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 well-being. 

As such my research unpacks the ways that dance-movement is beneficial during disruptive life events. 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 climate emergency. 

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 20 years of experience in participatory, health and professional performance practice, my work brings together, eco-somatic movement practice, improvisation and trans-disciplinary collaboration combining dance, writing, film and the natural world. Embedded in this enquiry is the desire to examine how the body’s relationship to the environment and the rest of nature 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 am Director of Studies (First Supervisor) for Emily-Rose Cluderay who is investigating the effects of dance on maternal well-being. 

Teaching responsibilities

I am module leader for various modules on the Dance Movement Studies Joint Honours, and co-teach on the Creative Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing BA (Hons). 

Research interests

  • Dance
  • Eco-somatic movement
  • Body ecology
  • Emersiology
  • Creative writing
  • Expressive therapeutic practices
  • Non-stylized experiential movement practices
  • Dance history and the development of post 1960s British New Dance
  • Dance and community practice
  • Dance and disability
  • Contemporary performance practices
  • Collaborative processes
  • Feminist phenomenology
  • Mental health and Well-being
  • Civic engagement and mental health


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. & 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:

  • Collard-Stokes G. (2020) Creative Critical Representation of the Choreographer’s Creation Process. Dance Chronicle
  • Collard-Stokes G. (2020) Recreational burlesque and the ageing female body: challenging perceptions. Journal of Women and Ageing
  • Astell-Burt C, McNally T. Collard-Stokes G, Irons Y. (2020) 'Withness': Creative spectating for residents living with advanced dementia in care-homes. Journal of Applied Arts and Health, 11 (1/2): 125-133
  • Collard-Stokes, G. Expressing suchness: On the integration of writing into a dance practice. Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices. 2019, 11(1): 115–28
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.