Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program

Psychology; Psychology

Project Advisor 1

Barbara Luka

Project Advisor 2

Frank Scalzo

Abstract/Artist's Statement


The purpose of this research was to explore three professional dancers’ experiences of flow while dancing. The concept of flow describes the state of consciousness experienced while fully absorbed in a task, often leading to an optimal experience and positive performance outcomes. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) developed nine constructs that described this state. Since Csikszentmihalyi’s initial investigation, these constructs have been used in qualitative and quantitative studies to understand flow in comparison to age and affect, as well as intellectual and physical engagement in order to understand the antecedents and inhibitors of flow states. Previous studies have shown that intrinsic motivation and positive affect increase states of flow. Research on flow in dance has described that competency, confidence, and positive interaction with others supports a flow state. This study investigated the universal and individual phenomenological experience of flow for three professional dancers through open-ended interviews and qualitative analysis. The recurrent themes that emerged in dancers’ language about their experiences of flow were feeling of not thinking, sense of automaticity and confidence, intuitive decision making, and kinesthetic alertness. Participant responses were compared to each other as well as Csikszentmihalyi’s original constructs. This study found that Csikszentmihalyi’s individual constructs often overlapped within the individual’s subjective experience. Csikszentmihalyi’s constructs were essential to the participants’ descriptions of flow. These findings may reveal information that can allow dancers to more easily access flow states.

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