture can function as a vehicle of thought, as some have
argued, then why not marking?
It is useful to classify gestures according to where they
lie on ‘Kendon’s Continuum’ (McNeill 92). At one extreme,
there are “gestures of the kind that Kendon has called
‘quotable’ … gestures that must be configured according to
pre-established standards of form in order for them to
function as signs, such as the OK sign among North
Americans” (McNeill & Duncan 2000). These are
compositional and behave in many respects like words or
phrases in a language. At the other extreme are
‘gesticulations’. These are idiosyncratic, created on the fly,
and motivated by imagery rather than convention.
In dance, marking in the classical tradition of ballet
is convention-driven and quotable. Despite individual
differences in marking style, dancers still conform to
general norms. Although marking conventions vary from
ballet company to company, it does not take long for a
professional dancer to pick up the idiosyncrasies of a
company. This suggests there are rules determining the
structure of ballet marking, and that local differences in
marking style should be viewed as akin to differences in
accent or handwriting. They need to be learned but are not
different in principle than dialects of a common language.
In contemporary dance, the reference of marking the
phrases full-out, or aspects of those phrases are not easily
segmented. Movements in contemporary dance are freer,
often novel. There are also far fewer conventions governing
how dancers should mark. But not none. In the group we
studied, for instance, there were quite strict rules about how
to mark for the choreographer or his assistant. The spatial
dimensions of the phrase were to be preserved, though
energy, and pace could be lessened.
The implication is that marking might well lie nearer
the language side on Kendon’s continuum than the
gesticulation side. This needn’t be a surprise. If there are
written notation systems for encoding dance, such as Laban
notation, then as long as marking is as expressive as these
notation systems, anything that can be encoded on paper can
be encoded through marking. The one requirement is that
there be semantic rules for interpreting the paper notation
and semantic rules for interpreting marking.
It is here, however, that the analogy with language fails.
Marking is a reliable language only when a) dancers are
marking for others the other forms of marking lack
adequate semantic rules; and, b) only when the point of
marking is to display space, position, and structural form, all
aspects of the full-out phrase that the choreographer or his
assistant can directly see in the marking itself. If the point
of marking were to call attention to movement sequence or
to motor preparation, external observers would often be
unable to infer the movements being sequenced or prepared
This is perhaps the key point. If someone states, “there
is a circle with radius 30 meters, a competent interpreter
need not have seen such a circle beforehand to know what
the sentence means. It is enough to know the meaning of the
terms ‘circle’, ‘radius’, ‘30 meters’ to generate an
interpretation. That is what semantic rules are for. By
contrast, in marking, because there is so much idiosyncrasy
in marking when dancers are marking for themselves, or
when marking an aspect of a phrase that is not visibly
similar to the full-out phrase (space), observers cannot ‘see’
the full-out move ‘in’ a marked version unless they already
know what the full-out looks like. This explains why
dancers rarely, if ever, mark a phrase they do not already
know, and why choreographers never request dancers to
show them novel phrases by marking they insist on a full-
out. Evidently, both parties need a clear idea of the target in
advance of the marking. They have to have seen the full-out
phrase to be able to ‘project’ it from its marking.
I believe this proves that much if not the majority of
marking is not language like. It relies on prior acquaintance
with the target, and then matching the mark to its target.
That process more closely resembles a pattern completion
process than a generative process of constructing the target.
Languages are essentially generative, the point of marking is
to avoid generating the whole target.
But if marking does not behave as a language this
raises a paradox: if a dancer, or an observer, needs a clear
idea of the full-out phrase in order to correctly interpret its
marked version, why bother with the marking? How can
marking ever be more powerful than inner visualization or
imagination alone? What more can the physical
manifestation of a movement add to the target already
‘mentally grasped’ through imagination?
One answer is that physical movement is helpful
when one wants to measure the distance covered in a phrase.
External distance is not guaranteed to be accurate in a
mental representation. [Ledermen 87]. And there may be
other physical dimensions available in the physical
execution of a phrase that are only implicit in its mental
representation (for instance, the physical tension in leaping
off the floor or lifting another person).
But, beyond making physical attributes measurable,
[see Kirsh 10], what extra cognitive benefits can physical
marking provide that surpass mental rehearsal?
Here are two possibilities. They offer a different
take on how marking might serve as a vehicle of thought.
1. Marking is a way of anchoring projection to a target.
By providing a marked version of a target, a dancer can
project a better representation of the target than
imagination unaided. Marking, therefore, is a causally
important way of augmenting thought. It is a
component of a distributed vehicle of thought,
consisting of an inner part and an outer part, which
enables clearer thoughts. (cf. Hutchins 05)
2. Marking is a way of priming the neural system of a
dancer, thereby enhancing imagination (or projection)
by activating cortical elements that would be involved
in the full-out movement. Marking is a way of
enhancing the vividness and detail of imagination.
Marking as a method of anchoring projection. In the
phenomenology of perception, a distinction can be drawn
between perception, projection, and imagination. See fig 4.
When we perceive an object, our experience is that we
are seeing an object that is really there; we feel it is
what causes our perception.
When we project onto an object, we experience
ourselves intentionally augmenting the object; we feel
we partially cause our experience.
When we imagine an object, we feel as if we are the
sole cause of our imagined experience.
Fig 4. The difference between perception,
projection, and imagination is represented here by
three conditions of a tic-tac-toe game. Perception:
subjects see moves. Projection: subjects see only the
tic-tac-toe grid, and mentally augment it with moves.
Imagination: subjects see a blank page and all aspects
of the game are imagined no external stimuli to
scaffold or structure imagination.
The application to marking is shown in Fig 5. If the full-
out phrase is represented by the complete triangle in 5a,
marked versions are represented by 5b 5e. The marked
versions are either fractions or distortions of fractions of the
full. But they support projection to full-out, if one has been
exposed to the full-out already.
This form of projection is not a standard completion
process. In completion, the target is a superset of the
fragment. For example, tang_ _ _ is a stem that supports
completions like tangent. The fragment ta_ g_ _ s supports
the completions targets or tangles. In both cases, the target
completes the fragment. In projection, the structure that
augments the fragment need not complete it because it may
produce a new structure that has none of the subset
structure. For instance, in 5c, the completion is larger in all
dimensions except corner angle. In 5d and 5e, even the
angles are not preserved. Projection is not completion.
Kirsh [09] showed that it is easier to conceptualize a
target, or recover more memory of a target’s structure, if
there is something outside that one can ‘lean on’ for support.
It is easier to project than to imagine if there is something
helpful outside to support the projection. Recall is better for
projected imagery than imagined imagery [ibid].
Marking as Projection
5a 5b 5c 5d 5e
Fig 5. The idea of marking as a sequence of
illustrations of decreasing verisimilitude to the
full phrase. 5a: a complete path at full scale. 5b:
same path, full scale, shown by vertices and
directions. 5c: smaller path, the interpreter must
now know the scaling function. 5d: a stylized
version of 5a. 5e, a smaller version of 5d,
interpreter must project both shape, angles, and
know the scaling function.
The relevance to marking is that when dancers mark,
they may be creating a physical scaffold that facilitates
projection. This would explain what ‘extra’ a dancer gets
by physically marking a phrase rather than mentally
rehearsing it. They get an external structure they can
extrapolate from. This enables them to generate a
conception of the final target that is more vivid, complete,
and requiring less mental effort, than when they mentally
rehearse without the support of overt movement. Moreover,
dancers are able to choose how much extra memory support
they want, just by marking more completely. When their
mental image of the target is already clear, their marking
may be minimal. When they have a weak mental image of
the target, they may mark it more extensively, thereby
increasing the vividness and control over their conception of
the target.
Marking as a method of priming. A second benefit of
marking may be that it involves more brain activity than
mental rehearsal alone. It may facilitate muscle memory of
details or deeper processing of movement goals.
The importance of muscle memory in dance is part of
standard teaching. Muscle memory refers to the system of
motor procedures motor schemata that have been
stabilized through practice and are activated during
performance. [Krakauer 06] Initial movements prime later
movements. Priming also facilitates projection. Priming
refers to an increased sensitivity to a stimulus due to prior
exposure to a related stimulus. For instance, subjects who
recently hear, see, think, and especially perform a particular
movement will recognize aspects of that movement, sooner
than those who have not. (Koch et al 04) The extent of
priming is also a function of the depth of processing
involved in the earlier exposure. [Challis, 92, Smith et al
83]. A person who thinks hard about a dance phrase its
energy, sequence, rhythm or spatial extent will prime
more choreographic relatives of the phrase, and prime them
more deeply, than someone who merely sees the phrase
briefly. Since motor preparation, spatial planning, and
proprioceptic monitoring are involved in marking, it is
likely that even more areas of cortex are involved in
marking than in mental rehearsal alone. This suggests that
during marking, there will be more opportunities for deeper
processing more chance to see deeper relations among
movement components than during mental rehearsal.
Marking should prime the phrase more deeply, making it
easier to remember it in the future.
If marking helps a dancer to envision the target
phrase better, it helps to explain why marking is beneficial.
Given the importance of internal processes, however,
marking is best understood as the external part of an
internal-external process. It is best seen as the external part
of a distributed vehicle of thought.
5. Conclusion
I have argued that marking is a form of physical
thinking. A dancer creates a partial version of a phrase,
attends to it while creating it, and because of processes like
priming and projection, the dancer is able to understand
something deeper about the phrase’s structure than through
imagination alone. When dancers mark, they are closely
coupled with the dance product they are externalizing. They
rely on that product to think with. Their performance of the
marked phrase is part of their ongoing process of grasping
the phrase. In some ways, their relation to marked material
is reminiscent of what E. M. Forster (27) said about
language: “How can I know what I’m thinking until I see
what I say”. For Forster, the external vehicle of a thought
its linguistic formulation was a real time achievement of
putting the thought into words. It made the thought more
precise in virtue of the constraints of language. There was
no point asking whether the articulated content was the
same as some internal version already encoded in an internal
language intrinsically understood, as suggested by Fodor
(75) and others. For Forster, as well as for Wittgenstein
(51), the articulation is part of the thinking process.
My suggestion, here, is that for a dancer, Forsters
rhetorical question can be rephrased as: “How can I know
what my phrase really is until I see what I do?” A dancer’s
thought of his or her phrase is partly shaped by what is
marked. Dancers do think about their phrases without
dancing them or marking them. But, by marking-for-self
dancers think better about their full-out phrase. Physical
movement replaces mental computation. Instead of
imagining transformations, they execute them externally.
Marking is part of a distributed vehicle of thought with
internal and external parts closely coupled.
Acknowledgements: I gratefully acknowledge help from
Dr. Dafne Muntanyola on ethnographic analyses of the
dance data, from twenty five students in my class on
Creative Cognition in Dance, from Wayne McGregor and
the dancers in Random Dance, from Scott delaHunta the
director of Random Research, and from the Committee on
Academic Research, UCSD for a seed grant for expenses.
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... They foreground different patterns, structures, and cues and guide people to notice different details. They are examples of distributed thinking (see Hollan, Hutchins, and Kirsh, 2000;Kirsh, 2010), i.e. thinking with the body and with the world. ...
... The visuals, by virtue of representing dancers' movements on-screen, help dancers form a "partner" relationship with them. We can see this as an example of "externalization" studied by Kirsh (Kirsh, 2010). Kirsh uses Willliam Forsythe's Improvisation Technologies 7 to illustrate how internal choreographic thought can be reified into a visible object with which he then uses to communicate movement ideas such as "shearing" and "torsion". ...
... Another example of the role metaphors play in movement-based creativity is given by Kirsh who observed dancers to understand how they learn dance (Kirsh, 2010). ...
Much contemporary discourse around democratization of creativity sees technologies supporting creativity as providing access to universally shared capabilities that are otherwise untapped. This encourages evaluation metrics that assess the emergence or development of those specific capabilities. These accounts often overlook the diversity in human capabilities and work styles. This long-standing focus on identifying universally useful tasks contributes to computational diversity instead of epistemological diversity. In this dissertation, I am interested in exploring an alternative design space: one in which computational support enriches, rather than erases, epistemological diversity, namely the diversity of styles in carrying out the same activity. This tension between diversity and generalizability poses important challenges for design. In this dissertation, I consider the intellectual foundations that undergird much of the contemporary rhetoric about creativity. I argue that the traditional stage-based models of the creative process contribute to a disembodied view that promulgate the understanding that all creative processes, at their core, follow the same structural rules. I suggest that this view is incomplete and propose a reconceptualization of the creative process that takes epistemological diversity into account. To do so, I give two empirical accounts of how creative styles are constructed over time in two different creative settings: one in dance improvisation and another in contemporary music composition and choreography. These case studies surface the shifting roles of technology as people repurpose and manipulate it. I reconceptualize the creative process as continuous acts of re-vision, which foregrounds the craftwork that goes into managing shifting perspectives. This understanding provides insight into the limits and opportunities of creative tools, offering critical reflections on the various roles technology may play in the creative process.
... This incorporates both the external space through which one moves and an internal body map (Longstaff 1996;Leisman and Aviv 2019). Despite the subjective nature of dance, it can be used as a pedagogic tool including cognitive functions such as knowledge creation and self-reflection (Shusterman 2006;Kirsh 2010;Loftus 2013;Sheets-Johnstone 2010;Boyce 2011). Enactivism sets out the position that cognition takes place through a dynamic interaction between a person and their environment. ...
... Poiesis encapsulates both problem and solution in a state of being which Sheets-Johnstone (1990; articulates as spatio-temporal-energetic when she discusses the dancing body. In dance, time and space are not outside of the experience but are set up as an integrated kinesthetic experience a spatio-temporal framework in which thinking and learning take place in a non-linear manner (Boyce 2011;Loftus 2013;Kirsh 2010; Sheets-Johnstone 9 2005). ...
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Architectural education is complex as it requires the development of both objective and subjective knowledge. While explicit knowledge that meets the trends in universities to create value by preparing students for industry, are easier to include in a curriculum, implicit knowledge based on personal experience that facilitates flexibility and creativity is more challenging. An example in the training of future architects is highlighted by the tendency to rely heavily on the visual sense in relation to buildings, which tends to objectify them, thereby ignoring their experiential components. The move towards digital applications in design further alienates the designers from this experiential aspect, as the technology leads to disembodiment and hence the sensitivity to subjective aspects of design. Design of space is influenced subconsciously by habitual patterns of behaviour embedded culturally and autobiographically in body memory. Dance as a complementary pedagogic tool can develop understanding of self and the body, bringing such habitual patterns into awareness. In addition to creating awareness, dance offers the tools to explore alternatives, creating a new meaning and relationship to space thus aiding the design skills of students. A curriculum that includes the subjective and autobiographical aspects of the student reflects the educational theory of Currere proposed by William Pinar and a pedagogic approach that reflects the theories of Georgio Agamben’s “rhythm” and Alfred Whitehead’s “cycles in learning”.
... Literacy involves translating movement expression and communication into words. The learning of language and movement expression is crucial to communication and understanding (Hanna, 2008;Kirsh, 2010). Paterson et al.'s (2015) integrated model for learning and moving links movement studies with experiential learning-supportive of the argument for experiences gained through dance to be framed as experiential learning. ...
... Ideas appear from the interaction between environment, objects, gravity, others' bodies and minds, from the body's disposition and ideas in the mind. Indeed, dancers use their bodies as tools to think with (Kirsh, 2010;Todd, 1979). Kahneman (2011) claimed expressive movement not only enhances self-awareness but also generates new ideas influencing action, thought, and feeling. ...
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Background: In the United Kingdom, creative dance is classified as part of physical education rather than an important core subject. Purpose: Taking the U.K. National Curriculum as an example, the article's primary aim is to examine literature exploring the benefits of creative dance, for children aged 3 to 11 years in mainstream state education, to evaluate whether creative dance can be categorized as experiential learning. Methodology/Approach: The literature review included key words in several databases and arrived at potential benefits which can be framed within experiential learning. Findings/Conclusions: The findings identify benefits of creative dance in socioemotional, arts-based, transferable, embodied, physical, and cognitive learning. Conceptualizing creative dance as experiential learning could support it filling a more central role in the curriculum. Implications: This article recontextualizes the role of creative dance in children's learning through reviewing related literature. Creative dance might play a more central role in the curriculum when the benefits and its process are framed as experiential learning.
... Both students' self-reported responses and the instructor's observations supported the role of Zoom in cultivating creativity, which is consistent with Bui and other's (2020) observation that videoconferencing tools helped students to improve their creativity, although at a mediocre level. Kirsh (2010) asserted that dancers used their bodies as tools to think with, hardly differentiating between thinking and moving while creating. The creative ideas emerged from interactions between mind and body, from the body's disposition, from interaction with the surroundings, objects, and with gravity, and with each other and each other's bodies (Łucznik, 2015). ...
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the education community has actively sought strategies to allow it to maintain operations; one such strategy is to switch from face-to-face to online teaching. Compared with other art disciplines, the use of technology in dance education has been seriously understudied. This study collected multiple forms of data, tapping into students’ and instructors’ viewpoints, to examine the use of Zoom to develop students’ 4C skills (i.e., creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) and self-efficacy in dance education. A mixed-methods research design was adopted. Teacher observations and student surveys were conducted in a public university in Macau. The results showed significant increases in collaboration and creativity in the activities and assignments on Zoom. Critical thinking and communication skills did not change significantly in the Zoom-based dance class. Students were generally satisfied with the use of Zoom in dance class, but their self-reported self-efficacy significantly decreased after Zoom was introduced. The findings were discussed from both the students’ and the instructor's perspectives.
... This way, highlighting the position of the stars as material anchors, the navigator "creates a model of the voyage that he can see and manipulate from his point of view on the deck of the canoe". In a rather similar way, according to Kirsh (2010b) Irish river dancers and choreographers use their hands and gestures, and occasionally pointing-like finger movements, to mark well-defined positions and iconically represent certain dancing steps during rehearsal: using their gestures as a small-scale replica of their full-body movements, they "create a simplified or abstracted version -a model" of the dance phrases they have to perform. In these cases, whether gestures are accompanied by speech or not, their role is to reorganize the representation of the physical space, transposing the relevant spatial cues from a situational to a positional framework. ...
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We call those gestures "instrumental" that can enhance certain thinking processes of an agent by offering him representational models of his actions in a virtual space of imaginary performative possibilities. We argue that pointing is an instrumental gesture in that it represents geometrical information on one's own gaze direction (i.e., a spatial model for attentional/ocular fixation/orientation), and provides a ritualized template for initiating gaze coordination and joint attention. We counter two possible objections, asserting respectively that the representational content of pointing is not constitutive, but derived from language, and that pointing directly solicits gaze coordination, without representing it. We consider two studies suggesting that attention and spatial perception are actively modified by one's own pointing activity: the first study shows that pointing gestures help children link sets of objects to their corresponding number words; the second, that adults are faster and more accurate in counting when they point.
... Usually, the dancer makes his own mark using movements of less amplitude and/or that represent the real movements, performed with the hands or by reducing the size of the steps, the height of the jumps and the extension of the limbs. It is clearly a spatial, dynamic and rhythmic representation of the observed (or remembered) movement and an important cognitive resource for learning and a vehicle for physical thought (Côté-Laurence 2000; Wulf and Prinz 2001;Kirsh 2010;Warburton et al. 2013;Warburton 2014;Bläsing and Sauzet 2018b;Bläsing et al. 2018). ...
The present study addresses the impact of multimodal complexity in the transmission of a dance exercise. This study examined what kind of temporal correspondence favors the clarity of a teaching instruction in the context of a dance class. From an autoethnographic perspective, we describe a real learning situation in which a teacher marks (bodily demonstration and verbal counting) a movement exercise for a dancer. We analyze (microanalysis) the components of this marking, considering the model of the visual spatial indicator and the zero velocity and the prosodic components of the voice. It was hypothesized that when the emphasis of the movement and the emphasis of the voice are synchronized in phase this favors the clarity of the instruction. Seventy-five participants – dancers; musicians; non-musicians-non-dancers – evaluated dance exercises (audiovisual clips) with different modes of synchronization between voice and movement following two testing strategies. We found that in-phase exercise markings are significantly easier to follow and understand than when they are not. The work aims to show that a neglect in the multimodal organization of the instruction can generate distortion (noise) between the conceptualization and the perception of the message, putting at risk the result of the communication.
... Movements spread as flares within regions of the participant group when generating rules. Flares served to clarify and extend emerging choreographic elements in shape, space, and time-physically performing ideas, and observing others, afforded new noticings (Kirsh, 2010). Flares also revealed compositionally rich possibilities that stretched the meanings of rules. ...
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Modeling is generally recognized as the core disciplinary practice of science. Through examinations of rich learning environments which expand the boundaries of modeling and the practices connected to it, researchers are broadening what modeling means in disciplinary settings. This interactive session brings together a diverse spectrum of scholars to share the practices they have used to expand modeling, how they were used in their curriculum, and the impact they had on learning. This session will serve as a rich opportunity for discussion to help advance the state of the field around what counts as modeling and the role it can play in learning. Motivations and objectives
... From that perspective, any use of tools for internalization, i.e. for achieving cognitive mastery (Kirsh 2010), facilitates self-development, self-fulfilment of a task and acts in cognition. This strategy works by providing a specific substructure or material (external, tangible) anchor (material anchor) (Hutchins 2005) for mental projection. ...
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In this conceptual article we present a modular model of holistic education. Within this approach, an educational activity (and a child’s learning that derives from it) can be characterized in three dimensions: 1) safety, inclusion and participation; 2) interaction, cognition and representation; and 3) affective action leading to imagination and creativity. A holistic approach nurturing the full cognitive development of a child requires going beyond what a conventional school offers, but still presumes designed but liberating processes. We provide a neurobiological argument for holistic education supported by evidence for the featured three dimensions of holistic education along with illustrative examples.
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We undertook a detailed ethnographic study of the dance creation process of a noted choreographer and his distinguished troupe. All choreographer dancer interactions were video'ed, the choreographer and dancers were interviewed extensively each day, as well as other observations and tests performed. The choreographer used three main methods to produce high quality and novel content: showing, making-on, and tasking. We present, analyze and evaluate these methods, and show how these approaches allow the choreographer to increase the creative output of the dancers and himself. His methods, although designed for dance, apply more generally to other creative endeavors, especially where brainstorming is involved, and where the creative process is distributed over many individuals. His approach is also a case study in multi- modal direction, owing to the range of mechanisms he uses to communicate and direct.
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In the course of daily life we solve problems often enough that there is a special term to characterize the activity and the right to expect a scientific theory to explain its dynamics. The classical view in psychology is that to solve a problem a subject must frame it by creating an internal representation of the problem’s structure, usually called a problem space. This space is an internally generable representation that is mathematically identical to a graph structure with nodes and links. The nodes can be annotated with useful information, and the whole representation can be distributed over internal and external structures such as symbolic notations on paper or diagrams. If the representation is distributed across internal and external structures the subject must be able to keep track of activity in the distributed structure. Problem solving proceeds as the subject works from an initial state in mentally supported space, actively constructing possible solution paths, evaluating them and heuristically choosing the best. Control of this exploratory process is not well understood, as it is not always systematic, but various heuristic search algorithms have been proposed and some experimental support has been provided for them.
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Advances in digital media support a form of inquiry called cognitive ethnography. Cognitive ethnography employs traditional ethnographic methods to build knowledge of a community of practice and then applies this knowledge to the micro-level analysis of specific episodes of activity. The principal aim of cognitive ethnography is to reveal how cognitive activities are accomplished in real-world settings. Cognitive ethnography is a particularly apt method for studying instruction in both formal and informal settings. This paper discusses the practicalities of doing cognitive ethnographic research, including such issues as deciding what to record, selecting data for analysis, re-representing data, and analyzing data. Illustrative examples are provided from a recent cognitive ethnographic study of time-telling instruction.
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In 4 experiments, Ss studied words under learning conditions that promoted semantic or physical processing. An implicit word fragment completion test was administered (e.g., complete l ph t for elephant). When semantic and physical study conditions were manipulated between Ss (Exps 1 and 3) or within Ss in a blocked fashion (Exps 3 and 4), significant levels of processing (LOP) effects were obtained. When semantic and physical conditions were presented in a mixed list (Exps 2, 3, and 4), the LOP effect was smaller and not significant. A survey of the literature on LOP effects in implicit perceptual tests revealed that priming in these tests was consistently greater in the semantic than physical condition, with reports of statistically significant LOP effects. These findings contradict the widely held notion that LOP does not affect priming in implicit perceptual tests and have implications for contemporary accounts of performance in implicit and explicit measures of memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
In 4 experiments, Ss studied words under learning conditions that promoted semantic or physical processing. An implicit word fragment completion test was administered (e.g., complete _1_ph_ _t for elephant). When semantic and physical study conditions were manipulated between Ss (Experiments 1 and 3) or within Ss in a blocked fashion (Experiments 3 and 4), significant levels of processing (LOP) effects were obtained. When semantic and physical conditions were presented in a mixed list (Experiments 2, 3, and 4), the LOP effect was smaller and not significant. A survey of the literature on LOP effects in implicit perceptual tests revealed that priming in these tests was consistently greater in the semantic than physical condition, with reports of statistically significant LOP effects. These findings contradict the widely held notion that LOP does not affect priming in implicit perceptual tests and have implications for contemporary accounts of performance in implicit and explicit measures of memory.
In this study, the author examined the effects of type of practice (physical, mental, I alternating physical/mental, and a motivational control) and aural knowledge of results on improving piano performance. Forty music education and music therapy majors participated in a pretest and posttest experiment using one of eight treatment conditions. The dependent variables were performance time, number of pitch errors, and number of rhythm errors. Results revealed that (a) all three practice conditions had significantly shorter performance times than did the control condition, (b) treatments using physical practice and alternating mental/physical practice yielded significantly shorter performance times than did the mental practice treatment alone, and (c) the physical practice treatment did not differ significantly from the alternating mental/physical practicel treatment in improving performance times. No other statistically significant differences were found among the three practice conditions.