A cognitive ecological approach to stage presence in three different dance forms

Sarah Pini

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Dance as a complex human activity provides a rich ground to understand the role of the body in cognition. Despite recent moves towards an enactive approach to dance (Warburton 2011, 2016; Merritt 2015, Cuykendall, & Shiphorst, 2018), the social, cultural and historical dimensions that inform the diversity of movement techniques and dancers’ experiences have often been neglected by more cognitive studies that have focused on expertise in dance. This study proposes an interdisciplinary study of embodied cognition by addressing the phenomenon of stage presence. In its classic version stage presence is conceived as prerogative of the skilled performer, resulting from both regimens of training and intrinsic charisma. Some researchers argued instead that presence can emerge in the spatiotemporal and experiential realm of embodied situated interaction, shared between the performer, the performance score and the audience (Zarrilli 2009; Fischer-Lichte, 2012; Sherman 2016). Through ethnographic methods and participant observation, including direct involvement through enculturation and enskillement into different performance practices, this study investigates variations of embodied presence in three dance forms: Contemporary Ballet, in the case of the National Ballet of Marseille’s staging of Emio Greco’s piece Passione; Contact Improvisation and the Global Underscore in Italy; and Body Weather, a radical movement ideology in Australian dance company De Quincey Co. By reframing stage presence as a collaborative and emergent potentiality arising from interaction with the audience and the context, this work shed light on the complex dynamic nature of cognition by re-framing the cognitive ecology of specific dance forms with the lived experience of stage presence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAustralasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology
2018 meeting
- Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia
Duration: 5 Dec 20187 Dec 2018


ConferenceAustralasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology
2018 meeting
CityNorth Ryde
Internet address


  • Cognitive Ecology
  • Dance
  • Ethnographic fieldwork
  • Stage Presence
  • Contemporary dance
  • Ballet
  • Contact Improvisation
  • Body Weather


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