Synchronization, Attention and Transformation: Multidimensional Exploration of the Aesthetic Experience of Contemporary Dance Spectators

Behav Sci (Basel). 2018 Feb 10;8(2):24. doi: 10.3390/bs8020024.


The co-presence of bodies in intersubjective situations can give rise to processes of kinesthetic empathy and physiological synchronization, especially in the context of dance: the body and attention of the spectators are oriented towards the dancers. In this study, we investigate the processes of "body-mind" resonance between a choreography and its spectators, and more specifically the lasting impact of this resonance post-performance. We then explore the relation between the observed effects and subjective measures of attention. The study focuses on the work of the French choreographer Myriam Gourfink, who develops a unique movement, based on the slower breathing of dancers: the breathing generates an extremely slow movement without rhythmic ruptures. Phenomenological studies of her work report changes in temporal perception and changes in bodily attentional states. We made use of two cognitive tasks in order to quantify this change in temporal perception: Spontaneous Motor Tempo (SMT) and Apparent Motion effect (AM) before and after a 40-min live performance. Subjective reports were collected at the end of the performance. Physiological data were recorded before and after the performance. We performed a control experiment with a choreography of a distinctly different quality of movement. Post-Gourfink performance, we observed a significant deceleration of SMT and a decrease in its variability, while AM was reported with longer temporal intervals. Neither of these effects was observed in the control condition. Furthermore, an increase in perception of AM was correlated with a slower breathing rate after the performance. Correlations with subjective reports suggest a link between changes in cognitive and physiological dynamics and the degree of absorption of the spectators in the performance. In addition, these changes were related to specific reported attentional dispositions that we interpret as a form of attentional resonance. The ensemble of the results suggests an expansion of the "specious present" that is related to the slowing of physiological rhythms, and an attentional resonance between spectators and the choreography. The intricate relation we observed between inter-personal resonance and temporal cognition, foregrounds the notion of shared present as a neurophenomenological construct.

Keywords: attention; dance spectating; interpersonal resonance; shared present; time perception.