Year of Publication



Undergraduate Education


When watching concert dance, observers unconsciously process movement information by forming reflections of their own experiences, resulting in an emotional connection. The artist, however, also has a part in forming meaning around something they create. If meaning is formed in the creation of the work by the artist, and also through observation by an audience, where does meaning reside? The relationship shared between the artist and their audience is valuable, so something must connect these two groups. An artist’s job is to suggest meaning through their work, but once the piece is subject to observation, the process of kinesthetic empathy takes over. As Dee Reynolds and Matthew Reason write in their book, Kinesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Practices, kinesthetic empathy is “the ability to experience empathy merely by observing the movement of another human being” (Reynolds and Reason). Kinesthetic empathy is possible through motor simulations, which act as an individual’s personal code for processing movement visually. The outcome is new meaning informed by the unique histories of individuals. This paper examines kinesthetic empathy through a study in which participants provide feedback on a dance film. These responses demonstrate the ability of observers to possess kinesthetic empathy, leading to intersubjectivity, resulting in the formation of empathy. Audience feedback exhibits truths that are direct extensions of the dance. Empathy acts as the binder that connects the perspectives of artists and viewers alike. This study applies research on kinesthetic empathy to concert dance practices and demonstrates how connections are built through communal experiences based in movement.

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