Dance and NeuroScience

On Tuesday January 17th I attended the lecture “Dancing as an expression of choreographic thought of physical intelligence” by Scott Delahunta at CosmoCaixa. The presentation was part of the cycle “The brain invades the city”.

Schott Delahunta is trained as a dancer,but his research is not just focused on the artistic sphere but in the area of processes and experiences. His interest is about the mind (not the brain) of dancers and choreographers. He is interested in how they eventually create their pieces and other things.

Delahunta says that the relationship between dance and science goes beyond the motor system. Dance and science also are related through Cognitive Psychology.

For a long time, it was believed that knowledge was only created through words and language. However, Delahunta has discovered that there are other key factors in this process of knowledge creation. In order to reach his own conclusions he has worked with or studied choreographers and companies from different countries such as Malpelo, Wayne McGregor o Trisha Brown.

Ideas in movement change and evolve constantly. Dance is the expression of emotions and thoughts. Perhaps there is no clear-cut distinction between thinking and doing. Delahunta remarks that the doing also has thinking. He speaks of “choreographic thinking” and suggests that there is an emergence of a collective mind when a group of dances are performing a set piece or an improvised one. In a piece where several dances take part, the relationships between them are very important. This suggests the idea of a collective mind. It is in the connections between the dancers that the mind of the piece is located.

Delahunta commented that the questions that dancers ask themselves are very similar to the questions of the scientists ask. For that reason, he believes that both worlds are not so far apart.

He got interested in the different ways in which dancers annotated dance. He asked himself how dancers’ notebooks and each of their pages could become for a dancer an extension of his or her own body. The annotations that dancers create are related to a type of knowledge that is inside the body itself. In fact, dancers have to externalize and represent a great deal of knowledge that is in their inside.

Delahunta and his collaborators have carried out projects related to the previous topics and also published several scientific articles about these issues. For example:

  • Choreography and cognition (AtaXia 2004)
  • Chroreographic Thinking Tools: The goal of this project was to augment the creative process. The idea was to study the stimuli for the minds of the dances in order to help them understand their own creative processes and increase their imagination.
  • The choreographer language agent
  • Improvisation technologies: a tool for the analitycal dance eye 1994/1999. (William Forsythe: Improvisation Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye. CD-ROM and booklet with a text by Roslyn Sulcas. Stuttgart, 1999 – ISBN 3-7757-0850-2)
  • Synchronous objects for one flat thing beta, reproduced by William Forsythe

Delahunta explained several creativity techniques used by different choreographers. He also remarked that in contemporary dance, choreographers no longer mark the steps for dancers but, instead, design processes of creation and it is the dancers themselves who actually compose the piece. In this way, everything is richer and dancers find the whole experience more fulfilling.

Some tasks to stimulate creativity:

  • Visualize images
  • Remember melodies
  • To try to translate acoustic images into visual images.
  • The 27 points of a cube (Trisha Brown Locus) –> 27 point –> 27 letters => words –> emotions –> movement. (It goes way beyond the aesthetic form. With this technique one creates new spaces)

Delahunta pointed to reference sources were a wealth of creative techniques can be found:

To know more you can consult:

You will find other lectures and presentations by Scott Delahunta on Youtube.


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