Saturday 28th March 

1.30 - 3.30pm

Bailey Allen Hall NUI Galway

Exploring how dance and somatic intelligence can be applied in diverse conflicts & contexts, why a physical component is essential in conflict engagement training & intervention, and implications for addressing trauma & fostering resilience. Developed through a four-year international research project, Dancing at the Crossroads.

Led by Michelle LeBaron (Professor of Law, University of British Columbia, Canada), Carrie MacLeod (European Graduate School, Switzerland).

Dance experience not necessary.


Overview Work in diverse global communities from Cambodia to Sierra Leone to Ireland has demonstrated how conflict is carried in our bodies, and documented multiple ways that curating and deepening physical wisdom is vital in shifting destructive conflict. Our research demonstrates that conceptual, emotional and physical shifts follow from increased physical intelligence. As repertoires and lexicons become more nuanced, conflict can be transformed—literally released from physical tissues. Increased physical suppleness yields more constructive choices in conflict; we literally learn how to extend mobility beyond what analytic tools reveal. In addition, a physical focus imports sensory, aesthetic vocabularies into conflict settings, resourcing richer and deeper description and engagement. Our ongoing research explores how embodiment informs a wide range of conflicts and contexts, especially those involving religious conflict.

Workshop focus The workshop will begin with an account of how the Dancing at the Crossroads research project began: a week-long exchange in the Swiss Alps among an international group of dancers and other artists, scholars and mediators. We will then facilitate movement exercises specifically designed to replicate the architecture of conflict, followed by reflection and dialogue. Information on neuroscientific links will be presented to further underline and expand the case for a physical component in conflict training and intervention. Finally, implications for addressing trauma and fostering resilience in diverse settings will be presented.

 Those attending the workshop will learn first-hand about our findings in relation to kinaesthetic intelligence in conflict analysis and intervention, including increased:

  • proprioception and awareness of self and others;

  • capacity to notice and regulate emotions;

  • mobility in the midst of impasse;

  • ability to work effectively across cultures and with worldview differences;

  • facility for healing trauma;

  • possibilities for surfacing and processing charged memories;

  • understandings of subtle nuances and interactional textures that signal shifts;

  • expertise in process designs that foster health; and

  • creativity in conflict.



Michelle LeBaron is a tenured professor at the Allard School of Law and former director of the UBC Program on Dispute Resolution. She joined UBC in 2003 after ten years as faculty at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Professor LeBaron’s scholarship addresses the roles of arts in conflict transformation in global political/religious conflicts. Her current research focuses on using expressive arts practices—particularly movement and dance—to train mediators and inform intervention design. Professor LeBaron holds a JD, an MA in Counseling Psychology and a BA. She was called to the Bar of British Columbia in 1982 and practised for several years as a family law and commercial mediator. Professor LeBaron is the author of several books including Bridging Cultural Conflict, Conflict Across Cultures and The Choreography of Resolution: Conflict, Movement and Neuroscience.  She was Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies in 2013-14, and was awarded an international research fellowship by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies in 2014.


Carrie MacLeod integrates the vital life force of movement and dance in education and social action projects around the globe.  Her work focuses on peace and reconciliation initiatives in post-war contexts and within refugee resettlement programs in Canada. In Vancouver she is the Coordinator for the Enacting Resilience project at the University of British Columbia. At the European Graduate School she is on the Faculty of the MA Program in Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding and is the Director of the International Centre for Arts in Peacebuilding. Her latest co-edited book The Choreography of Resolution – Conflict, Movement and Neuroscience has recently been released by the American Bar Association.

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