The Psychology of Creativity in Dance

The Psychology of Creativity in Dance

Lucie Clements, Elizabeth Frost Yutzey
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4261-3.ch006
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Dance science researchers have developed a body of work and knowledge that focuses on understanding physical and psychological skills, leading to performance optimisation in dance. Research has predominantly focused on what constitutes a fit, healthy dancer, but the focus on dance's creative elements has been considerably less. This chapter provides an overview of the place of creativity in the skillset of a training or professional dancer. Several theories of motivation and personality that might be relevant for developing creativity in dance are discussed. Within this chapter, the authors aim to highlight the fundamental role of psychology in dancers' creativity.
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The role of creativity has been the subject of considerable interest in psychology research but is yet to be explored in depth in dance within a scientific framework since research has tended to focus on technical performance. Since creativity is broadly understood as a domain-general construct, psychological research has provided a broad understanding of the predictors, correlates and consequences of creativity in the general population. However, research within unique and specialist domains remains somewhat limited (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2010; Runco, 2014; Simonton, 2000). Investigations into the psychology of creativity within the performing arts, in particular dance, have been rare (Thomson & Jaque, 2017; Clements & Redding, 2019).

The first standard definition of creativity was set forth by Stein in 1953. He defined creativity as “novel work that is accepted as tenable or useful or satisfying by a group at some point in time” (Runco & Jaeger, 2012, p. 94). While this definition is broad and allows for flexibility and development with time and place, it emphasises a product, which some creativity experts would argue is only one aspect of creativity. Since publishing this standard definition, a conclusive all-encompassing definition has not yet been reached, and as a result, a range of models have emerged to explain and understand creativity. Barron & Harrington (1981) note that when creativity is defined, there are several ways in which it is conceptualised, although two key elements underpin most theoretical and research-based definitions a) originality or novelty and b) usefulness or appropriateness (Amabile, 1983; Barron, 1955; Stein, 1953; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995). This dualistic criterion remains the most commonly accepted definition, and there is some evidence that this aligns with definitions of creativity in dance (Runco & Jaeger, 2012; Clements & Redding, 2019).

In dance, creativity is most often discussed in terms of a creative 'process' or 'product.', although the two are inherently connected. Psychologist Mel Rhodes initially suggested these terms in 1961 in his 4 Ps model of creativity. Rhode's “An Analysis of Creativity” work identifies four strands of creativity that, while operating in unique ways, work collectively to be functional in forming “creativity”. The four strands that constitute creativity are Person, Process, Press, and Product. The first strand, Person, refers to all elements of what makes one human—personality, intellect, temperament, physique, traits, habits, attitudes, self-concept, value systems, defence mechanisms, and behaviour. Process, the second strand, examines all the mental activities and operations involved in creating ideas. These include motivation, perception, learning, thinking, and communicating (Rhodes, 1961). The third strand, Press, refers to external influences on the Person and Process. Understanding this strand involves recognising the relationship between the Person and the environment, or ecological Press, in which they exist. An individual does not create in a vacuum, so this strand seeks to examine input from sensorial, cultural, and social stimuli and how negotiations with these elements could affect the Person and their Process. Lastly, the Product is the final strand and is defined as an idea that has been communicated. The way in which the idea has been communicated could be through a material, such as paint, clay, or metal, or could exist in the form of words or movement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

HP: Harmonious passion.

OP: Obsessive passion.

SDT: Self-determination theory.

4 Ps Model of Creativity: Person, process, press, and product.

ABC: Autonomy, belongingness, and competence.

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