Embodied interpretation: Assessing the knowledge produced through a dance-based inquiry


  • Yukari Seko University of Guelph
  • Trish van Katwyk University of Waterloo




arts-based inquiry, dance-based research, interpretation, knowledge, self-injury


INTRODUCTION: Although the field of social work has experienced an exponential increase in the use of arts-based methodology, the way in which knowledge shared through artful presentations is understood by audience members remains understudied. As arts-based inquiry often involves active co-construction of meanings between researchers, participants and audiences, it is crucial for social work researchers to scrutinise the process of meaning making by audience members. In this article, we explore how audience members make sense of research findings presented through improvisational dance and how the provision of information about the dance may influence viewer responses.

METHODS: A personal experience with self-injury documented in a creative poem was represented through the performance of improvisational dance pieces and assessed by two groups of viewers, with and without knowledge of the topic of the dances. The viewers were prompted to interpret the dances by reflecting on the feelings, thoughts and perceptions they had while watching the performance. A thematic analysis was conducted to compare and contrast the responses of the two groups

FINDINGS: By comparing the interpretations of informed and uninformed viewers, we suggest that interpretation can be influenced by normative, socially constructed assumptions that hinder empathic and action-inspiring engagement.

CONCLUSION: We conclude the article with a discussion of potential implications for social work research, practice and education.


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How to Cite

Seko, Y., & van Katwyk, T. (2016). Embodied interpretation: Assessing the knowledge produced through a dance-based inquiry. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(4), 54–66. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss4id299



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