Movement and Meaning Lab

Gill Clarke performing with Siobhan Davies Dance Company in the mid-90s

Gill Clarke Performing at Siobhan Davies Studios–©Hugo Glendinning

Gill Clarke began her enquiry about the meaning of movement with PAL in 2010. We decided to make it a 15 month Lab programme…

  • To put movement, perceptual experience, creative interaction ‘in the middle’ of a creative exchange between dance artists and a wide range of creative practitioners and policymakers beyond dance.
  • To inform strategic policy in education, academia and culture. To raise awareness of the centrality of our relationship to our own moving/thinking bodies for individual and social wellbeing.
  •  To expand the cultural and social arenas within which dance knowledge is seen as relevant, and broaden the scope of future opportunities and contexts for the work of dance artists
  • To support the making of four new dance-led experiments
  • To explore the idea of ‘nodes’ or ‘centres’ of embodied intelligence/studies/knowledge

Dancers’ attention is focused on being present in the moving body as the raw material of choreographic creation and performance. Could the skills and knowledge that are the fruits of their inquiry and labour have a wider currency and relevance beyond Dance? What are the questions current within dance inquiry and what kinds of knowledge embedded in its practices might fuel fruitful connections with experts in other fields?

A 5-day residential Lab, held in Dorset, was the first part of this extraordinary nine-month programme, prompting a wider academic and public debate about the embodied and sensory aspects of our human and social nature – in ways that have not been so central to wider cultural or scientific debates to date.

The Movement & Meaning lab programme was conceived and led by dance artist and educator Gill Clarke MBE. In welcoming the participants, she wrote, “Some of us may bring knowledge and experience of ‘dance’ in different forms, some of us do not. However, you have all been invited because your own interests and areas of expertise in themselves chime with interests very pertinent to how many dance artists are becoming fascinated by details of our embodied behaviour as their artistic medium, and becoming interested in the relevance of their concerns to our wider social understanding. So I would like to give us permission to range freely, unfettered by a sense of responsibility to any preconceptions about what dance knowledge might be.”

The second stage of the programme included two workshops and a symposium at the Siobhan Davies Studios, which facilitated exchanges between a larger group of young artists and practitioners from various disciplines.

As part of the dissemination to a wider audiences three distinguished speakers were invited to join Gill Clarke in broadening the conversation through public talks presented as part of Independent Dance’s Crossing Borders series at the Siobhan Davies Studios: 11 Oct – Guy Claxton (Learning Scientist); 25 Oct – Gill Clarke; 15 Nov, Tim Ingold (Social Anthropologist); and 22 Nov – Nigel Thrift (Human Geographer).

We were able to offer four collaborative research grants to support the research and Development of creative teams who took part in the Lab, workshops, symposia and talks. The results of these work-in-progress bursaries will be shared in an open-studio presentation at the Siobhan Davies Studios at a symposium to be held in November 2012.

You can read more about the thinking underpinning this work in an article by Gill Clarke. and you can find out more about the progress made on the PAL movement and meaning work by clicking here. 

Funded by

ACE Managed Funds,
 Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Jerwood Charitable Foundation

Who's been to this lab?

Gill Clarke – Lab Director

Dance artist and educator

Kirsty Alexander

Movement artist/researcher

Alexandra Baybutt

Movement artist

Susan Benn

PAL Founder Artistic Director

Catherine Bennett

Dance artist

Nicky Clayton

Prof. Comparative Cognition, Cambridge University

Polly Dalton

Lecturer, Cognitive Psychology, RHUL

Paul Davies

Artistic Director, Volcano Theatre Company 

Siobhan Davies

Dance artist / choreographer

Roanne Dods

Cultural activist

Joe Dunne


Giovanni Felicioni

Bodywork practitioner

Alexa de Ferranti

Artist and farmer

Sarah Filmer


Sylvia Hallett

Musician / composer

Janine Harrington

Dance and visual artist

Morten Kringelbach

Neuroscientist, Oxford University

Rosemary Lee

Dance artist

Iain McGilchrist


Helene Neveu

Lecturer, African Anthropology, Oxford University

Guido Orgs

Cognitive neuroscientist, UCL

Sarah Saunders


Matthias Sperling

Dance artist / choreographer