Beatriz Calvo-Merino is a cognitive neuroscientist trained at University College London (UK) and Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain). She currently works at City University London as a Research Fellow in her project ‘Ways of seeing: Neurocognitive mechanism for seeing movements’. Her PhD work with Prof Patrick Haggard investigated neurocognitive mechanisms involved in action observation, expertise and dance, using neuroimaging methods. Her latest research focuses on sensorimotor mechanism for aesthetic perception of dance. She has established collaborations with the dance community (Royal Opera House, Laban Dance Centre). Her work has been published and disseminated in high impact factor peer-review journals as well as artistic meetings and public engagement activities.
This essay explores a scientific perspective for studying the mechanism that the human mind and brain employs to see and perceive dance. We will focus on a specific way of seeing: aesthetic perception. In order to better understand this process, we will briefly summarise what is known about how humans watch other people’s movements, and how this system is modulated by the expertise of the observer (here, expert dancers watching familiar dance movements). We will outline how these findings lead to our current research on aesthetic perception of dance. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, we investigate the neural correlates associated with watching dance movements that are subjectively considered as being beautiful. This research is part of the emerging field of neuroaesthetics. We furthermore discuss the potential use of this research for both the scientific and the dance community, and we speculate about possible future ways of communication and collaboration between the two disciplines.