Matthew Reason

Creative Writing and Audience Research

After watching a dance performance with friends we often leave the theatre and find ourselves asking each other, ‘What did you think?’ Or perhaps, alternatively, ‘Did you enjoy it?’

That we often willingly and eagerly engage in such conversations, however, does not necessarily make them satisfactory. There is a particular difficulty in talking about non-linguistic experiences such as of dance or music through the medium of language. As Maxine Sheet-Johnstone declares, it is possible to argue that the experience of dance is ‘ineffable.’

The ineffable refers to things we might know (perhaps sensually, kinaesthetically, somatically, experientially) but are unable to put into words. This presents a challenge for a research looking to find out how audiences experience, remember and make sense of their dance watching experiences. In the past I have sought to address aspects of this difficult through using visual arts workshops with audience members, asking them to draw what they saw or felt as a way of mediating and communicating their experience.

DSC04121For this project the objective was to explore the use of creative writing workshops with audience members as a way of enhancing, supporting and transforming the kinds of languages that audience members use to describe their experiences of watching dance.



The project was recorded in a blog which charted the course of this research experiment, including describing the pragmatic and methodological preparations for the workshops, and presenting some of the writings that participants produced.

Further reading:

‘Writing the Embodied Experience: Ekphrastic and Creative Writing as Audience Research’, in Critical Stages 7, 2012. Full text available here.


This entry was posted on 16 July, 2015 by in .