Spectators’ Aesthetic Experience of Sound and Movement in Dance Performance: A Transdisciplinary Investigation

Matthew Reason, Corinne Jola, Rosie Kay, Dee Reynolds, Jukka-Pekka Kauppi, Marie-Helene Grosbras, Jussi Tohka, Frank Pollick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We utilise qualitative audience research and functional brain imaging (fMRI) to examine the aesthetic experience of watching dance both with and without music. This transdisciplinary approach was motivated by the recognition that the aesthetic experience of dance revealed through conscious interpretation could have neural correlates in brain activity. When audiences were engaged in watching dance accompanied by music, the fMRI data revealed evidence of greater intersubject correlation in a left anterior region of the superior temporal gyrus known to be involved in complex audio processing. Moreover, the qualitative data revealed how spectators derived pleasure from finding convergences between two complex stimuli (dance and music). Without music, greater intersubject correlation was found bilaterally in a posterior region of the superior temporal gyrus, showing that bodily sounds such as breath provide a more salient auditory signal than music in primary auditory regions. Watching dance without music also resulted in increased intersubject correlation amongst spectators in the parietal and occipitotemporal cortices, suggesting a greater influence of the body than when interpreting the dance stimuli with music. Similarly, the audience research found evidence of corporeally focused experience, but suggests that while embodied responses were common across spectators, they were accompanied by different evaluative judgements.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • aesthetics, dance, fMRI, multisensory, qualitative


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