Somatic Education and Dance Student’s Body Image: A Qualitative Study

  • Rita Rato
  • Maria João Alves


This research aims to analyze and characterize a somatic education process as experienced by the participants to understand the dance student’s body image construction. In dance practitioners, the body image associated with the dance movement is a dynamic and complex phenomenon involving internal processes that impact on the psychological, emotional and behavioral domain. Body image in the literature is a construct that assumes different meanings, scope and definitions. The approach to the body image concept that we propose in this study is based on the ideas of Schilder (1999), that stresses the crucial role of the moving body to the interactions between the self, the others and the environment. In Dance, as action and perception go together in movement, the moving body is simultaneously experienced as subject and object, and the quality of this relationship participate in the identification of the dancer with his movement. The Pylvänäinen model (2003), that includes the concepts of body self, body memories and image properties, is appropriate to the study of dance student’s body image. It covers the various dimensions of the body image, its relation with the movement, and the dynamics interrelations between these concepts. The dance student's body memories are constructed and transformed according to the subjective bodily experience in its relation to the environment, while at the same time functions as a reference for the perception of that experience. On the other hand, the image properties are directly related to the meaning that he attributes to his experience, that is, the evaluation and appreciation of his body in movement.  In a significant way, the quality of lived experiences and learning processes are directly related to how the student feels, imagines and thinks about his body moving in space. In many dance classes, the student is generally focused on the external image of his movement and may not have the opportunity to explore and deepen inner and fine sensations and feelings. Somatic practices privilege sensory awareness of the movement, and not its representation, allowing the dance student to develop an internal sensitivity and sensorial authority (Green, 1999).