Research Topic

Dance and Disability

About this Research Topic

Elite experts in dance, sports or the performing arts can hardly be treated as representative members of a group: it is their individuality that makes them the outstanding performers they are. Similarly, persons with special bodily conditions can be regarded as experts in their own rights, whose neurocognitive systems are entirely adapted to their own specific bodily, sensory or cognitive situation. Investigating how they solve complex movement structures, such as in dance, will shed new light on the adaptive capacities of the human neurocognitive system. Dancers whose bodies, sensorimotor systems, minds, and biographies are shaped by their specific bodily and neurocognitive conditions as well as by their social status as being “dis-abled” have the capacity to challenge and modify common concepts of virtuosity and aesthetics that are normative in dance.

In mixed-abled dance companies, not only the motor abilities of the members may deviate strongly from the “norm” or the “normal” as well as from each other, but also their ways of sensing and thinking, and thereby the concepts which they may acquire based on their own specific perception and multimodal integration. Dance is a particularly interesting field in this regard as it directly connects the moving physical body (and its neurocognitive representations) with the expression of inner states and conceptual content and is typically situated in a social context. Dance is as much about communication as it is about movement, involving dancers, dance creators and spectators in a multi-layered (and typically non-verbal) conversation. In mixed-abled dance, this conversation can be challenged, complicated and enriched by the fact that members might differ strongly in the way they move, act, perceive, think, feel, communicate, and understand the world. Individuals with deviating bodily, perceptive or cognitive conditions might change the mode of interaction and communication within the entire group; the absence or reduced functionality of a limb or a sensory modality, or the use of a prosthetic, might afford new solutions for given tasks, and novel modes of interaction, while impeding the more habitual ones.
One example is the situation of visually impaired dancers who rely on other senses than vision while moving in space, together with other dancers. While the common image of a dancer’s proficiency seems rather hard to grasp for the congenital or early-onset blind, the crucial elements of dance and choreography, like the human body, movement, interaction, emotion, space, rhythm, geometry, can also be encountered in other than visual ways. Such not exclusively visual perspectives might also offer enriched aesthetic experiences to sighted spectators, thereby providing new ways to conceptualize dance as an art form.

For this Research Topic, we invite researchers from the field of psychology, neuropsychology, dance studies, sports science, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, social sciences, education, disability studies and the arts, as well as practitioners from related fields, to present cross-disciplinary work and mixed methods research, and proposing ideas and perspectives aiming to further research in the field. We are also interested in contributions that link the topic to related fields of research such as multi-sensory integration, body representation, spatial cognition, motor learning, embodied memory, embodied or non-verbal communication, or performance studies.


Keywords: disabilities, mixed-abled dance, inclusive dance, creativity, social interaction, non-verbal communication, multi-sensory integration, body representation, action representation, action perception, motor learning, motor imagery


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Elite experts in dance, sports or the performing arts can hardly be treated as representative members of a group: it is their individuality that makes them the outstanding performers they are. Similarly, persons with special bodily conditions can be regarded as experts in their own rights, whose neurocognitive systems are entirely adapted to their own specific bodily, sensory or cognitive situation. Investigating how they solve complex movement structures, such as in dance, will shed new light on the adaptive capacities of the human neurocognitive system. Dancers whose bodies, sensorimotor systems, minds, and biographies are shaped by their specific bodily and neurocognitive conditions as well as by their social status as being “dis-abled” have the capacity to challenge and modify common concepts of virtuosity and aesthetics that are normative in dance.

In mixed-abled dance companies, not only the motor abilities of the members may deviate strongly from the “norm” or the “normal” as well as from each other, but also their ways of sensing and thinking, and thereby the concepts which they may acquire based on their own specific perception and multimodal integration. Dance is a particularly interesting field in this regard as it directly connects the moving physical body (and its neurocognitive representations) with the expression of inner states and conceptual content and is typically situated in a social context. Dance is as much about communication as it is about movement, involving dancers, dance creators and spectators in a multi-layered (and typically non-verbal) conversation. In mixed-abled dance, this conversation can be challenged, complicated and enriched by the fact that members might differ strongly in the way they move, act, perceive, think, feel, communicate, and understand the world. Individuals with deviating bodily, perceptive or cognitive conditions might change the mode of interaction and communication within the entire group; the absence or reduced functionality of a limb or a sensory modality, or the use of a prosthetic, might afford new solutions for given tasks, and novel modes of interaction, while impeding the more habitual ones.
One example is the situation of visually impaired dancers who rely on other senses than vision while moving in space, together with other dancers. While the common image of a dancer’s proficiency seems rather hard to grasp for the congenital or early-onset blind, the crucial elements of dance and choreography, like the human body, movement, interaction, emotion, space, rhythm, geometry, can also be encountered in other than visual ways. Such not exclusively visual perspectives might also offer enriched aesthetic experiences to sighted spectators, thereby providing new ways to conceptualize dance as an art form.

For this Research Topic, we invite researchers from the field of psychology, neuropsychology, dance studies, sports science, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, social sciences, education, disability studies and the arts, as well as practitioners from related fields, to present cross-disciplinary work and mixed methods research, and proposing ideas and perspectives aiming to further research in the field. We are also interested in contributions that link the topic to related fields of research such as multi-sensory integration, body representation, spatial cognition, motor learning, embodied memory, embodied or non-verbal communication, or performance studies.


Keywords: disabilities, mixed-abled dance, inclusive dance, creativity, social interaction, non-verbal communication, multi-sensory integration, body representation, action representation, action perception, motor learning, motor imagery


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

29 May 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

29 May 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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