In findings sure to incite controversy among dancers and their fans, like those from the TV shows “So You Think You Can Dance” or even “Dancing with the Stars,” new research suggests that modern and contemporary dancers have the most creativity among dancers. Ballet dancers, the research finds, show the least creativity.
Scientists in Austria investigated the creativity levels of 60 professional dancers, evenly divided up among ballet, modern-contemporary and jazz-musical dance. They did so with verbal tests analyzing how well participants could think of synonyms to given words, creative uses of everyday objects, and consequences to utopian situations, as well as image-based tests, where dancers had to finish incomplete pictures. They also measured general mental ability in terms of word and sentence comparisons, analysis of geometrical figures and the like, as well as personality traits such as how outgoing or motivated they were.
The researchers found that modern-contemporary dancers showed the highest levels of verbal and image-based creativity, ballet dancers the least, and jazz-musical dancers ranking in the middle. When it came to general mental ability, modern-contemporary and jazz-musical dancers tested significantly higher than ballet dancers, and when it came to personality, modern-contemporary dancers were less conscientious, more open to experiences, and tested higher in psychoticism — that is, in being aggressive, cold, egocentric, impersonal, antisocial or impulsive — than the other two groups.