In the moment: Flow experiences of recreational, vocational and professional dancers.

flowwebMSc Thesis


Context and Rationale for the Project

During my MSc studies at TrinityLaban, I was really interested in bringing together a focus of my dance artist work and to examine this using a rigorous, psychological framework.  My role as Senior Dance Artist at Norfolk Dance brought me into contact with many different communities, but a common area of exploration and facilitation was to support dancers’ embodiment of dance material, and how I can create environments which support and enable this sense of presence and being in the zone.  There appeared to be theoretical crossovers between the principles of flow theory and more philosophical constructs of performance presence and embodiment.  And whilst my MSc studies did not directly address this, as I progress in my flow-world, I feel I might be getting to grips with this a little more clearly.


The aim of this thesis was to determine the differences in the frequency and nature of flow experiences between recreational, vocational and professional dancers.  Differences between the groups’ perceived antecedents and consequences of the flow experience were also examined.  Quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to examine the multidimensional construct of flow across the three different populations.  The Dispositional Flow Scale-2 was administered to 122 recreational, vocational and professional dancers to assess the frequency with which the nine flow dimensions and the global flow construct was experienced.  Six dancers participated in semi-structured interviews to provide in-depth information regarding the flow experience and perceived antecedents and consequences of flow.


Statistical analysis revealed that recreational dancers perceived autotelic experience significantly more frequently than vocational dancers.  Qualitative analysis further indicated that recreational dancers associated the merging of action and awareness with flow more than any other dimension.  Vocational dancers related more to the concentration aspect of flow, whilst professional dancers had greater affinity with the skill-challenge dimension.  Whilst qualitative analysis suggested that dancers of all participation levels share similar perceptions of what facilitates flow, some distinctions are apparent.  Recreational dancers perceived confidence to be key to the flow experience; vocational dancers described their pre-performance routine as a facilitator of flow; professional dancers focussed on the importance of physical fitness as a pre-requisite to flow in dance.  All dancers suggested that peak performance was a consequence of the flow experience, yet specific differences between populations can be still be seen.  Recreational dancers referred to a greater sense of knowing oneself as a result of flow.  Vocational dancers felt empowered, with a greater sense of general wellbeing.  Professional dancers allied their flow experience with improved quality of movement.  All dancers recorded greater expansiveness to their movement as a result of flow.

Presentations and Workshops

Bradley, E., Quested, E. & Wyon, M. (2009).  Frequency of flow experiences in recreational, vocational and professional dancers.  Refereed Conference Presentation:  International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, The Hague, Holland

Bradley, E.  (2009).  In the moment: Flow experiences of recreational, vocational and professional dancers.  Refereed Conference Presentation:  Foundations for Excellence DCSF Music and Dance Scheme Centres for Advanced Training.  DCSF Music and Dance Scheme Centres for Advanced Training Conference: Dartington College of the Arts, Totnes, Devon.  Available at:

Bradley, E.  (2010).  Positive dancing: The antecedents of recreational, vocational and professional dancers’ flow experiences.  Refereed Conference Presentation: Healthy Dancer, Healthy Dance Teacher, Tartu, Estonia

Urmston, E. (2010; 2011; 2012; 2013).  Approaches to research:  Using flow theory to examine the optimal experiences of dancers.  TrinityLaban Postgraduate Research Methods Lectures, London.

Urmston, E.  (2013).  Motivation, flow and optimal experiences in dance.  London Contemporary Dance School Teacher Training, London.


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