Staff profile

Dr Gemma Collard-Stokes


'Amiga' Performance. Person crouching on the floor on a red mat. Another person stands nearby pointing to a wall containing written messages and drawings.


Therapeutic Arts


College of Arts, Humanities and Education


School of Arts

Research centre

Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am a Researcher of Therapeutic Arts in the University of Derby’s College of Arts, Humanities and Education.

I have a particular interest in the function of dance as a route to prevention, management and treatment of conditions affecting physical, mental health and wellbeing. 

As such my research unpacks the ways that dance-movement is beneficial during times of uncertainty or ill health. To date, this has been explored through a range of transitional experiences such as, birth trauma, ageing, young onset dementia, military-to-civilian transition, and the impact of the climate crisis. 

This work focuses on how somatic movement practices, environmentally responsive movement and ecological perspectives offer routes to [re]connection for those who experience a growing sense of detachment from their bodies and the rest of the world. 

As an independent dance artist with over 20 years of experience in participatory, health and professional performance practice, my work brings together, eco-somatic movement practice, improvisation and transdisciplinary collaboration combining dance, poetics, film and visual arts. Embedded in this enquiry is the desire to examine how the body’s relationship to our environment and the more-than-human supports processes of [re]connection and orients us in the world. This extends from my doctoral research that examined ways that movement improvisation principles can be applied to acts of writing in order to reveal the suchness of our lived experience through dance. 


I currently supervise three Postgraduate Research Students: 

Current research:

The AHRC funded Creative Dementia Research Group which is a collaborative longitudinal case study that is testing a new creative arts approach for people with younger onset dementia and their friends and family members who are living in the community.  The work adapts elements of Neuro-Dramatic-Play (a play based therapeutic approach originated by Professor Sue Jennings) and will explore the benefits of this to strengthening communication, attachment and relationships for people with young onset dementia. This work brings together University of Derby, University of Northampton, Dementia UK, Young Dementia Network and people with young onset dementia in the co-production of this study.

Project Roam is a comparative study that explores the experiences of children and young people from inner city and rural communities participating in a series of outdoor, nature inspired, creative dance workshops called ‘Roam’. This ongoing work involves Ella&Co Dance Company and several primary schools in the South of England.

Performing Us is a new study alongside Buxton Opera House that uses creative journalling as a means to explore the experiences of young people from rural and ex-industrial communities who participate in a programme of performing arts training.

I am also leading a study with the LEVEL a contemporary Arts Centre in Rowsley Derbyshire. We are interested in the experiences, practices and professional development of artists creatively co-producing visual, performative or digital contemporary work that may be for, by or with learning disabled people, by a disabled creative or by an artist who considers how their work can be accessible for the wider community.

Teaching responsibilities

In the last two years I have acted as module leader across level 5 and 6 for various modules of the Dance Movement Studies (Joint Honours) BA, and taught on several modules for the Creative Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing BA (Hons) and Dance and Choreography MA.

Professional interests

I am passionate about inter and trans-disciplinary creative process that aims to lay bare that inner workings of collaborative processes and evolving strategies for co-working and co-creating.

I have a longstanding enquiry into the ways dance and writing can enhance, co-exist, form and inform one another. My collaboration with poet and dancer Scott Thurston has been essential to the reimagining of my moving-writing practice.

I am also interested in the therapeutic capacity of eco-somatic movement practices. Since 2010, I have been developing an ecologically conscious interdisciplinary approach to outdoor dance that supports sustainable healthy relationships between humans and the rest of nature. This body of work has bought me into fascinating collaborations with poets, visual artists, musicians, and film makers, and has been shared via numerous live, multimedia and installation pieces.

Research interests


Doctorate - PhD 2017. University of Wolverhampton.

Thesis: Dissolving Borders: the integration of writing into a movement practice.

Masters - MA Dance Making and Performance 2011. Coventry University.

Dissertation Project: Poetry in Motion: a common language amid words and experience. 

Undergraduate - BA (Hons) Dance and Professional Practice 2010. Coventry University.

Dissertation: Finding Common Ground through Language and Movement:  examining the role of the writer in Rosemary Lee’s The Suchness of Heni and Eddie.

Recent conferences

Collard-Stokes, G., Thurston, S., & Kussmaul, S. (2022) Uncommon Ground. Harnessing our Potential: Interdisciplinary Research in the Creative and Cultural Industries symposium 20 September 2022.

Collard-Stokes, G., Thurston, S., & Kussmaul, S. (2022) Uncommon Ground. Sentient Performativities: thinking alongside the human. Dartington Hall 26-29 June 2022.

Collard-Stokes, G. & Cluderay, E. R. (2020) Moving Through Motherhood. Birth Trauma 5th annual Conference Conway Hall London. 22 January 2020.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2019) Neo-burlesque and the Ageing Performer: 'true' liberation or 'superficial' empowerment? The Arts and Society 2019 conference: Arts as Communication: THe impact of art as a catalyst for social change, Lisbon. Planned or June 2019.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2018) Birth Trauma and Dance: Towards the formulation of a movement based support programme for navigating parental distress following premature birth. LEAP Festival 2018 conference: Our Dance Democracy, Liverpool Hope University. 2 November 2018.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2018) Premature Birth and the Arts. Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth's 2018 conference, University of Oxford. 18-21 September 2018.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2018) A Little Time: the function of writing in a movement practice. A paper presentation at the Slowing and Stilling: foregrounding process in performance practice Conference, Birmingham City University. 11 June 2018.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2018) Embodied Writing: channelling a narrative of self through a moving body. A paper presentation at the Embodied Practice and Performance in the Arts Conference, Canterbury Christ Church University. 6 April 2018.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2013) Moving and Writing: a body story. A paper presentation at the Dance and Somatic Practices Conference, Coventry University. 14 July 2013.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2012) Dancing Narratives: moving towards a dance writing ecology. A paper presentation at the Research Student Conference, University of Wolverhampton. 14 May 2012.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2011) Writing Practice, Practicing Writing. A lecture-demonstration at the Dance Transformations Symposium, C-DARE. 19 October 2011.

In the media

Recent publications

Most recent publications:

children playing in a woodland area

Dr Gemma Collard Stokes, Researcher in Therapeutc Arts at the University of Derby discusses why Dance performance and participation offers us encounters of belonging, of kinship and of care, so we might fall in love with the planet again. 

Silhouette of a woman dancing in a field during dawn

Gemma Collard-Stokes, Research Fellow at the University of Derby, explores how forms of dance, can help us connect more frequently with the nature around us.

Elderly person dancing

Gemma Collard-Stokes, Research Fellow at the University of Derby's Health and Social Care Research Centre, investigates the impact of gendered ageism and the value of dance to challenge it.