Body of Knowledge Conference

Presentations, Research

I am so excited to present at the Body of Knowledge Conference at my alma mater, UC Irvine, on Thursday December 8, 2016. For a complete schedule of presentations and workshops see:



Many cognitive scientists are turning to dance experts to explore the relationship between bodily knowledge and perception. Dancers have a unique skill set that integrates physical and expressive abilities, making them intriguing participants in studies that examine how the action observation network, action prediction, learning, memory, and aesthetic preferences are related to one’s physical experiences. While findings from these studies suggest that dance experts perceive movement differently than novices; the definitions of what constitutes a “dance expert” are far ranging, making it challenging to compare results across studies.

We discuss the variety of dance experts that are recruited for scientific studies in movement perception and draw upon research in dance education to form a richer definition of dance expertise. One possible way to parameterize expertise in dance is by role (e.g. performer, teacher) and style (e.g. ballet, hip-hop). However, the challenge in differentiating expertise by style or role is that many many dancers have trained in multiple styles of dance and commonly have overlapping roles–thus creating a knot of expertise.

To untie this knot, we propose an enactive approach. Rather than label dancers as experts or novices based on an arbitrary requirement of the number of years a dancer has trained in a particular style or role, we suggest that broader categories of expertise will emerge from the data that go beyond both style and role. We predict four main types of expertise: Virtuosic, Expressive, Kinematic and Expressive expertise. Through combining methodologies such as psychometric measurement, eye tracking, brain imaging, phenomenological and analytical accounts of movement we can develop a more complete understanding of how expertise relates to the ways in which dance experts observe, learn, and articulate movement. This research can both inform the study of movement perception and help define gaps in dance education.