‘Creativity’ is a word used worldwide by dance institutions in their mission statements, aims and student feedback, and yet it is relatively unexplored within dance science from a quantitative perspective. Much research within dance psychology has focussed on the role of psychological wellbeing in relation to optimal technique in class, rehearsal or performance, but are dance scientists perhaps neglecting the dancer as a creative artist?
As Kerry and Jon discuss, psychologists seek to measure complex experiences, typically through the use of questionnaire-based methods. These tend to quantify some underlying or latent psychological construct. In psychology, ‘gold standard’ creativity tests assume creativity to be a trait-like characteristic, which is tangible through an individual’s performance on a timed task of divergent thinking (Cropley, 2000). Divergent thinking describes our ability to come up with multiple solutions to a problem within a given time frame. The most comprehensive of these tests, the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA; Goff, 2002) give a creativity index, where an individual who is ‘more creative’ is able to solve a problem by coming up with numerous statistically infrequent yet embellished and diverse solutions. Using the ATTA in my own research, I found that dancers are indeed ‘more creative’ than the normal population (Clements, 2017). But can we conclusively say that parallels their dance choreography skills? And are these tests useful for understanding the role of psychological approaches in nurturing creativity?
In order to see how the ATTA might relate to creativity in dance, I asked an expert contemporary dance choreographer who had taught and observed first year contemporary dance students’ creative processes over the course of a semester to rate their creativity. This is another commonly used technique from psychology, assuming that the expert has an implicit, domain specific ability to distinguish more from less creative students (Amabile, 1982; Amabile & Pillemer, 2012). No relationship between the expert’s grading and the creativity test was found; those who are creative according to the psychology test were not those picked by the dance expert as the most creative dancers (Clements, 2017). Informed by these findings, as well as the observation of daily creative occurrences in a student-learning setting, I, with expert creativity colleagues set out to validate a new questionnaire that recognises that in dance:
1) Creativity is embodied more often than verbal
2) Creativity is less time restricted than a psychology test allows
3) Creativity is process based and cyclical, not linear
The ‘Dancers’ Perceptions of the Creative Process Questionnaire’ removes the emphasis on measurement of ‘creative’ or ‘not creative’ and instead emphasises engagement in the process, and can be used alongside traditional psychology measures, such as the ATTA, to give a more holistic view of dance creativity. I also hope that this can be used to explore the role of psychological variables such as perfectionism and self esteem in dancers’ creativity. It is hoped that this will contribute to the growth of dance creativity research within IADMS and its members!
Lucie Clements PhD is a Chartered Psychologist, Lecturer in Dance Science MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, UK and Associate Lecturer in Psychology and Dance Science BSc Dance Science at University of Chichester, UK.
For further reading, have a look at these resources:
Amabile, Teresa M. "Social psychology of creativity: A consensual assessment technique." Journal of personality and social psychology 43.5 (1982): 997.
Amabile, Teresa M., and Julianna Pillemer. "Perspectives on the social psychology of creativity." The Journal of Creative Behavior 46, no. 1 (2012): 3-15.
Cropley, Arthur J. "Defining and measuring creativity: Are creativity tests worth using?" Roeper review 23.2 (2000): 72-79.
Clements, Lucie, Sanna Nordin-Bates, Debbie Watson, Kerry Chappell, Emma Redding, and Jon May. "The development and validation of a dance-specific creativity questionnaire." 25th Annual meeting of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), October 12-15 2017, Houston, USA. 2017.
Clements, Lucie (2017) The Psychology of Creativity in Contemporary Dance, Unpublished PhD Thesis.
Goff, Kathy. Abbreviated torrance test for adults. Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Service, 2002.
Kim, Kyung Hee. "Can we trust creativity tests? A review of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT)." Creativity research journal 18.1 (2006): 3-14.
Sowden, Paul T., Lucie Clements, Chrishelle Redlich, and Carine Lewis.. "Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education." Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 9.2 (2015): 128-135.
Watson, Debbie E., Sanna M. Nordin-Bates, and Kerry A. Chappell. "Facilitating and nurturing creativity in pre-vocational dancers: Findings from the UK Centres for Advanced Training." Research in Dance Education 13.2 (2012): 153-173.