Familiarity and complexity of a movement influences motor imagery in dancers: A cross-sectional study

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2019 Jun;29(6):897-906. doi: 10.1111/sms.13399. Epub 2019 Feb 25.


The present study aimed to analyze the differences between ballet, contemporary, and flamenco dancers when generating mental motor kinesthetic and visual images of simple and complex movements. A cross-sectional study, including 45 professional dancers (15 flamenco dancers, 15 ballet dancers, and 15 contemporary dancers), was planned. We analyzed the ability to generate mental motor visual and kinesthetic images with the revised movement imagery questionnaire (MIQ-R) and mental chronometry (MC); the real movement execution (RME) chronometry was also measured, using arm and jump movement assessments. ANOVA revealed significant differences between groups regarding the jump movement assessments for the kinesthetic MIQ-R item (F = 5.29, P = 0.009), for the RME chronometry (F = 13.19, P = <0.001), and for the kinesthetic MC (F = 9.28, P < 0.001). The post-hoc analysis revealed significant differences between flamenco dancers compared with contemporary and ballet dancers for all the variables regarding the jump movement. Flamenco dancers used significantly greater visual than kinesthetic imagery modalities to generate mental motor imagery in the jump movement (P = 0.024, d = 0.63). No differences were found in the arm movement assessment between groups. Results reveal differences in the ability to generate motor images, specifically the kinesthetic ones, between flamenco dancers and ballet and contemporary dancers. When performing a non-familiar complex movement, dancers predominantly use a visual motor imagery modality, which leads to a longer execution time as well as a longer time for kinesthetic mental motor imagery.

Keywords: action familiarity; dance; motor imagery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dancing / physiology*
  • Dancing / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Kinesthesis*
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Young Adult