Practice Pop-Up Special Presentation with Rebecca Barnstaple: Imaging movement - Neurobiological research in dance studies

When and Where

Friday, November 01, 2019 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Performance Studio
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse
79 St. George Street


Rebecca Barnstaple


Co-facilitated by Prof. Xing Fan and Dr. Seika Boye, the Practice Pop-Up Series began in 2017 and offers an opportunity to explore infinite potentials of practice in dance studies. We welcome and encourage creative definitions of, open interpretations of, and in-depth reflections of practice and invite proposals that ask questions that require bodies to answer. In other words, how might live bodies facilitate one or more questions within  research. 

In June 2019 Rebecca ran a workshop with members of the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. This special presentation is an opportunity for Rebecca to share her research with other University of Toronto communities as we are committed to advocating for the value of dance within research and  beyond the frame of performance. 

About Rebecca Barnstaple's research

Throughout my MA and PhD programs at York University, I have been developing methods to better understand how dance learning can be used to counteract the progression of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Dance for health is a growing field, and neuroimaging plays a key role in delving further into the mechanisms involved. However, it is equally essential that we maintain focus and emphasis on dance-specific techniques in this field, to fully comprehend how and why these are effective. In partnership with the Berlin Mobile Brain/Body Imaging lab (BeMoBIL), I am using mobile EEG and motion capture to investigate cortical activation patterns and associated motor behaviour while people are engaged in dance. This builds on previous work from our group (Bar & DeSouza 2016) on neuroplasticity in expert dancers during dance learning, and changes in resting-state EEG pre/post dance (Barnstaple & DeSouza 2018, Ciantar et al 2018). The current study investigates short-term plasticity in a task requiring coordination across cognitive and motor domains involving spatial navigation and temporal locking, essential features of dance. This project has biological and ontological dimensions that are deeply enmeshed; I am creating choreographies adapted to technical constraints while performing a concrete exploration of what makes an experience or phenomena a dance. Outcomes have the potential to be impactful for dance studies, as well as in related fields of motor learning, dance for health, gerontology, and rehabilitation.

In this presentation I will describe the study design and protocol, and share pilot data from our recently completed set up period in Berlin.

About Rebecca Barnstaple

A lifelong student of dance and graduate of the National Centre for Dance Therapy at Les Grands Ballets in Montreal (2014), Rebecca is currently a second year PhD student in Dance Studies and the Neuroscience Graduate Program at York. Her research interests include movement, cognition, imagination, theoretical frameworks for dance therapy, and the development of hybrid research methods bridging sciences and the humanities. Her doctoral research uses cross-disciplinary collaboration to better understand the mechanisms, and potential impacts, of participation in dance for the improvement of health and society.

About the Institute for Dance Studies

The Institute for Dance Studies (IDS) is a research community hosted within the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. Through working groups, events, practice based research and resource sharing, we are a platform of support for scholars, students, dance related professionals and people who dance in all ways and aspects of life. It is our mandate to work towards the advancement of the discipline and to encourage re-imaginings of the contours of dance studies within the academy.

For questions about this event or the IDS, please contact

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