Thinking with the Body


To explore the question of physical thinking – using the body as an instrument of cognition – we collected extensive video and interview data on the creative process of a noted choreographer and his company as they made a new dance. A striking case of physical thinking is found in the phenomenon of marking. Marking refers to dancing a phrase in a less than complete manner. Dancers mark to save energy. But they also mark to explore the tempo of a phrase, or its movement sequence, or the intention behind it. Because of its representational nature, marking can serve as a vehicle for thought. Importantly, this vehicle is less complex than the version of the same phrase danced ‘full-out’. After providing evidence for distinguishing different types of marking, three ways of understanding marking as a form of thought are considered: marking as a gestural language for encoding aspects of a target movement, marking as a method of priming neural systems involved in the target movement, and marking as a method for improving the precision of mentally projecting aspects of the target.

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