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Creativity in Motion: Examining the Creative Potential System and Enriched Movement Activities as a Way to Ignite It

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  • National Circus School

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In a global and highly competitive world, the importance of creativity is increasing as it supports adaptability, health, and actualization. Yet, because most research focuses on what it takes to produce creative artifacts, interventions supporting growth in creative potential remains underexplored. To address this limitation, the first goal of this paper is to review the creativity science literature to identify the elements that underpin the realization of an individual’s creative potential. The summary of the literature is presented using a framework which highlights the interactions between environmental elements (i.e., cultural values, social interactions, and material world) and actors’ elements (i.e., affective attributes and states, cognitive skills, and physical expression). Using a systemic perspective, the framework illustrates ‘what’ creativity enhancement interventions should aim for, to facilitate the emergence of creative actions. Given the current lack of holistic, embodied, and interactive evidence-based interventions to nurture the creative potential elements identified, the second part of this review builds on movement sciences literature and physical literacy conceptualization to suggest that enriched movement activities are promising avenues to explore. Specifically, following non-linear pedagogy approaches, an intervention called movement improvisation is introduced. Ecological dynamics principles are used to explain how improvising with movement in a risk-friendly environment can lead to cognitive, affective, social, and cultural repertoire expansion. To interrogate this argument further, the review concludes with possible solutions to withstand research challenges and raises future study questions. Overall, combining creativity and movement sciences in this review demonstrates the potential for well-designed movement interventions to ignite creative potential for individuals and overcome the tendency to remain anchored in a state of inertia.
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REVIEW
published: 30 September 2021
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.690710
Edited by:
Duarte Araújo,
University of Lisbon, Portugal
Reviewed by:
Carlota Torrents,
University of Barcelona, Spain
Laura Healey Malinin,
Colorado State University,
United States
*Correspondence:
Veronique Richard
vrichard@enc.qc.ca
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Movement Science and Sport
Psychology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 03 April 2021
Accepted: 09 September 2021
Published: 30 September 2021
Citation:
Richard V, Holder D and Cairney J
(2021) Creativity in Motion: Examining
the Creative Potential System
and Enriched Movement Activities as
a Way to Ignite It.
Front. Psychol. 12:690710.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.690710
Creativity in Motion: Examining the
Creative Potential System and
Enriched Movement Activities as a
Way to Ignite It
Veronique Richard1*, Darren Holder2and John Cairney3
1National Circus School, Center for Circus Arts Research, Innovation and Knowledge, Montreal, QC, Canada, 2Coaching
Better, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 3School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia,
QLD, Australia
In a global and highly competitive world, the importance of creativity is increasing as it
supports adaptability, health, and actualization. Yet, because most research focuses on
what it takes to produce creative artifacts, interventions supporting growth in creative
potential remains underexplored. To address this limitation, the first goal of this paper
is to review the creativity science literature to identify the elements that underpin
the realization of an individual’s creative potential. The summary of the literature is
presented using a framework which highlights the interactions between environmental
elements (i.e., cultural values, social interactions, and material world) and actors’
elements (i.e., affective attributes and states, cognitive skills, and physical expression).
Using a systemic perspective, the framework illustrates ‘what’ creativity enhancement
interventions should aim for, to facilitate the emergence of creative actions. Given
the current lack of holistic, embodied, and interactive evidence-based interventions to
nurture the creative potential elements identified, the second part of this review builds
on movement sciences literature and physical literacy conceptualization to suggest that
enriched movement activities are promising avenues to explore. Specifically, following
non-linear pedagogy approaches, an intervention called movement improvisation is
introduced. Ecological dynamics principles are used to explain how improvising with
movement in a risk-friendly environment can lead to cognitive, affective, social,
and cultural repertoire expansion. To interrogate this argument further, the review
concludes with possible solutions to withstand research challenges and raises future
study questions. Overall, combining creativity and movement sciences in this review
demonstrates the potential for well-designed movement interventions to ignite creative
potential for individuals and overcome the tendency to remain anchored in a state
of inertia.
Keywords: creativity, movement intervention, non-linear pedagogy, improvisation, ecological dynamics, physical
literacy, embodiment
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Richard et al. Creativity in Motion
INTRODUCTION
We live in a world in constant motion where continuous changes
are taking place at all levels (Gl˘
aveanu, 2010a). To adapt to this
ever-changing world and solve the problems that changes might
engender from daily hassles to wicked societal issues, creativity
has been identified by organizations around the world (e.g., The
Partnership for 21st Century Learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy) as
one of the differentiating skills (Hennessey and Amabile, 2010;
Barbot et al., 2015;Gl˘
aveanu, 2018;Malinin, 2019). In addition to
its association with adaptability, psychologists consider creativity
as being instrumental for human actualization, self-expression,
and health (Runco, 2004;Gl˘
aveanu, 2010a). Consequently,
a growing number of scholars are studying this skill to
better capture its antecedents, components, and mechanisms
(Hennessey and Amabile, 2010;Choi et al., 2020). As a result of
this research endeavor, creativity developed from being defined
as the generation of ideas, insights, or solutions that are new
and meant to be useful (Sternberg and Lubart, 1999, p.411) to
a much more complex and integrated definition. According to
Gl˘
aveanu’s (2013) Five A’s Framework, “creativity is concerned
with the action of an actor or group of actors, in its constant
interaction with multiple audiences and the affordances of the
material world, leading to the generation of new and useful
artifacts” (p.76). In line with this definition, creativity research
has also shifted from a computational (top-down) cognitive
model where creativity happens in the mind first and is then
transformed in behaviors to an embodied conceptualization
where “the mind is not solely located in the brain but also
involves the body and the body’s situation in the environment”
(Malinin, 2019, p.2).
It is this holistic, embodied, and interactive conceptualization
of creativity that raises some challenges when it comes to building
effective interventions designed to nurture creative potential
(Vaughan et al., 2019). Creative potential “may be awakened
through favorable experiences, training, environments, or stifled
by negative versions of these same elements” (Corazza and
Gl˘
aveanu, 2020, p.2). In fact, scientists have not yet clearly
identified which pedagogical practices lead to creative potential
enhancement (Barbot et al., 2015;Valgeirsdottir and Onarheim,
2017). Empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of
interventions targeting a holistic interplay between the external
world and the internal one is lacking (Torrents et al., 2020),
and few interventions are purposefully designing environmental
conditions while challenging the actor’s internal stability to
promote the emergence of skills leading to creative actions.
Moreover, the intertwined connection between the body, the
mind, and the environment has been overlooked excluding the
role of the body or its physical context from most creativity
enhancement interventions (Malinin, 2019).
To address these limitations, this paper critically reviews
the creativity and movement sciences literature to suggest
future development in the field of creativity enhancement
interventions. Specifically, we aim to scientifically support the
relevance of using enriched movement activities as a means
to realize an individual’s creative potential. By combining
existing creativity and movement theories, the goal is to provide
researchers and practitioners a framework to influence the actor-
environment interactions through enriched movement activities.
When thoughtfully designed, these movement activities could
help people explore, unfold, and better exploit their creative
potential at the everyday level (see creative potential elements
section next) to reach higher psychological functioning and
overall wellbeing. In line with a socio-cultural manifesto written
by 20 established creativity scholars, we thus view creativity
enhancement interventions as a way to expand how “people
relate to the world, to others, and to themselves, making them
more flexible, more open to the new and, at least in principle, to
differences in perspective” (Gl˘
aveanu et al., 2020, p.743).
To achieve these goals, the first section defines relevant
terms and reviews mainstream creativity theories, concepts, and
frameworks to connect the interacting actor and environmental
elements underpinning creative potential. To build a strong
argument supporting the benefits of movement interventions on
these elements, the second section reviews movement sciences
literature to highlight the principles underlying the design of
enriched movement activities. The third section introduces
movement improvisation to exemplify how enriched movement
activities can ignite creative potential growth while the fourth
section explains the mechanisms of change occurring when
one engages in such activities. Finally, the fifth section raises
challenges and future research directions.
THE CREATIVE POTENTIAL ELEMENTS
The term creative potential is key in this review and must be
carefully defined to situate and focus our perspective. Corazza
and Gl˘
aveanu (2020) identified 15 different forms of creative
potential issued from various philosophical and theoretical
perspectives. Because creativity was defined previously using
the Five As Framework (Gl˘
aveanu, 2013), thereby emphasizing
a sociocultural approach to creativity, this review focuses
on embedded individual potential. In this conceptualization,
the potential for originality and effectiveness of an actor is
intertwined with a sociocultural context. It is thus multifaceted
and presents a unique combination of resources that interact
together within the creative phenomenon (Barbot et al.,
2015;Corazza and Gl˘
aveanu, 2020). When the actor and the
environmental resources ‘match,’ the creative potential can be
actualized increasing the likelihood of creative achievements.
According to the 4Cs framework (Kaufman and Beghetto,
2009), creative achievements can be distributed along a
developmental continuum starting from mini-c (personally novel
and meaningful interpretation of experiences, actions, ideas), to
little-c (everyday creative achievements) and pro-c (professional
creative achievements and innovations), ending (rarely) with
Big-C (eminent creative contribution). While we acknowledge
that pro-c and Big-C achievements require resources that are
specific to a domain of expertise (Sternberg, 2012;Baer, 2015),
the current review focuses on everyday level creativity (little-
c) and thus targets the development of ‘general’ actor and
environmental resources (also called creativity-relevant skills by
Amabile and Pillemer, 2012). Little-c achievement can take the
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form of behavioral expression such as pretend play (especially
in children), questioning, taking risk, enacting as-if, and so on
(Gl˘
aveanu and Kaufman, 2019). Although little-c achievements
may be optional in one’s life, these activities are associated
with wellbeing and other professional benefits (Corazza, 2017).
Societies should thus develop policies to “allow its members to
live a life in which there is room for creative endeavors, at least at
the little-c level” (Corazza and Gl˘
aveanu, 2020, p.8).
Before we explore in depth how enriched movement activities
can provide opportunities for these creative endeavors, it is
essential to pinpoint the key elements that constitute the
embedded individual creative potential. Specifically, the next
section identifies the environmental and actor’s elements that
have been theoretically associated with enhanced creative
potential and provide empirical examples highlighting their
intricate interactions. We believe this step is essential to move
away from the prominent ‘silo approach’ currently influencing
creativity enhancement interventions. By gathering various
theories, concepts, and evidence into a framework, we aim
to expand the horizon of intervention and provide a holistic
foundation for the design of enriched movement activities
intended at fostering creative potential.
Environmental Elements
The notion of potential is closely associated with what humans
can do effectively in an environment and thus it relies heavily on
both social and material elements and their relation to each other
(Corazza and Gl˘
aveanu, 2020). Nevertheless, many creativity
theories and frameworks emphasize the creative actor and depict
the environment as an external factor that either constrains or
facilitates the creative process (Gl˘
aveanu, 2010b). As such, the
role of the environment is over-simplified as a conditioning
factor experienced by the actor. By contrast, the tetradic cultural
framework of creativity (Gl˘
aveanu, 2010a) moves beyond this
unidirectional perspective by suggesting that “creativity is not
simply ‘conditioned’ by social factors, its mere nature is relational
since it could not exist outside of cultural resources and dialogical
relations” (p. 88).
This relational perspective makes the notion of affordances
relevant to the design of creativity enhancement interventions.
Introduced by Gibson (1979/1986) as what environment “offers
the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or
for ill” (p.127), affordances dictate how the surroundings guide,
facilitate and constrain human activity. They are opportunities
for action that emerge at the intersection between an actor’s
idiosyncratic perception and the specific environmental ‘features’
(Chemero, 2003). In fact, Gibson (1979/1986) argued that action
possibilities are the primary objects of perception and although
affordances are not the cause of behavior, they have the potential
to invite behaviors.
It is this concept of ‘behavioral invitation’ that matters
for creativity intervention. Because affordances can both repel
and attract actions, they play an important role in creative
achievements (Gl˘
aveanu, 2013), even at the little-c level
(Gl˘
aveanu and Kaufman, 2019). For instance, objects and spaces
“channel” our actions by dictating what we can do with available
instruments as well as where and how we can move within
various spaces. Environmental manipulation thus impacts on
what behavior is performed in a certain setting (e.g., Prieske
et al., 2015). Yet, affordances are more than mere opportunity
provided by the material world. Rietveld and Kiverstein (2014)
suggest that affordances “have an existence that is relative to
a form of life” (p.335). That is, the experiential knowledge we
have as humans, of what objects and spaces are for, is influenced
by cultural norms and social interactions. In this vein, because
of the sociocultural practice we engage in, affordances are also
“dependent on the abilities available in a particular ecological
niche” (Rietveld and Kiverstein, 2014, p.326). This means that
an affordance can be perceived (or not) differently by individuals
coming from different sociocultural backgrounds and possessing
a distinct set of skills and thus invite distinct behaviors which
influence the likelihood of creative outputs.
To better exploit the relational and resourceful nature of
affordances in the design of creativity intervention, the next
section highlights the bidirectional transaction between actors
and their cultural, social, and material context. We explore how
the environment can itself be a source of creativity, one which, on
one hand, influences the actor directly, and, on the other hand,
can be influenced by the actor through its actions making “the
whole an emergent property of the interactions of the members
of a group or, more generally, the interacting parts of a system.”
(Montuori, 2011, p.418).
Culture
“Culture is neither external to the person nor static, but
constitutive of the mind and of society by offering the
symbolic resources required to perceive, think, remember,
imagine, and, ultimately, create” (Gl˘
aveanu et al., 2020,
p.742). Creative thoughts and actions emerge from cultural
knowledge and traditions – including one’s intention to disrupt
traditions (Feldman, 1974). Culture can thus influence one’s
perception and the expression of creativity. Consider for
example the oversimplified conceptualization of collectivist
versus individualistic cultures and the role of the latter
over the former in creative-product outcomes (see Runco,
2014, for a review).
Beyond this, often-stereotyped, impact of culture on creativity
at the societal level (i.e., macro-culture), cultural layers (e.g.,
homes, activities, schools, work places, institutions) have been
hypothesized to intertwine with individual’s thoughts and
behaviors through reward and tolerance systems (Runco, 2014).
These systems, often implicit, depict the symbolic values
accepted and/or rejected by individuals within a group impacting
greatly how creative potential can be nurtured within each
cultural layer (i.e., micro-cultures). Broadly, if creative ideas and
behaviors are constantly reinforced by members of one’s own
culture, then thinking and acting creatively slowly becomes a
micro-cultural value increasing the likelihood of overt creative
development and expression (Sternberg, 2006;Vaughan et al.,
2019). More precisely, research have shown that cultural values
oriented toward freedom, autonomy, risk taking, and playfulness
are conducive of creativity enhancement in various domains
(Hennessey and Amabile, 2010;Davies et al., 2013;Richardson
and Mishra, 2018;Stierand et al., 2019). Yet, to translate into
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optimal environments, these values must be carefully instilled
and accepted by people within each micro-culture (e.g., a sport
team or a classroom).
For example, a systematic review of 210 educational research
articles showed that creativity is enhanced when students are
given some control over their learning and are encouraged
to take risks within an environment that provides a balance
between structure and freedom (Davies et al., 2013). In this
vein, individual’s dispositions (e.g., level of self-control) and task
conditions (e.g., prior experience with the task) was found to
alter the function of task-autonomy in relation to creativity (Jin
Wook et al., 2012). Therefore, to enhance creative potential “the
degree to which an individual is given freedom and discretion
in carrying out a task” (i.e., task-autonomy, Breaugh, 1985)
should be balanced and contextualized. A similar tension must be
maintained for risk-permissive cultural norms to lead to creative
behaviors. That is, presenting and supporting enough risk to
allow individuals’ to explore and embrace the unknown from
which they can draw novel ways of thinking and acting, while
providing boundaries for one to feel a sense of security (Creely
et al., 2020). Finally, reasonable evidence supports the role of
playful environments, at all ages, for the development of creative
skills (e.g., Davies et al., 2013;Stierand et al., 2019).
The culture at the esteemed Cloud Gate Dance School in
Taiwan described by David Mead (2009) as a “creative ethos”
summarizes the equilibrium between frequently dichotomized
elements constituting a creativity supportive culture: “Creativity
at the school is not focused on external products but is
more about process, innovation, and control. It is a creativity
that incorporates a balance between control and freedom,
collectivism and individualism, tradition and embrace of the
new, and constraint and innovation” (p. 282). Although we
are certainly products of the various macro and micro cultures
we daily navigate (Runco, 2014), cultures are produced and
reproduced. Therefore, how creative values are developed,
shared, transmitted, and transformed through social interactions
is a question that deserves further attention.
Social Interactions
If culture is about co-produced values and practices, social
interactions are exchanges between individuals where these
implicit structures are negotiated, reproduced and/or optimized
into novel values that better shape social identity and experiences.
Social interactions represent a crucial element of the creative
system because actors are ‘socialized selves’ that navigate and
influence sociocultural contexts through their cooperation with
others (Hennessey and Amabile, 2010;Gl˘
aveanu, 2013). In
Gl˘
aveanu’s (2013) terms, others are “audiences” which refer
to any form of social support or pressure that comes from
someone assisting, contributing, judging, criticizing, or using
the creative act and/or resulting artifact(s). The audience role
in a creative journey can thus be played by a variety of ‘others’
from collaborators, peers, family members, friends, opponents,
teachers, critics, general public, and so on (Gl˘
aveanu and
Kaufman, 2019). The actor and the audience are in constant
dialog and their respective role are often dynamic meaning that
it can change over time and among each other (Gl˘
aveanu, 2013).
So, what actor-audience interactions are favorable for everyday
creativity to happen?
Cultural values and practices encouraging freedom,
autonomy, risk taking, and playfulness entail variable challenges
for everyone actively part of that creativity supportive culture.
For someone to perceive and positively navigate these challenges,
the quality of the social interaction matters greatly. According
to Edmondson and Mogelof (2006), the role of interpersonal
relationships throughout the creative development process is
crucial to help actors cope with perceived risk of failure, novelty,
and ambiguity. Although risk-taking is promoted within a
group, some individuals might need extra support from their
leaders or peers to deal with their initial fear of making mistakes,
losing their landmark, or feeling uncomfortable. Specifically,
interpersonal climate, characterized by psychological safety,
has been shown to lead to increased creativity in a number
of different contexts including the workplace (Edmondson,
2002;Edmondson and Mogelof, 2006), the classroom (Davies
et al., 2013), and the performing arts (Watson et al., 2012).
Psychological safety describes interactional spaces that are safe
for interpersonal risk taking and where speaking up about
concerns, reporting mistakes, exposing thoughts, or suggesting
new ideas is positively received. It stems from mutual respect
and trust among group members providing to all, the confidence
that they will not be ridiculed, rejected, or reprimanded for
expressing different thoughts or behaviors (Edmondson, 1999;
Edmondson and Mogelof, 2006).
Interpersonal trust, a core element of psychological
safety, is of particular interest when it comes to enhancing
creativity. According to Carmeli and Spreitzer (2009), because
trust manifests one’s degree of vulnerability to another, it
cultivates an open space where people can both share and
generate new ideas which depicts connectivity (i.e., open and
generative relationships). These authors showed that trust
was indeed linked to innovative work behaviors through
connectivity and thriving (i.e., experience of learning and
vitality). Amongst other behaviors, frequent verbal interactions
showing support, encouragement or appreciation within
team settings was associated to increased connectivity
hence broadening possibilities for actions and creativity
(Losada and Heaphy, 2004).
In addition to relationships with peers, whether individuals
feel safe to express their creativity has frequently been associated
with leadership behaviors (Edmondson and Lei, 2014). For
instance, inclusive leadership manifested by openness and
availability, was positively related to psychological safety leading
to increased involvement in creative work (Carmeli et al., 2010).
Similarly, creative growth was made possible in newcomers
when trust in leadership was rated as high in the workplace
(Harris et al., 2013). In the classroom, teachers instilling trust by
showing respect, care and tolerance for differences (Richardson
and Mishra, 2018) as well as responsiveness (i.e., warmth or
support; Zhang et al., 2020), were found to facilitate creative
behaviors in students.
As underlined by Gl˘
aveanu (2013), creative actions emerge
out of multiple reciprocal actor-audience interactions. Therefore,
both parties must invest effort to establish trusting, connected
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and vulnerable relationships. Watson et al. (2012) observed many
instances of collective relationship building effort “where young
dancers and faculty either found or were in the process of finding
the courage to embrace their fears and vulnerability regarding
creativity. [. . .] This reciprocal exchange is potentially of huge
benefit to dancers, artists and teachers at whatever age and
stage of their dance careers.” (p.166). Nurturing psychological
safety should thus be seen as an important creativity igniter
(Gl˘
aveanu, 2010a).
Material World
Because the material world is presented to us by others, interacted
with in relation to others, and modified with the support of
others, materiality is grounded within sociality (Corazza and
Gl˘
aveanu, 2020). The material and physical spaces are thus
important aspects of the environment that impact on creativity
(Gl˘
aveanu, 2012). Nevertheless, the physicality of environments
is often disregarded in creativity theories and research (Corazza
and Gl˘
aveanu, 2020). As mentioned earlier, material objects are
key to the emergence of creativity because they both constrain
and allow creative acts to emerge (Gl˘
aveanu, 2013). In other
words, “our imagination might be able to change something into
anything, but even imagination is constrained by how objects are
and what we know they are for” (Corazza and Gl˘
aveanu, 2020,
p.5; refering to Vygotsky, 2004).
To circumvent the limiting impact of the cultural and social
influences on the perception of materiality, some individuals
have re-claimed public spaces and objects by using them in
unorthodox manners. A salient example of this re-appropriation
of public spaces is the emerging practice of Parkour; a form of free
running that propose socially alternative physical cultures aimed
at exploring how one’s body can move in communion with one’s
urban physical environment. Sometimes referred to as urban
gymnastics, “traceurs” (i.e., those who practice Parkour), balance
on roof tops, slide on ramps, jump over cars, hang on fences,
vault over benches, perform tumbling on sidewalks, etc. More
than a mere acrobatic physical activity, Parkour is also a social
critique that disrupts traditional “technocapitalist” views of urban
physical and social landscape. By perceiving a city as a jungle gym
and not a business jungle, traceurs’ “anarcho-environmentalist”
resistance illustrates how using physical space differently opens
a myriad of creative opportunities (see Atkinson, 2009, for
extended discussion).
The bi-directional relation between traceurs’ mind-body and
the environment they navigate brings back to light the notion
of socio-cultural affordances introduced earlier. For instance, an
experienced traceur may perceive a fence as an opportunity for
testing a new vault to express agency whereas a businessman
might perceive it as an obstacle that will make him late to
his meeting. All opportunities are present for both individuals,
yet the invitation to exploit the fence in a creative acrobatic
way might only appear and be acted on by the traceur because
it is supported by his/her system’s intrinsic dynamics (i.e.,
cultural values, cognitive skills, affective states, and physical
abilities). The relationship between affordances, perceptions and
action is an important mechanism underlying creative potential
fulfilment. Exploiting the affordances of environments in a novel
way, discovering new affordances, and even designing the ones
needed to achieve a specific goal are considered creative actions
(Gl˘
aveanu, 2013).
To summarize, “creativity emerges from playing with
materials and acts of social relationality” (Stierand et al., 2019,
p.166). On the one hand, creativity supportive cultural values
make people more inclined to explore their environments,
while social interactions make them feel safe to take risks,
make mistakes and express their idiosyncrasies. Building on
the literature reviewed, we suggest using the term risk-friendly
environments to refer to socio-cultural contexts embedded in the
material world that favor actors’ exploration of affordances. In
line with the tetradic cultural framework of creativity (Gl˘
aveanu,
2010a), we thus advocate for a careful consideration of the
environment as part of the design of activities aiming at
developing embedded individual potential. Instead of focusing
uniquely on developing creativity related skills in actors,
practitioners and researchers should also assess the current state
of an environment and adapt or manipulate certain elements
to make it a risk-friendly one. Of course, to solicit or invite
novel actions, the affordance of the environment must be
complemented by actor’s effectivities (Rucinska and Aggerholm,
2019). Indeed, “Affordances make themselves ‘apparent’ only
to an actor who is engaged with the environment and tries to
navigate it effectively” (Gl˘
aveanu, 2012, p.194). The next section
thus describes the actor’s elements that have been shown to
facilitate the perception and usage of affordances in novel ways.
Actor’s Elements
There are various attributes, skills, and states that dispose an
actor to perceive and then act on affordances in ways that
enhance his/her potential for creative growth. Accordingly,
componential theories have been developed to gather the
main personal attributes and abilities necessary for creativity
to emerge (Kaufman and Gl˘
aveanu, 2019). For instance, the
Componential Model of Creativity (Amabile, 1996;Amabile and
Pratt, 2016) posits that domain-relevant skills (e.g., expertise,
technical skills, and talent in a specific domain) creativity-
relevant processes (e.g., tolerance to ambiguity and willingness
to take appropriate risks) and task motivation are key inter-
connected variables supporting individual creativity. Similarly,
the Investment Theory of Creativity (Sternberg, 2012) holds that
creativity requires a confluence of six distinct, but interrelated,
resources grouped under three umbrellas; cognitive resources
(i.e., thinking styles and knowledge), affective resources (i.e.,
motivation and personality), and environmental resources.
Although we acknowledged that domain-relevant skills are
essential for someone to reach pro-c and Big-C achievements
(Baer, 2015), we adopt here a “system approach that operates
at the level of generality necessary to address the contextual
variation of creativity” (Poutanen, 2013, p.208). Consequently,
the following focuses on creativity-relevant skills grouped
under three interacting variables: affective attributes/states,
cognitive skills, and physical expression. Following an embodied
conceptualization of creativity, we consider these three variables
as being closely (if not fully) intertwined. However, because
creative potential is frequently associated with affective states and
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cognitive skills in the literature while the role of the body is
ignored, we create distinct sections to review existing frameworks
as a heuristic strategy, one that is not intended to imply there
are separate elements. We aim at reuniting these variables in our
suggested framework.
Affective Attributes and States
To navigate risk-friendly environments effectively, possessing
or developing certain affective attributes and states can be
helpful. In contemporary use, affect refers to the mental states
that involve judgment and the conscious experience of feeling
(Ekkekakis, 2012;Barrett and Russell, 2015). It encompasses a
range of general, dispositional, time independent characteristics,
to more time constrained concepts (Janelle et al., 2020). Early
in the history of creativity research, scholars were interested
in the association between dispositional characteristics and
creative potential (Choi et al., 2020). For instance, results of a
meta-analysis revealed that creative artists and scientists tend
to be open to new experiences, self-accepting, hostile, and
impulsive (Feist, 1998). More recently, building on the Big
Two model of personality (Digman, 1997), plasticity – i.e.,
higher order factor encompassing openness to experience and
extraversion – was found to be more strongly associated with
creativity than stability – i.e., higher order factor encompassing
neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness (see Feist,
2019, for a review). Specifically, “the strongest and most robust
relationship between personality and creativity is the openness
to experience dimension” (Feist, 2019, p.32). Because open-
minded individuals are more inclined to explore, adapt to
novel situations, question social norms, and seek out stimulating
experiences, this disposition might facilitate the usage of
affordances in creative ways.
Yet, the openness-creativity relationship is not strictly direct.
Indeed, intrinsic motivation was found to play a mediating role in
this relationship in undergraduate management students (Prabhu
et al., 2008). Both componential theories position intrinsic
motivation, defined as “the inherent tendency to seek out novelty
and challenges, to extend and exercise ones capacities, to explore,
and to learn” (Ryan and Deci, 2000, p.70), to be one of the
building blocks of creativity. In other words, it requires a strong
drive and will to bring up new ideas or solutions in most socio-
cultural contexts. In this vein, it was shown that the relationship
between intrinsic motivation and creativity was mediated by the
willingness to take risk in research and development employees
(Dewett, 2007). Accordingly, the Triangular Theory of Creativity
(Sternberg, 2018) stipulates that optimal levels of creativity result
from a willingness to defy the crowd (e.g., people with more
conventional beliefs), defy oneself (i.e., one’s own initial beliefs),
and defy the Zeitgeist (i.e., spirit of time). This willingness to
defy the status quo also comes hand in hand with the capacity
of an individual to tolerate ambiguity. Indeed, “the tendency to
perceive ambiguous situations as desirable” (Budner, 1962, p.29)
is an attribute of creative individuals (Sternberg, 2018) which
is especially useful when one encounters novel, complex and
insoluble environments (Budner, 1962).
Risk-friendly environments may also elicit a myriad of moods
and emotions thereby altering an actor’s level of openness,
intrinsic motivation, willingness to take risk or tolerance to
ambiguity. For instance, pleasant and unpleasant activating
moods were found to influence employees’ level of tolerance to
ambiguity which, in turn, altered their capacity to either find
or solve problems creatively (Hwang and Choi, 2020). Moods
and emotions are core affects defined as “neurophysiological
state consciously accessible as the simplest raw (non-reflective)
feelings” (Russell, 2003, p.148). The mood-creativity relationships
has been extensively studied because mood often serves as a
mediating state between situational and personality predictors
and creative performance (Baas et al., 2008). According to the
circumplex model of affect (Russell, 1980), mood can be classified
based on two dimensions: activation and valence. Activation
refers to the level of energy sensed while valence underlies the
level of pleasantness experienced (Russell, 2003). The impact
of the four mood categories (i.e., pleasant activating mood,
pleasant deactivating mood, unpleasant activating mood, and
unpleasant deactivating mood) on creativity can be partially
explained through their impact on cognitive processes. Pleasant
activating moods tend to broaden one’s scope of attention
and promote cognitive flexibility whereas unpleasant activating
moods increase the amount of ideas through their effect on
persistence (De Dreu et al., 2008). The impact of both pleasant
and unpleasant moods on creativity can also be facilitated
by supportive social interactions (George and Zhou, 2007).
On the other hand, because both pleasant and unpleasant
deactivating moods such as calm and sadness lead to inaction and
disengagement with the environment, they are less conducive to
creativity (Baas et al., 2008). The impact of cognitive processes on
creativity are explained more in depth in the following section.
Cognitive Skills
Among the cognitive skills associated with creativity, divergent
thinking (DT) is a reliable and reasonably valid predictor of
creative potential (Runco and Acar, 2012) and is the central
construct behind most creativity tests (e.g., TTCT; Torrance,
1966). According to Guilford’s Structure of Intellect model (SOI;
1968), DT is the cognitive process associated with the generation
of many alternative ideas. Specifically, facing an open-ended
problem, DT encompasses the capacity of an individual to
generate many ideas or solutions (i.e., fluency) that pertains to
different categories (i.e., flexibility) and are unique contrasted
with a sample dependent norm (i.e., originality).
The Dual Pathway to Creative Performance (DPCP; Nijstad
et al., 2011) provides a more profound exploration of the
cognitive processes underlying creativity. According to this
framework, persistent and flexible thinking represents two
functional ways to generate creative solutions. Specifically, to
come up with novel associations, one must show persistence
to focus and explore in depth a limited number of potential
solutions (De Dreu et al., 2012). The fact that unpleasant moods
such as anxiety signal a problematic situation, and thus force
people to deploy additional effort to solve the challenge at hand,
supports the positive link between unpleasant mood and creative
solutions through persistence (George and Zhou, 2002). On the
other hand, the same level of creativity might be achieved through
flexible mind wandering. That is, defocused attention and latent
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inhibition allow many concepts coming from different sources
within one’s attentional stream, which promote spontaneous
creative insights. In this instance, a pleasant mood might signal
a problem free situation facilitating effortless thinking and
openness to ideas coming from diverse areas (Fredrickson, 2001).
Perspective taking has also been shown to be an important
cognitive skill to unlock team creativity (Grant and Berry,
2011;Hoever et al., 2012). Importantly, a distinction must
be acknowledged between divergent thinking theories and
perspectival approaches to creativity. As described above, the
former assume that ideas come to mind through pre-existing
knowledge association. However, the latter considers the origin
and dynamic of ideas as fundamentally social. The moment of
insight is thus more than the result of cognitive processes; ideas
are influenced by the perspective or action of a person in the
world (Gl˘
aveanu, 2015).
Accordingly, generating fluid, flexible, and original thoughts
is not sufficient to become creative. One must possess or develop
the confidence to take action on those thoughts and share them
with others. This transition from creative potential to creative
accomplishment at the everyday level represents an agentic action
depicting a person’s choice (conscious or not) to think and
act in a novel way. The Creative Behavior as Agentic Action
(CBAA) posits that this decision to act creatively is influenced
by two keys factors: creative confidence and perceived value of
creativity (Karwowski and Beghetto, 2019). Creative confidence
encompasses two types of self-beliefs. On one hand, creative self-
efficacy (CSE) is a dynamic and prospective belief in one’s ability
to perform creatively a given task, in a specific context, at a
particular level. On the other hand, creative self-concept (CSC)
refers to a more holistic cognitive and affective judgment of
one’s creative ability in and across particular domains (Beghetto
and Karwowski, 2017). Finally, perceiving creative activities as
worthwhile is essential. In a series of studies, Karwowski and
Beghetto (2019) confirmed that creative potential works through
creative confidence to influence creative behavior and that
valuing creativity moderate both the creative potential-behavior
relationship and the creative confidence-behavior one.
Although the CBAA framework acknowledge the essential
connection between creative thoughts and actions for someone
to realize his/her creative potential, the role of the body in
this relationship is still unclear. In fact, the role of physical
expression has been either ignored or only indirectly addressed
by most actor-oriented frameworks presented above underlying
their dualistic tendencies which prevent them to address the
complex interactions linking the mind-body-environment. To
adopt an embodied perspective, a deeper dive into the physicality
of creativity is needed.
Physical Expression
In synergy with affects and cognitions, the body participates
in the emergence of creative actions. Accordingly, a recent
framework developed by Creely et al. (2020) conceptualized
creativity as a way of being, expressing, emerging, and existing.
The first mode of their Three Modes of Creativity model considers
creativity as a “visceral embodied expression in the physical world
or as a set of tangible practices that are physically located in
space and time” (p. 2). Embodiment is based on the premise that
the brain and body are intrinsically coupled (Gallagher, 2015).
When considered as a corporeal connection with others and the
material world, embodied creativity often relates to domains such
as music, painting, sculpture, and performing arts where senses,
feelings, and the totality of the environment of things are engaged
through the body (Creely et al., 2020).
In this vein, over the last decades, researchers from various
branches of movement sciences have been exploring the body
as a vehicle to express creativity. Specifically, motor creativity
has been defined as the type of creativity based on movement,
“in which the process of creativity is embodied and the body
is part of the creative product” (Torrents et al., 2020, p.1). It
can support the resolution of pre-established problems or the
expression of an idea or an emotion by the means of the human
body (Wyrick, 1968;Bournelli et al., 2009). Motor creativity has
thus been linked to various types of creative artifacts from the
emergence of novel dance movements (Torrents et al., 2015)
to Olympics gold medal winning performance outbreak such
as the “Fosbury flop” jump or the “Tsukahara vault” (Bar-Eli
et al., 2008). Although motor creativity research is contributing
to deepening the understanding of creativity as an embodied
concept, the fact that creative movement and performance have
mainly been considered as end points leaves underexplored the
potential of moving creatively as a means for people to reach their
full creative potential (Rasmussen et al., 2017).
A Systemic Approach to Foster Creative
Potential
The goal of the first section was to review the elements that
have been linked to creative potential fulfilment. In accordance
with the embedded individual potential definition (Corazza and
Gl˘
aveanu, 2020), we depict the creative potential as a complex
system where creative actions arise from highly interactive
environmental and actor elements. For instance, when an actor’s
openness, willingness to take risk, and cognitive flexibility,
interact with a risk-friendly environment, the actor’s perception
of affordances is facilitated, increasing the likelihood of
creative actions to emerge. Hence, compared to unidimensional
approaches adopted by many studies aiming at enhancing
creativity (Scott et al., 2004;Valgeirsdottir and Onarheim, 2017),
interventions should not only be about developing individual
skills (e.g., divergent thinking) but also about improving
environmental factors. To facilitate the emergence of creative
actions, interventions should favor activities that integrate a
combination of multiple elements of the system. We thus
suggest that creative potential can be nurtured through a
systemic approach because it captures interactions between
various elements while providing different levels of explanation
and perspectives which predict the emergence of creative actions
(Poutanen, 2013).
If learning is defined as “the modification of a pre-existing
repertoire that is unique to each individual” (Kelso, 2019, p.85),
interventions must provide participants with opportunities to
challenge their creative potential system repertoire at multiple
levels. Building on the review, Figure 1 represents the elements
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FIGURE 1 | Interacting elements of the creative potential system.
of an individual system repertoire that could be supported
and/or challenged to foster someone’s creative potential. It
summarizes ‘what’ a creativity enhancement intervention should
be directed toward. Whereas the review divided the elements
in distinct sections, Figure 1 reunites them to emphasize
a holistic and embodied perspective of creativity. The black
strand represents the actor’s elements while the gray strand
represents the environmental ones. Both strands are intertwined
to support creative actions through these interactions influencing
the perception of affordances. Of course, not all systems initially
present facilitating interacting elements. Each element act as rate
limiters on the emergence of creative actions (Renshaw et al.,
2009). This can be exemplified by actors exhibiting cognitive
rigidity or environments governed by an authoritarian culture
limiting the creative potential of the system. In this latter
case, well designed creativity enhancement interventions could
potentially improve the system or provide additional resources to
provoke or accelerate the growth of creative potential.
Because “perception, cognition, emotion, human
relations, and behavior are grounded in our bodies”
(Marmeleira and Duarte Santos, 2019, p.410), whether
body-oriented creativity training could be a holistic way to
enhance the creative potential system is a path worth exploring
(Valgeirsdottir and Onarheim, 2017). As mentioned previously,
the transformational potential of using creative movement to
nurture the creative potential system has been underexplored.
Hence, using philosophical, theoretical, and empirical movement
science perspectives, the second section of this paper sheds light
on the potential of movement-based activities to design creativity
enhancement interventions.
THE HOLISTIC NATURE OF ENRICHED
MOVEMENT ACTIVITIES AND ITS
IMPACT ON CREATIVITY
From a philosophical standpoint, to move away from Cartesian
dualism casting the body as a mere ‘home’ of human intellect,
existentialist and phenomenological thinkers, such as Sartre
and Merleau-Ponty, highlighted the pivotal role played by
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our embodiment in life. Both advocate for “the indispensable
contribution made by our embodiment in, for example,
self-realization, perception, concept development, language
formulation, rationality, emotion and the development of
interpersonal relationships” (Whitehead, 2007, p.283). Embodied
activities thus have the potential to stimulate simultaneously
many aspects of the creative potential system intrinsic dynamics.
In other words, if “for human reality, to be is to act” (Sartre, 1957,
p. 474), then becoming more creative should too be developed
through actions.
Following this perspective, the few embodied creativity
training programs that were empirically tested have used action-
oriented activities (Byrge and Tang, 2015). For instance, role
play training positively impacted creative imagination, thoughts
and values in undergraduate students (Karwowski and Soszynski,
2008), creative drama increased participants’ fluent and flexible
thinking (Karakelle, 2009), and an embodied creativity training
program contributed to the enhancement of creative production,
self-efficacy, and attitude (Byrge and Tang, 2015). While those
interventions focused on forms of embodiment that mainly
involve verbal and/or art expression to impact specific actor’s
creative cognitive and affective skills, they did not directly
challenge the body or integrate movement per se. We believe
that there are additional benefits in adopting a motile embodied
perspective to enhance creative potential.
In this vein, some studies tested the impact of various
movement activities on creative potential. For instance, a
20-min aerobic dancing session significantly impacted DT
scores in female college students (Gondola, 1987). Similarly,
findings revealed that aerobic exercise (jogging, swimming,
fast walking, stationary biking, or stair climbing), enhanced
DT in physically fit students, both immediately and 2 h
after completing the workout (Blanchette et al., 2005). Other
evidence suggested that acute aerobic exercise benefits athletes’
creative performance through improved convergent thinking
skills while impairing creative scores in non-athletes (Colzato
et al., 2013). These findings are mainly explained in terms of
the physiological impact of exercising on creative cognition,
ignoring the wholeness of movement activities as well as all
other element associated with creative potential. To circumvent
these limitations, we explore how embodied activities can become
enriched experiences.
Physical Literacy
One way of thinking about embodied movement is through the
lens of what scholars in physical education refer to as physical
literacy (Dudley et al., 2017). We introduce it here given the
rapid uptake of the concept by practitioners and influential non-
governmental organizations such as the WHO and UNESCO.
According to Whitehead (2007), “the capacity to capitalize fully
on our embodied dimension could be encapsulated in the term
physical literacy” (p. 286). Broadly, physical literacy can be
defined as “the motivation, confidence, physical competence,
knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for
maintaining purposeful physical pursuits/activities throughout
the life course” (Whitehead, 2013, p.29). Moving away from
fundamental movement skills, a recent conceptual model
describes physical literacy as the “multidimensional, experiential
convergence of motor, affect, social and cognitive components”
interacting with various physical environments (Cairney et al.,
2019, p.373).
Activities recruiting physical literacy can thus be conceived as
enriched multidimensional learning experiences (Roetert et al.,
2017). Not only is moving essential for health and increasing
movement proficiency, but it can also alter cognitive, affective,
social, and cultural repertoires. For instance, a community-based
movement skill and preliteracy program produced synergistic
gains in both gross-motor and preliteracy skills in preschool-aged
children in addition to facilitating the engagement of parents in
such activities at home (Bedard et al., 2017). In a cross-sectional
study conducted on children aged 9–12 years old, physical
literacy was found to be a predictor of resilience. Specifically,
authors concluded that “if the affective domains of confidence
and motivation developed in physical literacy go beyond just
motor action, then they may also provide or help young people
acquire the skills and abilities to better negotiate for, and navigate
to, resources that sustain their well-being in different contexts”
(Jefferies et al., 2019, p.4). Although not specifically referring to
physical literacy, a recent review of embodied-related literature
highlighted the holistic benefits of various movement-based
interventions such as dance/movement therapy to help people
achieve new states of mind or body-exercises to support mood,
emotions, and cognition in older adults (Marmeleira and Duarte
Santos, 2019). These studies support the assumption that physical
literacy provides insight into creating optimal physical-psycho-
social environments that could foster the development of key
processes underlying creativity (Jefferies et al., 2019). To achieve
this goal though, some principles must be followed to design
enriched movement experiences.
Non-linear Pedagogy as a Guiding
Principle to Design Enriched Movement
Activities
Not all movement-based activities provide the same level
of ‘enrichment.’ In movement sciences, the term enrichment
refers to an embedded approach to motor learning which
highlights rich and varied possibilities to achieve task goals
through interactions constrained by the body, the task, and
the environment (Rudd et al., 2020). For instance, rather than
using repetitive prescriptive learning methods to acquire one
single ‘optimized’ movement pattern, non-linear pedagogy (NLP)
stipulates that, because there is an infinite number of individual
intrinsic dynamics (Phillips et al., 2010), it is by manipulating
specific constraints, removing barriers, and increasing freedom,
that movers uncover novel, flexible, and functional movement
patterns (Chow et al., 2006;Hristovski et al., 2006). Specifically,
NLP is informed by non-proportionality (i.e., small changes in
the system may significantly impact learners’ behaviors), multi-
stability (i.e., one cause may have multiple behavioral effects),
functional role of noise (i.e., variability in the system dynamics
is encouraged), and parametric control (i.e., manipulating
specific parameters to effectively guide a learning system)
(Chow et al., 2011).
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To design enriched movement experiences and inspire
creativity, the manipulation of key constraints is central to
NLP (Chow et al., 2006, 2011;Santos et al., 2016). Defined as
“boundaries or features that shape the emergence of behavior by a
learner seeking a stable state of organization” (Chow et al., 2006,
p.262; refering to Newell, 1986) constraints are classified among
three categories: organismic, environmental, and task related.
Organismic constraints refer to personal characteristics that are
either structural meaning they remain relatively stable over time
(e.g., body composition and personality) or functional implying a
faster change rate potential (e.g., fatigue, heart rate, motivation,
and cognitive state). Environmental constraints encompass all
those outside of the person such as climate, apparatus, material,
and sociocultural factors. Task constraints can be considered as
being instructional such as rules and instructions provided by a
leader or informational such as visual or acoustic cues coming
from the environment (Newell, 1986).
The same way affordances are relational, task constraints
have recently been conceptualized as distributed between the
environment and the organism. This means they are emergent
properties of the organism-environment system. Because the
material environment can only become a task constraint
when interacting with a goal-oriented organism (‘actor’ in
this paper), designing an enriched movement task to foster
creative potential implies designing an inviting relation between
the actor and the environment. Furthermore, organismic,
environmental, and task constraints are nested in timescales
impacting behaviors differently. Faster-changing constraints (e.g.,
perceptions, emotions, social interactions) have short-term effect
on behavioral variables while slower-changing constraints (e.g.,
personality, cultural norms) have more durable impacts on
behaviors. A circular causality relationship links these constraints
as intervention at the slow-changing constraint level support
changes at the fast-changing level and vice-versa (see Balagué
et al., 2019, for more details).
Constraining the actor-environment system to stimulate
creative movement may sound paradoxical since we argued
earlier in the paper that creativity was linked to free, autonomous,
and risk-permissive environments. Nevertheless, whether it is
a painter that self-imposes a technique to explore something
different or a circus artist that uses a piece of equipment to force
his/her body toward new directions, the careful manipulation of
constraints can lead to the exploration of underused repertoire
potentially facilitating the discovery of novel solutions (Torrents
et al., 2020). This assumption is supported by studies looking to
improve movement creativity in various populations and settings.
For example, constraining the distance to a punching bag target
while asking novice boxers to perform efficient strikes led to
the exploration of a rich range of striking actions (Hristovski
et al., 2006). Similarly, the manipulation of hand hold, design
to instill uncertainty and instability in climbers’ motor system,
impacted positively on exploratory behaviors (Orth et al., 2018).
In dance, Torrents et al. (2015) explored the effect of evolving
constraints (free dancing, pelvis as close as possible, and pelvis as
far as possible) on three pairs of contemporary dancers. Results
indicate that task constraints have a significant effect on the type
of configurations performed by the dancers. In a more ecological
setting, a conventional elementary school fitness program was
metamorphosed into a more creative one using NLP. The use
of constraints, variability, fantasy play, and problem solving to
encourage children to move differently resulted in significantly
more original thoughts, as well as fluent and flexible movements
compare to the children that continued the conventional exercise
program (Richard et al., 2018).
In sum, these studies support the idea that perturbating the
motor system by constraining ‘traditional’ or ‘familiar’ movement
patterns while allowing the freedom to explore various solutions
create enriched learning experiences in which creative movement
are more inclined to emerge. What remains underexplored
though is the impact of such enriched movement activities on
the other elements of the creative potential system. As mentioned
earlier, the research connecting movement and creativity focuses
mostly on optimizing motor performance (Rasmussen et al.,
2020). However, because of the holistic nature of movement
underlined in this section, there are reasons to believe that
enriched movement activities can also impact the system at
the affective, cognitive, social, and cultural level. The next
section introduces movement improvisation to exemplify how
enriched movement activities can ignite the whole creative
potential system.
MOVEMENT IMPROVISATION AS A
CREATIVE SYSTEM IGNITER
Improvisation presents many assets to design effective learning
experiences and challenge the creative potential system. Defined
as the act of creating something new, on the spur of the
moment, improvisation helps people break away from set
patterns (Lewis and Lovatt, 2013). Improvisation is a complex
form of creative behavior (Beaty, 2015) since individuals must
process and act on several stimuli simultaneously (Torrents et al.,
2020). Furthermore, improvisational activities are particularly
well-suited for creative growth because (a) the process is the
creative product, (b) it promotes respectful and attuned actors-
environment interactions, (c) it is highly unpredictable and
thus can perturbate the system (Sawyer and Dezutter, 2009;
Malinin, 2019).
In line with NLP characteristics (Chow et al., 2011), when
improvising in group setting, every small change in an action
performed by one individual can impact another person’s action
greatly (i.e., non-proportionality). Then, each improvisational
task presents multiple response possibilities (i.e., multi-stability).
Finally, while the unpredictable nature of improvisation creates
a lot of ‘noise’ and variability in the system, its interactive
nature with the environment (human interactions and material
world) can serve as parametric control constraining people
possible responses. In short, improvisation can provide a
risk-friendly environment where improvisers must consider
their personal constraints (i.e., cognitive skills, emotional state,
physical competency, etc.) as well as the environmental ones (i.e.,
actions of other performers, space, material, surface, etc.) in order
to navigate the task (Torrents et al., 2020).
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The frequent use of improvisational technique has been
associated to the development of creative assets in various
domains. For instance, findings revealed that jazz musicians,
who are highly skilled in improvising, have higher ideational
creativity, are more open minded, and produce more creative
musical achievement compared to classical musicians (Benedek
et al., 2014). Similar results were found when comparing
contemporary dancers (i.e., freely improvise on stage) to classical
ballet dancers (Fink and Woschnjak, 2011). In this vein,
contact improvisation was found to provide the right balance
between collective constraints and individual freedom, which
facilitated the emergence of creative movement in dancers
(Kimmel et al., 2018). Other than for its performative purpose,
improvisation was successfully used to improve undergraduate
students’ fluency, flexibility, and originality scores (Lewis and
Lovatt, 2013) as well as positive affect and uncertainty tolerance
(Felsman et al., 2020). In line with the idea that improvisation
can contribute to the fulfillment of creative potential elements
(and not only achievements), the implementation of theatrical
improvisation classes led to positive effect on self-concept in
children (DeBettignies and Goldstein, 2020) whereas dance
improvisation was associated to cognitive and socio-emotional
growth in students by experienced dance teachers (Biasutti,
2013). Interestingly, improvisation techniques derived from
jazz music were used to disrupt the dominant coach-centered
culture rooted amongst sport coaches, to promote conversational
exchanges (i.e., collaborative approach) between them and
players (Santos and Morgan, 2019). The intervention impacted
players’ capacity to generate creative solutions when facing
challenges thereby highlighting the sociocultural impact of
improvisation on creative potential. Studies implementing
improvisation interventions to challenge the creative potential
system as a whole remain scarce leaving us with a poor
understanding of the depth of impacts these activities can have
especially when combined with movement. Consequently, the
focus here is to shed light on the potential of using improvisation
with movement as a creative system igniter.
Inspired by Cirque du Soleil former talent development
program, physical comic and theatrical improvisation techniques
were employed to design a 20-h intervention aiming at helping
elite figure skaters free up their performance and optimize
their mental states. Not only quantitative measures of creative
attitudes and values improved significantly, but skaters reported
being more open-minded, willing to take risks, and flexible
following the intervention. Additionally, skaters noticed how
improvisational activities helped build relationships with other
participants (Richard et al., 2017). After gathering scientific,
empirical, and experiential evidence, an intervention called
movement improvisation was designed (i.e., no use of verbal
skills) to challenge the elements of the creative system. Movement
improvisation is a series of activities conducted in a group
setting that are regulated by two ‘rules’ to establish the micro-
cultural values at the onset of each session. The first rule invites
participants to “leave their judgments at the door; the judgment
of others, but most of all the judgment of themselves.” The second
rule stipulates that there are no other rules. The participants are
thus allowed to respond to the stimuli suggested by the different
improvisation activities in any way they want. These initial steps
are taken to establish a risk-friendly environment.
At the start of each session, an interactive warm up activity
is implemented to help participants connect with each other and
get their body moving. This moment also allows the instructor to
get a sense of both individual and group dynamics, which must
be appropriately challenged throughout the session to nurture
creative potential. Although movements are directly constrained
by various stimuli, improvisation activities are meticulously
planned to challenge usual ways of thinking, feeling, behaving,
and interacting with others as well as the material world
through movement. Movement improvisation task constraints
thus emerge at the intersection between organismic constraint
such as moving at random speed or while mimicking something
or to express emotions and environmental constraints such as
the use of different style of music and the establishment of
various social contexts (i.e., individual, dyadic, and collective
improvisation). In accordance with NLP, because there is no
prescribed or expected ways to navigate each activity, participants
are free to explore their boundaries, discover new ways of
navigating situations and adapt at their own rhythm. Finally, each
activity is followed by a debrief that encourages participants to
reflect on their physical (e.g., what have you noticed in terms of
movement and physical sensations?) cognitive (e.g., any specific
thoughts during the activity?), affective (e.g., how did you feel
when. . .?) and social (e.g., how did you navigate the situation
together?) experience.
To exemplify the process, the following describes one of the
basic activities titled “walking away from the obvious.” In this
improvisation, participants are asked to walk in the room while
imagining that their body is made of various substances (e.g.,
how would you walk if you were made of water, wood, oil, etc.).
The body is thus ‘constrained’ to explore other ways of walking
by embodying their interpretation of various substances (i.e.,
organismic constraint) while being primed by a slow and soft
music (i.e., environmental constraint). Because the substances are
randomly introduced, it also challenges participants’ flexibility of
both movement and thoughts to transition and transform their
way of walking from one substance to the other. Additionally,
it solicitates their openness to reconsider the usual way to walk,
willingness to take risk to push movement solutions in original
directions, and vulnerability because everyone looks somewhat
silly and feels a level of discomfort while embodying substances.
To start investigating the potential of movement
improvisation as a creative potential enhancement intervention,
a 5-week program was designed and compared to aerobic
dancing and a control condition in a study testing the
differentiating effects of these conditions on motor creativity
and divergent thinking. Although findings revealed a
significant effect for both movement improvisation and
aerobic dancing on motor creativity variables compared to
control, the effect sizes of movement improvisation were
greater. Moreover, only movement improvisation impacted
significantly original thinking compared to the control condition
(Richard et al., 2020).
These preliminary results combined with the study
using Cirque du Soleil intervention partially support the
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Richard et al. Creativity in Motion
assumption that enriched movement activities (e.g., movement
improvisation) can support the growth of multiple elements of
the creative potential system, simultaneously. In other words,
enriched movement activities do not only lead to creative
movement, they can also enhance cognitive, affective, social
and cultural elements associated with creative potential. To
help researchers and practitioners to design more enriched
movement activities aimed at enhancing the creative potential
system, understanding the mechanisms of change is key.
Yet, how creativity enhancement intervention works is still
underexamined in most mainstream creativity research
(Valgeirsdottir and Onarheim, 2017). To bridge this last gap, the
next section describes the mechanisms explaining how enriched
movement activities can optimize the creative potential system.
HOW DOES ENRICHED MOVEMENT
ACTIVITIES PROVOKE CHANGES IN
CREATIVE POTENTIAL SYSTEM?
“Complex systems are those with very many independent
degrees of freedom (roughly component parts)” (Davids et al.,
1994, p.501). Due to the complex and dynamic interactions
underpinning the emergence of creative actions, as depicted in
the first section, the creative potential system mechanism of
change can be conceptualized using complexity theory (Kozbelt
et al., 2010). Central to this theory is the notion that, when
perturbated, complex systems as a whole self-organize and
adapt to the environment to facilitate the emergence of new
order (Poutanen, 2013). The impact of constraints on creative
movement has been conceptualized and operationalized within
the ecological dynamics theoretical framework; “an approach
using concepts and tools of dynamical systems to understand
phenomena that occur at an ecological scale” (Araujo et al., 2006,
p. 656). Because NLP is building on this approach, this section
first reviews the mechanism of change leading to the emergence
of creative movements. However, the goal of this section is to
explore how principles of ecological dynamics could also explain
the changes provoked by enriched movement activities on the
cognitive, affective, social, and cultural elements of the creative
potential system.
Creative Movements Explained Through
an Ecological Dynamics Lens
The complexity and non-linearity of the creative potential system
can be described by its multistability, meaning that it is composed
of multiple stable states or what is also sometimes called
attractors. These pre-existing states/attractors (i.e., intrinsic
dynamics landscape) are shaped by prior experiences and dictates
the very nature of learning and change. When perturbated (e.g.,
through constraints), multistability allows the system to switch
rapidly among states/attractors to sustain functionality and meet
environmental and/or internal demands (Kelso, 2012). Another
way for the system to preserve functionality when one part of
the system is perturbated is through synergies; “context-sensitive
functional groupings of elements that are temporarily assembled
to act as a single coherent unit” (Kelso, 2012, p.907).
Because learning is about acquiring new patterns of behaviors,
stable states/attractors must be perturbated to allow the
exploration of new states (Kelso, 2019). Once the system is
perturbated by constraints, it falls into a state of disequilibrium
(Davids et al., 1994;Vaughan et al., 2019). The instability caused
by internal and/or external constraints on the system triggers
self-organization mechanisms which refers to “the spontaneous
formation of pattern and pattern change in complex systems
whose elements adapt to the very patterns of behavior they create”
(Kelso, 2001, p.13845). Transition routes then become possible
depending on the system initial intrinsic dynamics. On one hand,
the bifurcation route reorganizes the system by adding new stable
patterns implying novelty while the shift route generates smooth
adaptation by altering the disposition of pre-existing patterns
(Kelso, 2012). These two routes provide the minimum conditions
for movement creativity to emerge (Hristovski et al., 2011). On
the other hand, constraining the system can direct individuals
toward metastable performance regions (Hristovski et al., 2006;
Pinder et al., 2012;Orth et al., 2018) “where a system ‘hovers’
in a state of dynamic stability, switching between functional
states of organization in response to changing constraints, and
displaying subsequent behavioral flexibility” (Headrick et al.,
2015, p.84). Because the system never really ‘settles’ in one state,
metastability allows a flexible exploration and exploitation of
affordances potentially resulting in novel and original movements
(Chow et al., 2011;Hristovski et al., 2011). Because a person’s
perception of affordances might be altered momentarily by these
mechanisms, actions might also become unstable; they might get
worse before they get creative.
The same way self-organization processes have been shown
to lead to enhance creative movements (e.g., Hristovski et al.,
2006;Orth et al., 2018, as described above), we suggest that it can
explain how enriched movement activities can expand cognitive,
affective, social, and cultural repertoire increasing the likelihood
of creative actions emergence. Using movement improvisation,
this assumption is exemplified next.
The Mechanisms of Change Underlying
Movement Improvisation
So, how can we examine movement improvisation processes
using ecological dynamics principles? Figure 2 illustrates the
hypothetical mechanisms initiated during the ‘walking away
from the obvious’ and operating throughout a movement
improvisation session. Disrupted by the task constraints imposed
upon established walking patterns (i.e., walking like substances)
and the rules of the activity, the pre-existing state of each
individual’s creative potential system is momentarily destabilized.
Building on the idea that constraints are nested in levels
and timescales (Balagué et al., 2019), Figure 2 exemplified
changes for both actor (black strand) and environmental (gray
strand) constraints and the resulting self-organized behaviors
emerging from their interactions (i.e., The white space between
the strands. Above the arrow line are the changes in motor
behaviors while below the arrow line are the changes in other
expressed behaviors). In the first few seconds of the ‘walking
away from the obvious’ activity, participants’ perceptions of the
affordances rapidly change. At this stage, a slight disequilibrium
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FIGURE 2 | An example of a movement improvisation session mechanisms of change. The left intertwined strands image (i.e., summary of Figure 1) represents the
pre-existing state of the creative potential system. Once the system is disrupted and challenged by a movement improvisation activity, the right part of the Figure
presents the untied individual and environmental strands. We untied the strands to illustrate how the individual elements (black strand) and environmental elements
(gray strand), while still interacting, hypothetically change on a time scale from a few seconds to a few hours. The mid-line arrow illustrates the direction of the
chronology of these changes. Also, the white space above the mid-line arrow shows the emerging observable motor behaviors while the white space below the
arrow presents other behaviors expressed throughout the activity.
can be perceived by participants observing others, laughing, and
hesitating. Participants are usually stuck within the attractor of
‘biped walking.’ Although the ‘rule’ of freely responding to stimuli
in any way they want is well established at the onset, participants
usually only perform movements that are close to the ‘biped
walking’ attractor by embodying the substance with their arms
or legs. They are mainly showcasing the multistability of the
system alternating between stable states resulting in few original
walking patterns.
Because the activity is conducted in a group, after a few
minutes, one member of the group will usually ‘push’ the
exploration to another level by starting to roll, crawl, or
quadruped walk on the floor (‘walking,’ after all, is not limited
to human bipedal motion only). Due to a change in the level of
willingness to take risk, this participant moves away from the
‘biped walking’ attractor and starts, therefore, to explore unstable
states. By doing so, it creates a competition between the pre-
existing repertoire of the members of the group and influence
the new behaviors to be achieved (Torrents et al., 2021). In other
words, this changing environmental constraint ‘unlocks’ some
participants from their main attractors and induces a metastable
dynamic where participants can easily navigate between stable
and unstable movements.
During a movement improvisation session, there is no
motor performance expectations. The goal of improvising with
movements is to perturbate the entire system to instill growth at
all levels. So, what other cognitive, affective, social, and cultural
changes happened to the system throughout a whole 2-h session?
When debriefing with participants after the session, they often
share how cognitively, affectively, and socially challenged they
were. Some report not ‘knowing’ how to respond to certain
stimuli (i.e., cognitively destabilize), having experienced anxiety
or confusion (i.e., affectively destabilize), or being worried to
look like a fool (i.e., socially destabilize). When we discuss the
strategies they used to manage those experiences, some disclose
focusing on the music, connecting with the body, entering a
‘bubble,’ imagining the stimuli, etc. As illustrated in Figure 2,
after more than an hour, synergies form between participants
increasing trust which led to the adoption of freedom and
permission to take risk as shared values within the group.
Changes in these environmental constraints can impact, for
instance, on participants’ cognitive flexibility and openness which
can be observed through enhanced fluency in movements. By
the end of the session, these changes in constraints allow
participants to completely engage and produce flexible and
original movements. Because constraints correlated through
circular causality, it is also important to note that adopting
freedom as a group norm also impact the interpersonal trust
which influence the actions of the participants in the group,
making affordances more inviting. The same principle could
apply for individual constraints. This supports the idea that affect,
cognition, and behaviors as well as social and cultural factors also
exhibit self-organizational tendencies which can transform the
system intrinsic dynamics (Davids et al., 2001).
In summary, the movement improvisation constraints
challenge more than movement patterns, it destabilizes the
whole creative potential system. To regain stability, participants
must explore multiple cognitive, affective, social, or cultural
solutions to reorganize in more functional states. “Adopting
novel and potentially functional states of system organization is
a consequence of learning and/or development, as individuals
transit from the ‘known’ to the ‘unknown,’ i.e., moving from
a familiar task or situation to one that is new or different”
(Headrick et al., 2015, p.84). This supports the underexplored
idea that enriched movement activities can challenge the
actor-environment creative potential system resulting in
more creative actions, at least at the everyday level. Through
movements, participants experience how they feel, think,
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behave, and interact when anchored patterns, such as walking,
are disrupted. This embodied metaphor might facilitate the
transfer of creativity-related skills to other activities (Malinin,
2019). It also broadens the envelop of creativity enhancement
interventions by providing a rationale for movement activities as
a holistic method.
CHALLENGES AND FUTURE
DIRECTIONS
Challenges and Future Directions
Building on creativity and movement sciences literature, this
review aims at highlighting the holistic power of movement as
a creative potential system igniter. We argue that by directly
perturbating the elements of the system through well-designed
activities such as movement improvisation, cognitive, affective,
social, and cultural repertoires can be enhanced. To move
away from dualistic cognitive science perspectives and combine
creativity and movement sciences, we build on ecological
dynamics principles and an underlying pedagogical approach
(i.e., NLP) to explain how and why enriched movement activities
are promising candidates to provide the environment needed to
support creative potential enhancement. To test the hypothesis
raised in this paper and empirically unify movement and
creativity sciences within an evidenced-based intervention, some
challenges must be addressed.
The first challenge concerns the lack of knowledge about
the impact of enriched movement activities on variables beyond
motor variables. Studies using NLP or improvisation provide
evidence for the benefit of tasks emerging from the manipulation
of environmental constraints (e.g., distance, material, space)
and/or organismic constraints (e.g., usual movement patterns)
forcing the exploration of movement solutions resulting in the
emergence of creative motor patterns (Torrents et al., 2020).
However, to date, most movement science research has failed
to address the nested organization in levels and timescales at
the systemic level (actor’s and environmental elements) and
their circular causality. Noteworthy, interventions triggering
movement exploration rarely address the initial state of slow-
changing elements such as personality (e.g., openness) and
cultural values (e.g., risk-permissive) and their impact on faster-
changing elements like motivation and cognitive states (e.g.,
flexibility). For instance, how is moving creatively influenced by
a risk-permissive cultural value and influence cognitive flexibility
and willingness to take risk?
To answer this question, researchers must shift away from
“the empiricist preoccupation of reducing the universe to a
series of simple, testable relationships” (Davids et al., 1994,
p.501). Creative potential is defined throughout this article as
a complex system where cultural values, social interactions,
material world, and individual’s cognitive skills, affective states
and physical expression are intricately linked (see Figure 1).
Therefore, studying each of these elements individually “often
disrupts their usual interactions so much that an isolated unit
may behave quite differently from the way it would behave
in its normal context” (Clarke and Crossland, 1985, p.16).
The systemic and complex characteristic of creativity raises the
thorny challenge of developing research and applied approaches
that integrate rather than isolate interdependencies between all
elements (Vaughan et al., 2019). According to Gl˘
aveanu et al.
(2020), “even if one single study or intervention cannot address
all these [creativity] dimensions simultaneously, the questions,
methods, general design, and interpretation of findings should be
chosen in view of this complexity” (p.742).
Building on this recommendation, we thus invite movement
creativity researchers to look beyond movement outcome
variables and start questioning whether and how disrupting
usual movement patterns through enriched movement activities
triggers the emergence of individual and environmental
repertoire. Designing research questions and hypothesis using
the model presented in Figure 2 could be a good starting point
for researchers to examine more precisely the nested organization
of variables in levels and timescales and provide a much more
complete picture of the impacts of enriched movement activities
on creative potential elements.
Using this approach raises the challenge of measurement.
To assess changes in the creative potential system, one must
assess its intrinsic dynamics (Kelso, 2019). Although efforts
were deployed to develop measurement taxonomies such as the
heuristic framework for creativity measurement that provide a
multidimensional measurement structure (see Batey, 2012, for a
review), most studies still adopt a siloed measurement approach.
For instance, intervention studies usually used either variation
of divergent thinking tasks to assess the cognitive elements (e.g.,
Torrance and Ball, 1984;Runco and Acar, 2012), self-reported
measures to gather data about affective elements such as openness
to experience, risk-taking, and motivational orientations (see
Kaufman, 2019), or consensual assessment to evaluate the
creative ‘product’ (e.g., Amabile, 1996). Yet, to reliably assess
creative potential changes and developments throughout an
intervention, unidimensional measurement approach is no
longer sufficient. Optimizing measurement methods is thus
pressing (Barbot, 2019). We believe Figures 1,2can serve as a
useful guide to develop multidimension assessment tool.
We also call for ecological research designs where enriched
movement activities are integrated as part of the regular
curriculum’ rather than isolated. Naturally, this suggestion
makes sport organizations, exercise facilities and schools
intuitively appealing milieu to conduct this type of applied
research. But what would be the impact of integrating
enriched movement activities in less intuitively movement-
related domains such as medicine, architecture, or engineering
where creativity is also key? What if before medical case study
classes or brainstorm meetings, professionals were invited to
improvise with movement? How would this transform the
material, social and cultural environment and invite more
creative behaviors thereafter? Could moving creatively regularly
impact embedded individual creative potential and push these
fields further? Longitudinal research adopting multidimensional
measurement methods could answer these questions and support
the benefits of integrating movement activities in all sorts of
milieu keeping in mind that the goal is to improve how “people
relate to the world, to others, and to themselves, making them
more flexible, more open to the new and, at least in principle, to
differences in perspective” (Gl˘
aveanu et al., 2020, p.743).
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This cross-context approach however raises yet another
challenge; the transferability of general training to other indirect
(non-linear) outcomes. Of course, to become a eminent creator
in any domain, specific training is needed to develop the
appropriate skill set to move a field forward (Sternberg, 2012).
Yet, as it was clearly established, the goal of using movement
activities is to foster creativity-related skills. So, how does
transferability apply to ‘general’ creative skill development?
Like certain movement competences (e.g., agility, endurance,
flexibility, power and stability) can be developed through non-
specific experiences and then transferred to a specific sport (Rudd
et al., 2020), we argue that the foundational elements of the
creative potential system can be improved through enriched
movement experiences. Accordingly, “it is suggested that the
role of behavioral enrichment, conferred by generality of transfer
has typically been misunderstood and undervalued in athlete
development programs” (Rudd et al., 2020, p.7). In attempt to
circumvent this, researchers have been interested in the role of
Donor Sport to enriched foundational skills development and
enhance a whole array of skills transferable to sport performance
(Strafford et al., 2018). For instance, Parkour (described above)
has been shown to be a suitable donor sport because it can
‘donate’ agility (i.e., physical skills), problem solving, risk-
management and self-efficacy (i.e., psychological skills) as well
as initiative and receptiveness to feedback (i.e., social skills)
(Strafford et al., 2020). Following this argument, we suggest that
creative movement activities such as movement improvisation
can be considered donor activities. Future research should thus
test whether movement activities can ‘donate’ affective, cognitive,
social, and cultural elements to enable people to fulfill their
creative potential in any domain.
CONCLUSION
Imagine if athletes’ warm up would be designed not only to get
their body prepared, but also to ready their mind to be more
creative during training sessions. Imagine if creative movement
sessions would be offered in most local gyms where you can
both improve your creative fitness for body and mind. And what
about integrating movement improvisation sessions before your
next innovation session at work? What would be the impact
on creative performance, but most of all, on well being? There
are “parallels in teaching for creativity and promoting well-
being; that the same elements which nurture creativity also
promote well-being more generally” (Watson et al., 2012, p.169)
and we argue that enriched movement activities could amplify
these parallels.
Itself a creative exercise, this review connects movement
to existing theories of creativity to highlight which elements
creative enhancement interventions should target, how enriched
movement activities can be designed, and by which mechanisms
it can nurture the creative potential system. Although much work
remains to be done to support these hypotheses, we believe that
fostering creative potential through movement is a path worth
exploring. Because while our world is in constant motion forcing
our mind to sprint to find new ideas, our bodies have never been
in such a state of inertia.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
VR, DH, and JC contributed to the conception and design of
the manuscript and models. VR conducted the literature review
and led the drafting of the manuscript. DH and JC did extensive
reviews of each version of the manuscript adding significant
contributions to the content of specific sections. All authors
contributed to manuscript revision, read, and approved the
submitted version.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The lead author thanks Ross Pinder, Sam Robertson, Susan
Cockel, Bernard Petiot, and Patrice Aubertin for their valuable
feedback and insights on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The
authors also want to thank Makenzie Thomas for her help in the
design of the Figures.
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