This article was posted on 06 Oct 2011, and is filed under e-Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2.

Virtuosity and Kinaesthetic Empathy: a mini series

Gillie Kleiman

Attention to kinaesthetic empathy as an area of interest appears to be growing amongst dance studies scholars as well as in a number of science, arts, and humanities fields, indicated not least by the interdisciplinary AHRC project ‘Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy’ conducted jointly by University of Manchester, University of Glasgow, York St John University and Imperial College London.  Kinaesthetic empathy, an “inner mimesis” (Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy.  University of Manchester.  Web.  29 Jun 2011), appears, on the surface, to assume that performer and spectator are similar enough in order to be able participate in this sensorial and emotional parallelism.  Conversely, virtuosity, another important paradigm for and beyond dance and performance, on its surface, foregrounds the difference between the virtuoso and the non-virtuoso.

Through a six-part series of short animated films, made on the Xtranormal platform, this essay seeks to reimagine and complicate this paradox, provoking tensions, testing scenarios, and examining the implications of both concepts for performer and spectator (or ‘kinaesthete’) alike. In the films, six characters (two robots, two superheroes, and two animals) discuss the two paradigms, referring to theoretical materials from dance studies, performance studies and philosophy.  In the final film, the characters analyse an example, Russell Maliphant’s Push, in an attempt to use the intersections of virtuosity and kinaesthetic empathy to raise questions of gender and visibility.


1. Virtuosity shmirtuosity

2. A Virno special

3. Strictly Kinaesthetic Empathy

4. We could be heroes

5. Danger, dancer

6. Push

Gillie Kleiman is a dance maker and doer based in Newcastle upon Tyne and London.  Her work includes the production of performances, texts, and events; her solo and collaboratively-made performance work has been presented throughout the UK and in Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Serbia.  For a number of years she lectured in FE and HE, alongside teaching in community dance contexts. More recently, she has begun to develop a curatorial practice, presenting the work of international artists in London and the Northeast of England.   She received a first class BA (Hons) from the University of Surrey, was a recipient of the 2008 danceWEB scholarship, and is currently an AHRC-funded MA student in Performance and Creative Research at Roehampton University.  She moonlights as an Artistic Assessor for Arts Council England.

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