Spectators’ aesthetic experiences of sound and movement in dance performance

Dee Reynolds, Matthew Reason, Corinne Jola

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

172 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper we present a study of spectators’ aesthetic experiences of sound and movement in live dance performance. A multidisciplinary team comprising a choreographer, neuroscientists and qualitative researchers investigated the effects of different sound scores on dance spectators. What would be the impact of auditory stimulation on kinesthetic experience and/or aesthetic appreciation of the dance? What would be the effect of removing music altogether, so that spectators watched dance while hearing only the performers’ breathing and footfalls? We investigated audience experience through qualitative research, using post-performance focus groups, while a separately conducted functional brain imaging (fMRI) study measured the synchrony in brain activity across spectators when they watched dance with sound or breathing only. When audiences watched dance accompanied by music the fMRI data revealed evidence of greater intersubject synchronisation in a brain region consistent with complex auditory processing. The audience research found that some spectators derived pleasure from finding convergences between two complex stimuli (dance and music). The removal of music and the resulting audibility of the performers’ breathing had a significant impact on spectators’ aesthetic experience. The fMRI analysis showed increased synchronisation among observers, suggesting greater influence of the body when interpreting the dance stimuli. The audience research found evidence of similar corporeally focused experience. The paper discusses possible connections between the findings of our different approaches, and considers the implications of this study for interdisciplinary research collaborations between arts and sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2014
EventCognitive Futures in the Humanities - Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Apr 201426 Apr 2014
Conference number: 2nd


ConferenceCognitive Futures in the Humanities
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Spectators’ aesthetic experiences of sound and movement in dance performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this