Staff profile

Dr Gemma Collard-Stokes

Research Fellow

'Amiga' Performance


College of Health, Psychology and Social Care

Research centre

Health and Social Care Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am an Research Fellow within the University of Derby’s College of Health and Social Care.

My overarching research interest is concerned with the function of dance as a route to prevention, management and treatment of conditions affecting physical/mental health and wellbeing.

Extending from this endeavour my work unpacks how dance/movement is useful during transitional life events and has done so through the following studies:

Birth and the Arts: exploring the restorative benefits of interactions with creative arts activities to address and improve parental distress. This project looked at the potential of the arts to transpose negative/distressing thoughts and feelings following the traumatic experience of premature birth to support validation, assimilation, and the development of a richer articulation of narratives that foster positivity and strengthen parent-to-parent and parent-to-infant bonding.

Dance and Gendered Ageism: an examination of the ways in which ageing women are using dance as a means of countering feelings of social invisibility and [re]establish a sense of sensuality, sexuality and femininity since experiencing major life disruptions (i.e. serious illness, retirement, bereavement, divorce etc).

Dancing Disability: dance as a mean of opening opportunities for establishing healthy body images for the differently abled. 

Dance and Veterans: If bodies of service members are one of the most important aspects of creating and maintaining a military identity, what happens when these highly trained, extraordinary military bodies enter the mundane civilian domain? 

Body + Art + Nature: Explores how knowledge can be accessed from disciplines within science, health and the arts in order to form and inform the development of an ecosomatic exploration towards strengthening nature connection.

I am also an accomplished dance artist and educator whose practice incorporates somatic movement practices, environmentally responsive dance, physical theatre and creative writing. My performance work explores the suchness of the lived experience through social interaction and the social history of places.   

I am Director of Studies (1st Supervisor) for Emily-Rose Cluderay who is investigating the effects of dance on maternal wellbeing. 

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. (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.

Experience in industry

I started my professional career as an assistant choreographer and rehearsal assistant for popular girls bands of the late 1990s. For example, I worked extensively with 'Precious' (2000-2001) 'Atomic Kitten' (2001), 'Heaven Sent' (2001 - 2003) and 'Incense' (2002, 2004), predominately on UK and international tours, but my work also included choreography for appearances on stage, television and music video production. I later worked with and have been informed by practitioners including Miranda Tufnell, Helen Poynor, Hilary Kneale, Florence Peake, Sally E Dean, Eva Karczag, and Joe Moran. In addition to this, I have been engaged by dance theatre companies such as S.H.E Theatre, Blue-Eyed Soul, Talking Birds, and Green Room Theatre Company. I am primarily an independent artist and continue to make and perform across the UK.

Recent publications

Astell-Burt C, McNally T. Collard-Stokes G, Irons Y. 'Withness': Creative spectating for residents living with advanced dementia in care-homes. Journal of Applied Arts and Health; Spring 2020.

Collard-Stokes, G. (2019) 'Expressing Suchness: on the integration of writing into a dance practice',  The Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices. 

Collard-Stokes, G. (2017) 'Dissolving Borders: the integration of writing into a movement practice', PhD Thesis, University of Wolverhampton, (which can be found here: Collard-Stokes Thesis).

Collard-Stokes, G. (2012) 'Finding common ground through language and movement: examining the role of the writer in Rosemary Lee’s The Suchness of Heni and Eddie', Research in Dance Education, 13(2):215.

Pollard, N., Coe, K., Collard-Stokes, G., Le Quesne, L. and Moran, J. (2009) 'Artist-led, artist-used: experiences at Coventry's Summer Dancing 2009', Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, 1(2):199.

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.