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Space is a hidden feature of movement and movement is a visible aspect of space.

Rudolf von Laban


The present paper briefly reviews recent advances in spatial cognition. A central tenet in spatial cognition is that spatial information is simultaneously encoded in multiple formats. It also appears that at the level of neural processing there is no clear distinction between the representation of space and the control of action. I will argue that these findings offer novel insight into the nature of dance and choreography and that the concepts used by cognitive neuroscientists to frame their findings can be fruitfully applied in a choreographic setting. Finally, I will speculate that both dancing oneself and watching dance may enhance one’s experience of space.

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  1. References are to Das Frühlingsopfer, 1980, Nelken, Palermo, Palermo and Arien, all by Pina Bausch.

  2. Ever willing to help people find their way, I recently sent two foreign tourists on a long diversion to get to their destination. I told them to walk back out of the station, turn left, walk straight ahead, then left again, then straight ahead, when it would have been a lot easier for them to just go up the stairs to the platform and descend at the other end of the platform and then turn left. What I did was to send them on a trajectory that I remembered. I didn’t form a mental topographic layout of all paths and places in the environment so as to determine the shortest route to where they wanted to go.

  3. I am aware that this observation begs to be quantified.

  4. For different perspectives on the notion of body schema the interested reader is referred to a special issue of Neuropsychologia (2010), 48 (3), 643–830 on “The sense of the body”.

  5. These ideas were developed earlier but are contained on Forsythe (1999).

  6. Space is also one of the novel’s themes.

  7. Synchronous Objects,, a project by William Forsythe in collaboration with the Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, visualizes the lines, surfaces and volumes created through dance.


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Correspondence to Ivar Hagendoorn.

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Hagendoorn, I. Inscribing the body, exscribing space. Phenom Cogn Sci 11, 69–78 (2012).

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