Tag Archives: dance

Allegory of the Cave: Echolocation and Flutter

After a sold out two night run of The Missing Shade of You: A Dance Dialog between L.A. Paul & Marcel Proust at the Tank, Greg and I are continuing to perform Allegory of the Cave:

towards terminal buzz (4)

Echolocation and Flutter.  We were at Triskelion Arts in March and on Sunday April 30th, we will be performing with live accompaniment as part of the Brooklyn Bridge Dance Festival:

Dance Photography

Aesthetics and the 4E mind Conference July 2016

Slides from my talk, Embodying Aesthetics through Proprioception



tumblr_inline_o4t5k1L8Td1qenqjs_500Dancer Greg Kollarus and I were paired with the choreographer Brandon Powers for an xyz nyc performance on March 24th. The motto of xyz is experiment, collaborate, and compete. Teams are allowed only one week of rehearsal and and given a challenge.  This time it was that each piece must include a costume change.


XYZ NYC: Lost in Translation, October 29th, 7:00 pm at The Tank

I danced with Erin Carlisle Norton, who also choreographed the piece, entitled Alright. We had only 4 hours to put it all together.


Photo and Video: Patrick T. Rousseau

Michael Burke was the guest judge (that’s right: experiment, collaborate, compete is xyz nyc’s motto)


Improvisation: Deliberate or Spontaneous?

I spoke this past weekend at the Cognition, Consciousness, and Behavior Workshop at the University of Louisville. My talk on improvisation in music and dance is definitely in workshop form, and any comments would be appreciated.

Dancing in the Dark

I’m dancing in this xyz nyc performance for the dark fest.
8ab24c0b69f1412b5fb65ad84ac6b1e4 I liked the idea of no lights. Aimee Plauche is the choreographer.

One notable exception…

I have to admit, I sort of liked both of these Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:

Wayne Christensen writes, “Of all the contributors, only Barbara Montero directly challenges Dreyfus’s empirical claims about expertise…” (→ Wayne Christensen’s review). The paper he’s talking about: A Dancer Reflects

Amy Kind, in her review, writes, “One notable exception is Barbara Montero’s excellent chapter on physicalism…” (→ Amy Kind’s review)  And here’s the paper: Physicalism

book reviews of me



The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action

Selections from my upcoming book, The ‘Myth of just do it’: Though and Effort in Expert Action (preface, introduction, Ch. 1)

From the introduction:

Science, Richard Feynman once said, is the belief in the ignorance of experts. If so—though I wouldn’t put it in quite those words—then perhaps my project should be dubbed scientific, for it is my belief that a wide range of experts who have written about expertise have been mistaken. In particular, I believe that various psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists, and other experts on high-level performance have erroneously concluded that expert action proceeds best when the mind is relatively less active, when action occurs automatically, and when bodily movements are effortless. These expertise-experts, I believe, are wrong…

(→ to the book )

Aesthetic Effortlessness

Draft of Aesthetic Effortlessness

Forthcoming in the Oxford Anthology on Aesthetics and the Body, ed.

Abstract. Although we praise effort, we prize effortlessness.  Effortless bodily movement, effortless speech or writing, even effortless objects affect us in a way that one naturally thinks of as aesthetic.  But just what is effortlessness and what makes effortlessness aesthetically valuable?

Just do it? Radio Interviews

I’ve recently been interviewed by Joe Gelonesi for the Philosopher’s Zone program, “Just do it?” and by David Brendel for the VoiceAmerica program, “How to hit and think at the same time.”

Just as when I was a ballet dancer and I couldn’t bear to watch myself on video, I can’t bring myself to listen to these.  (I’m willing to suffer for my craft, but I do draw a line.) Nonetheless, because this is how one measures out one’s life these days, I post them below.



A Dancer Reflects: Deliberation in Action

Here is a draft of A Dancer Reflects Deliberation in Action which was published in Mind, Reason, and Being-in-the-World: The McDowell-Dreyfus Debate, 2013, Routledge, 303-319.

Abstract: The idea that performing a ballet typically involves tremendous effort is contrary to the widely touted view that great performances, in ballet and elsewhere, are natural and effortless. Although practice may be hard work, it is thought that when performing, an expert just lets the movement happen.  Indeed, thinking about what you are doing during a performance is, if anything, thought to interfere with expert skill. Here, I argue against such views.


The Myth of ‘Just Do It’

Although the book, alas, is not yet done, I have managed to write this article for the New York Times:

OPINION   | June 09, 2013 The Myth of ‘Just Do It’ By BARBARA GAIL MONTERO

The idea that thinking interferes with doing is often taken for granted. But the realities at the highest levels of athletic and artistic performance are more complex.

→ go to The Myth of ‘Just Do It’


For discussion, see Martin Bingisser’s blog post, The Effortless Throw, in which he states, “few philosophical ideas…relate more directly to hammer throwing.”

CBS’s  interviewed me shortly after the New York Times article appeared:  http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-barbara-montero-philosopher-on-the-myth-of-8216just-do-it/10230?tag=mantle_skin;content

The Artist as Critic: Dance Training, Neuroscience and Aesthetic Evaluation

Barbara Gail Montero, “The Artist as Critic: Dance Training, Neuroscience and Aesthetic Evaluation,”  Published in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 71, Issue 2, pages 169-175, May 2013

The published version was revised significantly from this earlier version, which might nonetheless be of interest. The Artist as Critic

It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the proper judge of it (Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist).

It is difficult, if not impossible, for those who do not perform to be good judges of the performance of others (Aristotle, The Politics).

Abstract. Despite the recent flurry of interest in ballet after the release of the psychological thriller, Black Swan, dance is suffering at the box office.  Yet while interest in attending live performances wanes, interest in dance as a tool for scientific research—in particular, for the purpose of understanding links between action perception and action execution—is burgeoning.  In this paper, I address some of this rapidly developing research and suggest a way in which it may be relevant to the question of how dance training affects one’s perception and aesthetic evaluation of dance.

Effortless Bodily Movement

Barbara Gail Montero, Effortless Bodily Movement

(2011) Philosophical Topics, 39:1, pp. 67-79

Abstract. According to the Renaissance theorist Baldassare Castiglione, perhaps the most important quality to cultivate in oneself is effortlessness, what he refers to as “sprezzatura.”  In his Book of the Courtier, he writes,

 I have discovered a universal rule which seems to apply more than any other in all  human  actions or  words: namely, to steer away from affectation at all costs, as if it were a rough and dangerous reef, and ….to practice in all things a certain nonchalance (sprezzatura) which conceals all artistry and makes  whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.

But just what is it for an action to be effortless?  What are we appreciating when we admire Castiglione’s effortless courtier, a dancer’s effortless leaps, a basketball player’s effortless shot, or even a seagull’s effortless soar?  For Castiglione, effortlessness was socially valuable; the façade of effortlessness enabled individuals to gain recognition, approval and promotion to higher positions in the Royal court.  Though perhaps no less relevant to politics now than it was in Castiglione’s day, my concern is more with aesthetic rather than social value, and it is with movements rather than manners.  Accordingly, the question I am to address is this: What does it means for bodily movements to be effortless and what makes such movements aesthetically valuable?

Practice Makes Perfect: The Effect of Dance Training on the Aesthetic Judge

Barbara Montero (2011). Practice Makes Perfect: The Effect of Dance Training on the Aesthetic Judge. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:-.

Abstract. According to Hume, experience in observing art is one of the prerequisites for being an ideal art critic. But although Hume extols the value of observing art for the art critic, he says little about the value, for the art critic, of executing art. That is, he does not discuss whether ideal aesthetic judges should have practiced creating the form of art they are judging. In this paper, I address this issue. Contrary to some contemporary philosophers who claim that experience in creating art is irrelevant to one’s ability to judge that art form, as well as to some dance critics who see dance training as possibly even detrimental to one’s aesthetic judgment, I suggest that having practiced dancing makes one a better observer of certain aesthetic qualities of dance. Dance training, I argue, can facilitate a kinesthetic experience upon watching dance without which some aesthetic aspects of a dance performance—such as grace, power, and precision, as perceived kinesthetically—may go unnoticed. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-10 DOI 10.1007/s11097-011-9236-9 Authors Barbara Montero, Philosophy Program, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA Journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Online ISSN 1572-8676 Print ISSN 1568-7759.

Does Bodily Awareness Interfere with Highly Skilled Movement?

Barbara Montero (2010). Does Bodily Awareness Interfere with Highly Skilled Movement? Inquiry53 (2):105 – 122.

Draft of Does bodily awareness interfere with highly skilled movement

Abstract. It is widely thought that focusing on highly skilled movements while performing them hinders their execution. Once you have developed the ability to tee off in golf, play an arpeggio on the piano, or perform a pirouette in ballet, attention to what your body is doing is thought to lead to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis. Here I re-examine this view and argue that it lacks support when taken as a general thesis. Although bodily awareness may often interfere (…) with well-developed rote skills, like climbing stairs, I suggest that it is typically not detrimental to the skills of expert athletes, performing artists, and other individuals who endeavor to achieve excellence. Along the way, I present a critical analysis of some philosophical theories and behavioral studies on the relationship between attention and bodily movement, an explanation of why attention may be beneficial at the highest level of performance and an error theory that explains why many have thought the contrary. Though tentative, I present my view as a challenge to the widespread starting assumption in research on highly skilled movement that at the pinnacle of skill attention to one’s movement is detrimental.

Proprioception as an Aesthetic Sense

Barbara Montero (2006). Proprioception as an Aesthetic Sense. Journal Of Aesthetics And Art Criticism 64 (2):231-242.

The aesthetic senses are the senses by which we experience beauty, grace, and other aesthetic properties. Vision and hearing are commonly recognized as aesthetic senses, while smell, taste, and touch are not. Proprioception is the sense by which we acquire information about the positions and movements of our own bodies, via receptors in the joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and skin. My claim is that proprioception is an aesthetic sense and that one can make aesthetic judgments based on proprioceptive experience. I will argue that, just as one can deem a painting beautiful based on one’s visual experience of the painting, one can deem a certain movement beautiful based on one’s proprioceptive experience of the movement. In addition, I posit that in a certain sense an observer can proprioceive the beauty of another’s movement. Although this may sound surprising, I argue that recent discoveries about the function of mirror neurons—neurons that are activated both when one performs a task and when one sees that task performed—as well as other empirical studies illustrating that when seeing others move we kinesthetically represent their motion, support the case and potentially pave the way toward a third-person proprioceptive aesthetics.