Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Creative and embodied methods to teach reflections and support students’ learning

Leigh, Jennifer S, Brown, Nicole, Petsilas, Phaedra, Blackburn, Catriona (2019) Creative and embodied methods to teach reflections and support students’ learning. Research in Dance Education, 20 (1). pp. 19-35. ISSN 1464-7893. E-ISSN 1470-1111. (doi:10.1080/14647893.2019.1572733) (KAR id:73309)


Dance education in the 21st Century within UK conservatoire environments generally lives under the umbrella of Higher Education Dance, but its roots lie in more vocational or professional training-based approaches. In this paper we discuss the rationale behind, and an initial critical evaluation of an innovative embodied and creative approach to teaching reflective and reflexive practice to dancers.

Skill acquisition, discipline, professionalism and creativity are at the core of vocational dance training. The acquisition of practice-based knowledge is not new. The idea of “learning through doing” in dance goes back centuries. This notion has traditionally been based on mimesis and repetition, frequently entrenched in traditional (and inherited) pedagogic practices based on a master-pupil hierarchical model. However, the focus of dance pedagogy in the 21st Century has started to shift. Higher Education provision in dance has moved towards a more student-centred model, whereby the learner dancer’s ownership of the training process is encouraged. In this paper we will first consider how dance education has evolved, the importance of reflective practice, the philosophy behind bringing a creative and reflective approach to dance education before considering critically how this approach worked in one specific context – Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

The evolution of contemporary dance techniques and the introduction of more holistic somatic practices into dance training has altered the landscape for dance educators. There is an implicit practice that embraces the notion of knowing existing within the doing, and therefore embodied practice is at the core of the conservatoire environment. Significant shifts in the philosophy of dance pedagogy are now represented within dance conservatoires. According to Jones & Ryan the idea of developing “professional self-sufficiency” (Jones & Ryan, 2014, p.51) is at the heart of the learning experience for young dancers in vocational higher education. But does this pedagogy actively promote “professional self- sufficiency” (ibid.) or is the hierarchical relationship of master-pupil contributing towards “filling a perceived gap” (ibid.)? Are we assuming that our young dancers are equipped (alongside their evident technical/creative talent) to evaluate their own decisions and engage with their own learning, or are we relying on the perceived notion of an “…implicit, self-evident and “natural” process of improving practice”? (Jones & Ryan, 2015, p.51). Can this “natural process” be re-contextualised or cross-fertilised with other disciplines in order to provide more empowerment through the doing?

We believe that in response to these shifts there is a need for a renewed focus on theoretical approaches and academic engagement; a focus reminiscent of and aligned with the conceptual frameworks commonly associated with social sciences and education, in which the process of arriving at “professional self-sufficiency” is inextricably linked to reflective practice.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/14647893.2019.1572733
Projects: Embodied Reflection
Uncontrolled keywords: creativity; embodiment; dance; film; creative methods; reflection; reflective practice
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
H Social Sciences
L Education
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Funders: Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (
Depositing User: Jennifer Leigh
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2019 10:29 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 15:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.