Let’s Improv It: The Embodied Investigation of Social Collaboration

Klara Łucznik, Abigail Jackson, Aska Sakuta, Eleonora Siarava


How do we share embodied knowledge? How do we understand the world through our bodies? How can we effectively interpret and communicate somatic experiences to a wider audience? These questions emerged during a collaborative research project Let’s Improv It (August 2016, Plymouth University), which set out to explore how kinaesthetic empathy and multisensory perception help us to understand our own actions, intentions and emotions, as well as those of others. We additionally questioned the role and perception of physical and emotional touch within embodied knowledge. After a five-day practice-led investigation, a 20-minute improvised somatic movement score was developed with the aim of providing a novel experience of touch and movement. The authors collectively delivered the score and reflected on the outcomes of this experience over the course of a year (2016–2017). In this paper, we explore how our research project expanded the boundaries of the conventional concepts of knowledge and cognition. We see such participatory sessions, in which movement and embodied experience freely unfold in time and space, as a ‘laboratory’ in which we examine the underlying mechanisms of collaboration. We reflect on how such an experience can be seen as a creative process, or as an emergent, collaborative artwork. The participants are both the creators and, simultaneously, the audience of our improvised experience. The experience provided a non-judgmental context for physical engagement and observation, which is an outcome that will be introduced alongside participants’ feedback. Overall, the project revealed that shared embodied knowledge is highly appreciated, particularly among those without previous experience with embodied enquiry or movement research.


dance; embodied cognition; empathy; improvisation; participatory performance

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