Teaching MBAs Aesthetic Agency Through Dance

I wrote this paper with my friend Ian Sutherland. In this paper, I formulate my theory of how dance offers the possibility to work directly with developing the skilful acts of knowing and doing we call perception.

Organizational Aesthetics SI Dance frontpageAbstract
Within these pages we offer a theoretical argument for how aesthetic reflexivity and agency in management practice can be developed using dance exercises. We build our argument on Polanyi’s concept of tacit knowledge and on simulation theories from the area of embodied cognition. In short, we argue that engaging with dance exercises can give managers new bodily experiences they can use as means to develop more skilful knowing and doing in their managerial practice. We further argue that the consequences of employing new bodily experiences as means for achieving skilful knowing and doing cannot be adequately predicted, but must, at least in part, be discovered through use.

Looking at implications for facilitators, using dance exercises in this way, we suggest that conversations during and after dance interventions can focus on identifying what sensory experiences the participating managers are attracted to using as new means for skilful knowing and doing. We also suggest that follow-up interviews could focus on discovering the consequences of using these new means.

This way of using dance exercises in management education is rarely discussed in current literature. Current literature predominantly focuses on using dance exercises to unearthing personal habits, beliefs and exemplifying “good” leadership practice.