Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Dance motivation

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Dance motivation:
What motivates people to dance?

Overview[edit | edit source]

People have been dancing for many generations, over the years the styles have developed and expanded[grammar?].  What is it that motivates people to be unique and to create new moves?  What are the motivational forces underlying these individuals need to express themselves through movement? Why do individuals start dancing in the first place? 

Is it the children’s decision or do some parents push their children in the direction of dance?  This book chapter delves into the motivational forces surrounding people's interest in dance and dancing while also relating these factors back to present motivational theories. Four main motivational theories will be defined and related to dance motivation: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Weiner's attribution theory, inventive theory and achievement theory.

Questions within the chapter
  • What motivates people to dance?
  • What is dance?
  • why do people start dancing?
  • Why do people continue to dance?

The role of motivation[edit | edit source]

What motivates people to dance? While this question may seem simple there is a multitude of answers to this broad question.

What is motivation?[edit | edit source]

The word motivation is derived from the latin word movere, this means 'to move'.

Motivation is the force that energises an individual to induce action and relates to both conscious and unconscious decision making (Parks,L., & Guay, P, P. 2009). Motivational theories have been devised to study how a range of influences effect an individuals motivation (Anselme,P. 2010). Motivation is present in everyday life, you need motivation to do everything from getting out of bed in the morning to exercising or studying. There is a wide range of perspectives in which motivation is derived from, they include;  

Perspective Motives emerge from…









·      Environmental incentives

·      Brain activation

·      Hormonal activity

·      Mental events and thoughts

·      Ways of thinking guided by exposure to other people

·      Groups’ organizations and nations.

·      Genes and genetic endowment

·      Encouraging the human potential

·      Unconscious mental life

What is dance?[edit | edit source]

``What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! -- There is nothing like dancing after all. -- I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies."

``Certainly, Sir; -- and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. -- Every savage can dance." (Austen, 1813)

Definition of dance[edit | edit source]

Dance is a type of performance art, and can be categorised by a large range of factors. These factors include the choreography, type of movements used, historical era, or culture, etc. Not only can dance be divided into categories through these factors, but also by the intentions behind the movement. Such intentions may include; ceremonial, social, romantic, performance or competitive reasons, and many more. The activity of dance promotes a range of benefits to both the individuals psychological and physical well-being (Maraz, A., Király, O.,Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. 2015). It has been noted in recent research that motivation plays an important role in leasure activities such as dance. Also previous research has focused mainly on the motivation underlying professional dance, it is important that further research be dedicated to the factors relating to recreational dance to discover the possible differential influences of mastery versus performance motivation (Maraz, A., et al. 2015).

What motivates people to dance?[edit | edit source]

Health professionals have been trying to face the challenge of increasing physical activity to promote general health and well-being (Maraz, A., Király, O., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics,Z. 2015). Dance provides individuals with a fun and active way to increase their health and encourages an active lifestyle. Dance teachers and coaches play a large role in motivating their students to improve and to aim for success (Leidl, D. 2009).

A common theme in Stinson, S. W., Blumenfield-Jones, D., & van Dyke, J. (1990) research was the influence on the dancers from their parents when they first started dancing. Outside sources such as family and friend play a large role in influencing our motivation. One main example of parental influence on children to dance comes to light within the popular American television series Dance Mums. Dance mums as the name would suggest while focusing on the children's dance skills also places a large amount of focus on the mums, showing how they seem to live vicariously through their children's talent at competitions. In this case the children are extrinsically motivated by their parents, also they seem to be motivated to achieve mastery through their rigorous training for endless competitions. Many different reasons may account for an individuals[grammar?] motivation to take up and continue the activity of dance,[grammar?] these motivations can range from seeking new sensations to mastering a complex skill or conquer a challenge (Losier, G., & Vallerand, R. 1999). This video was created by project beats,[grammar?] in this video dancers from the studio are interviewed and show their belongingness within the studio.

Types of dance[edit | edit source]

There is no one specific style that encompasses the entire realm of dance, many different styles exist under the wide umbrella of dance. Within each style there is a wide range of sub-styles,[grammar?] three of these styles along with their sub-styles will be delved into within this chapter, they include; hip hop, contemporary and ballet.

Hip hop[edit | edit source]

Figure 1-Hip Hop Dance

Hip hop is a very broad category of dance, many different hip hop styles are already well known, and these styles are continuously expanding. Three main styles of hip-hop are;

  • Breaking - Incorporates a large dance of power and strength based movements and originated during the mid 1970s. The styles presented by each individual generally differs due to cultural and personal influences within their lives. A large range of power moves have been developed over the years, these moves tend to defy gravity and range from simple moves such as head spins to more complicated moves such as air flares. Along with power moves breakdancing involves moves called freezes,Freeze (b-boy move) Once again these moves range in difficulty, a more simple move being the baby freeze, to difficult moves such as the hollowback. Here is a video of a young 7 year old boy performing on the Ellen show [1] as you can see, all of these moves require a large amount of strength and balance.
  • Locking - Originally called Campbellocking was developed in 1969 and incorporates the use of 'locking' which basically means the dance freezes in a position for a short period of time during the dance. Here is a video of Don Campbell from 1975 performing on Sole Train with his crew 'the lockers' [2]. As you can see in the video, locking involves a very high level of energy and facial expressions to exaggerate the movements. This crew were known, and still are known as the pioneers of the entire style of locking. Every time a new move is developed in locking a name is created to go with it, these moves include; Scoo B Doo, pacing, Stomp the cockroach, muscle man, the imp awl, and the list keeps going. All of these moves have inspired dancers to be creative and to think outside the box, rather than to be constricted with limited moves.
  • Popping- Is a style of dance that involves isolating and popping or 'jerking' particular muscles by contracting the fast the relaxing. This fast contracting then relaxing is used continuously in popping routines and each pop or jerk is generally on each beat in the music. Here is Phillip Chbeeb's audition for "So you think you can dance America" in which he incorporates a vast range of popping skills [3].

Many hip-hop dancers do not confine themselves to one particular style, at the world of dance competition 2014 Fik-Shun incorporates many styles into his performance, giving him an interesting diversity of movement within his performance [4]. Figure 1 demonstrates a man dancing the style of hip hop, you can see the crowd encouraging him.

Figure 2: Contemporary Dancer

Contemporary[edit | edit source]

Contemporary dance, also known as modern dance was developed during the mid-twentieth century. This style of dance is very free and gives the dancer room to for self expression. Making use of a combination of other styles such as ballet, lyrical and jazz, contemporary dance varies widely in the techniques incorporated into each routine.

Martha Graham is known as the pioneer of modern and contemporary dance, her influence on dance has been compared to that of Picasso's influence on modern art. It has been said in the past that Martha was the visionary who brought dance into the 20th century.

Ballet[edit | edit source]

Figure 3: Ballet dancer

Ballet has been around since the 15th century and originated during the Italian renaissance. This style of dance is highly technical and involves very precise movement and discipline. Commitment to this style involves a large amount of motivation to achieve mastery. Within this style many sub styles have emerged over the years, such sub styles include;

  • Romantic ballet is known for its emphasis on intense emotions.
  • Classical ballet Is based upon traditional technique and varies throughout different countries.
  • Neoclassical ballet while continuing the use of traditional technique incorporates abstract ideas.
  • Contemporary ballet allows for exploration of new techniques as it incorporates a wide range of styles such as jazz and contemporary.

They style of ballet is very well known, Tchaikovsky's Swan lake is one world renowned ballet performance, just like many other ballet performances Swan Lake has been duplicated time after time.

  • "It is who I am... If i couldn't dance I think I would feel like there was a part of me that was just totally dead."
  • "I just can't imagine life without it."
  • "I can;t imagine not doing it. If something would happen and I couldn't do it, I'd be a very bitter person probably."

(Stinson, S. W., Blumenfield-Jones, D., & van Dyke, J. 1990).

Major motivational theories[edit | edit source]

A large range of theories have been presented over the years to try understand the underlying forces behind motivation. Four main theories that will be discussed within this chapter include; Maslos's hierarchy of needs, Weiner's attribution theory, incentive theory and drive theory. There are many more theories however these four have previously been attributed to motivation.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs[edit | edit source]

Figure 4: Maslow's hierarchy of needs diagram

Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the name would suggest, involves a hierarchy of needs ranging from basic physiological needs up to self-actualisation. Abraham Maslow proposed the theory of a hierarchy of needs, this theory is known now as ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’.  To understand Maslow’s theory it is important that you first understand what he defines a need as.  According to Maslow needs are defined as a lack of something essential for the existence or wellbeing of an individual (Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. 2013) .  These needs are divided into five levels in his heierarchy, starting from the bottom these needs are;

Physiological needs- The physiological needs are classified as primitive needs, for example food or water (Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. 2013).

Safety needs- The second level on the hierarchy relates to an individuals sense of safety or security. These needs are also basic human needs, this is observed in young infants who instinctively cry when they feel threatened, for example being in danger of falling (Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. 2013).

Love/ Belonging needs- This need is considered fundamental for human beings and relates to the need for intimacy and to have interpersonal attachments with others. These needs are innate and present all around the world (Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. 2013).

Esteem needs- There are two components to this level of needs, firstly there is esteem needs for the self and secondly are esteem needs for others (Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. 2013).

Self-actualisation- The final need, right at the top of the hierarchy relates to an individuals desire for self-fulfilment (Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. 2013).

Losier, G., & Vallerand, R. (1999) state that in order for an individual to reach their[grammar?] potential, these needs must be met. They believe that it is essential the growth and actualisation of an individual bust be facilitated. In relation to dance or any sport, the underlying motivation could be in relation to satisfying varying levels of Maslow's hierarchy. This video is very touching and shows how dancers create a sense of love and belonging within their studios for dancers to come together.

Weiner's attribution theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 5: Weiner's attribution model

When a dancer competes in a competition, to what do they attribute their success or failure?

The attribution theory assumes that motivation is the product of a range of variables (Leidl,D. 2009). Weiner's attribution theory focuses on three main causal dimensions, these detentions include; locus, stability and controllability. Figure 5 represents the structure of perceived causality in relation to these three dimensions and how they fit together.

Locus of causality- Can be either internal or external.

Stability- Can be either stable or unstable.

Controllability- Can be either controllable or uncontrollable.

The individuals perception on their abilities in these three dimensions influence either their achievement or failure of any given goal (Leidl,D. 2009).

Incentive theory[edit | edit source]

The incentive theory of motivation relates to the anticipation of rewarding stimuli in the environment along with the extent to which these rewards are appetitive to the individual (Robinson,M, D., Moeller, S, K., & Ode, S. 2010). Such incentives range from intrinsic motivation which relates to internal drives to extrinsic motivation which relates to incentives outside of an individual (Leidl,D. 2009). More specifically, incentive motivation incorporates social factors and psychological mediators (Losier, G., & Vallerand, R. 1999).


'When extrinsic rewards are used as payoffs, intrinsic rewards are reduces... intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are not independent of each other' (Criss, E. 2011).

Previously intrinsically motivated behaviour may be decreased due to unnecessary extrinsic motivation (Criss, E. 2011). In relation to dance, individuals may initially be intrinsically motivated due to their enjoyment of self expression and freedom of movement, when that same individual takes up professional competitive dancing extrinsic reward such as prizes and titles may outshine their initial intrinsic motivation. It is important that individuals who have a passion for dance and movement remember to enjoy their passion and to not let winning reduce their enjoyment. In relation to professional dancers, it is important that organisations keep in mind motivation factors specific to each individual to ensure continued motivation (Heath,C. 1999). In relation to dance motivation intrinsic motivation plays a large role in increasing an individuals dedication to dance as they are internally motivated through their passion and enthusiasm to dance. Extrinsic motivation also plays a role in dance motivation for individuals who seek a professional career as a dancer through competitions.

Amotivation Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic Motivation Extrinsic Motivation Amotivation
Internal source of motivation

Motivated for reasons such as interest, enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction

External source of motivation

Motivated for reasons such as to gain a reward or avoid punishment

Absence of motivation

Not motivated to engage in or continue goal-directed behaviour due to complete lack of motivation

I will study for this exam because I really enjoy the content and reading makes me feel relaxed. I will study for this exam because if I don't I will receive a fail grade. I will not study for this exam because I do not want to study.

Achievement goal theory[edit | edit source]

The achievement goal theory an individuals motivation is influenced through goals they associate with performance (Leidl,D. 2009). The two main goals relating to achievement motivation are;

Performance/ ego goals- individuals who adopt these goals generally focus on the end result and try to 'prove their worth' while avoiding criticism (Leidl,D. 2009).

In relation to dance motivation, individuals who adopt performance goal are likely to focus on winning competitions as to avoid scrutiny and to prove they have what it takes to make it as a professional dancer.

Task/mastery goals- individuals who adopt these goals focus on developing new skills along with learning and improving (Leidl,D. 2009).

Individuals who adopt the mastery goal in relation to dance motivation are likely to dedicate their time to learning new styles and improving their skills. Many dancers take the time and effort to travel overseas in order to further their skills and master new styles in new cultures.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

To test your knowledge on this chapter

1 What is motivation?

An energising force that induces action
Derived from the latin word 'mover', which means 'to move'
All of the above

2 How many levels are in maslow's hierarchy of needs?


3 What are the two main types of motivation focused on in this chapter in relation to incentive theory?

Extrinsic and amotivation
Amotivation and intrinsic
Intrinsic and extrinsic

4 Which achievement goal focuses on developing new skills along with learning and improving?

All of the above

5 What are the three dimensions of weiner's attribution theory?

Controllability, affect and stability
Locus of causality, stability and controllability
Stability, expectancy and locus of causality

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Motivation is essential for all individuals as it is the force that energises people into action (Parks,L., & Guay, P, P. 2009). A range of motivational theories can be used to investigate the underlying motivational influences on an individuals desire to dance.

Firstly maslow's hierarchy involved five levels of needs, these needs are physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. In relation to dance motivation, maslow's need of belonging may play a part in crew competitions as a group of individual dances form as one to compete, creating a sense of belonging.

Secondly weiner's attribution theory involves Locus of causality which can be either internal or external, stability which can be either stable or unstable and controllability which can be either controllable or uncontrollable.

Thirdly incentive theory gives rise to the idea of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation which relates to internal drives to extrinsic motivation which relates to incentives outside of an individual (Leidl,D. 2009). Intrinsically motivated behaviour such as dance may be due to the passion of the individual, while extrinsically motivated behaviour may be due to tangible prizes through winning competitions.

Finally achievement goal theory can be separated into two types of goals. Individuals who adopt the performance/ego goals generally focus on the end result and try to 'prove their worth' while avoiding criticism (Leidl,D. 2009). Individuals who adopt the task/ mastery goals focus on developing new skills along with learning and improving (Leidl,D. 2009).

Each of these theories increases researchers[grammar?] knowledge on the underlying motivational forces underlying dancers interests.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Anselme, P. (2010). The uncertainty processing theory of motivation. Behavioural Brain Research, 208(2), 291-310. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2009.12.020

Austen, J. (2003). "Pride and prejudice" (Vol. 2). Collector's Library.

Criss, E. (2011). Dance All Night Motivation in Education. Music Educators Journal, 97(3), 61-66. doi:10.1177/0027432110393022

Heath, C. (1999). On the Social Psychology of Agency Relationships: Lay Theories of Motivation Overemphasize Extrinsic Incentives. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 78(1), 25-62. doi:10.1006/obhd.1999.2826

Leidl, D. (2009). Motivation in Sport:
Bridging Historical and Contemporary Theory Through a Qualitative Approach. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 4(2), 155-175

Losier, G., & Vallerand, R. (1999). An integrative analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in sport. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 11(1), 142-169. doi:10.1080/10413209908402956

Maraz, A., Király, O.,Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). Why Do You Dance?Development of the Dance Motivation Inventory (DMI). PLoS ONE, 10(3),e0122866.

Parks, L., & Guay, P, P. (2009).Personality, values, and motivation. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(7), 675-684. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2009.06.002

Robbins, T, W., & Everitt, B, J. (1996). Neurobehavioural mechanisms of reward and motivation. Current Opinion in Neurobiology,6(2), 228-236. doi:10.1016/S0959-4388(96)80077-8

Robinson,M, D., Moeller, S, K., & Ode, S. (2010). Extraversion and Reward-Related Processing: Probing Incentive Motivation in Affective Priming Tasks. Emotion, 10(5), 615-625. DOI: 10.1037/a0019173

Stinson, S. W., Blumenfield-Jones, D., & van Dyke, J. (1990). Voices of young women dance students: An interpretive study of meaning in dance. Dance Research Journal, 22(2), 13-22.

Taormina, R, J., & Gao, J, H. (2013). Maslow and the Motivation Hierarchy: Measuring Satisfaction of the Needs. The American Journal of Psychology, 126(2), 155-177. DOI: 10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.2.0155

Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological Review, 92(4), 548-573. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.92.4.548.

Weiner, B. (2010). The Development of an Attribution-Based Theory of Motivation: A History of Ideas. Educational Psychologist, 45(1), 28-36. DOI:10.1080/00461520903433596

Yoshi Iwasaki, Roger C. Mannell. (1999). Situational and personality influences on intrinsically motivated leisure behavior: Interaction effects and cognitive processes. Leisure Sciences, 21(4), 287-306. doi:10.1080/014904099273011

External Links[edit | edit source]