Learning by Imitation in Dance: A Constructive “Resonance”?

I. Research Papers
By Nicole Harbonnier-Topin, Jean-Marie Barbier

This paper aims to deepen our understanding of the “demonstration-reproduction” pedagogical approach that is traditionally used in dance instruction by examining the interactions between teachers and students in contemporary dance technique classes. The discussion presented here is based on results drawn from a descriptive and comparative study of the instruction of five movement sequences, which were selected from our observations of five dance classes given by five different teachers at two preprofessionnal contemporary dance training institutions in Montreal, Canada. An epistemological and methodological approach known as “Activity Analysis” allowed us to describe and analyze the interactions between dance teachers and students, all while noting the instructor’s own personal preferences, associations, and coupling of activities. As such, we were able to observe a number of different teaching styles, and identify the conditions under which the demonstration-reproduction educational mode was most suitable and constructive. The concept of imitation will be considered here as it pertains to biological factors drawn from the neuroscientific research on mirror neurons, as well as a number of sociological factors as defined from the social constructivist perspective.


  • contemporary dance
  • interactions
  • activity
  • imitation
  • mirror neurons
Go to the article on Cairn-int.info