Staff profile

Dr Gemma Collard-Stokes

Lecturer in Therapeutic Arts

'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




Britannia Mill, Derby Campus



My research unpacks the benefits of dance during times of uncertainty or ill health. To date, this has been explored through a range of transitional experiences such as birth trauma, ageing, menopause, younger onset dementia, 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 interdisciplinary performance artist with over 20 years of experience in participatory arts, arts for health and professional performance, my work brings together, eco-somatic movement, improvisation and interdisciplinary collaboration combining dance, poetry, improvisation and visual arts. Embedded in this inquiry is the desire to examine how creative interactions with nature support [re]connection, [re]enchantment and orient us in the world. 

Current postgraduate research students

Director of Studies:

First Supervisor:

Postgraduate research student completions:

Current research

The AHRC-funded Creative Dementia Research Group is a collaborative longitudinal case study testing a newly developed creative arts approach for people with younger onset dementia living in the community.  The work adapts elements of Neuro-Dramatic-Play (a play based therapeutic approach originated by Professor Sue Jennings). It explores the benefits of this to strengthen communication, attachment and relationships for people with young onset dementia and those closest to them. This work brings together the University of Derby, University of Northampton, Dementia UK's Young Dementia Network and people living with dementia in the co-production of this study.

Uncommon Ground is a long-term collaborative endeavour between a dancer (Gemma Collard-Stokes), poet (Scott Thurston) and visual artist (Sabine Kussmaul) that explores a multi-disciplinary approach to building relationship with land, with one another's practice and with the rhythms of nature and narrative that exist within the outdoor pastures of Bakestonedale Moor in the Peak District. 

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.

I am currently leading a project with The Level Centre, a contemporary arts centre based in rural Derbyshire. Together 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.

I also work alongside Dr Jamie Bird on an evolving project called Imagination and Belonging in a Changing Climate. Together we are interested in how individuals and communities relate to the other-than-human, and how they respond and adapt to changes in the climate and the environment. Our work combines facilitating careful and attentive engagement with natural spaces and using arts-based methods to express and explore responses to those spaces.

Teaching responsibilities

I teach across all modules of the undergraduate Creative Expressive Arts Health and Wellbeing degree.

Professional interests

I have an interest in creative processes that lay bare the inner workings of collaborative processes and evolving strategies for co-creation.

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 a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

I am an Ethics Champion and the College of Arts, Humanities and Education Research Ethics Committee, Deputy Chair. 

Research interests


Recent conferences

In the media

Recent publications

children playing in a woodland area

Dr Gemma Collard Stokes, Researcher in Therapeutic 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.