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Dancing “the management”: on social presence, rhythm and finding common purpose

David Atkinson (Pickhill, Thirsk, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 1 August 2008




This paper seeks to explore the concept of dance as a metaphor for relating to the challenges of management and human relations within the organisational space. It asks in what way can the art‐related concept of dance be applied to the benefit of a dominant science‐led management learning and practice.


The paper explores its topic through counter‐factual argument, drawing on a recently published theory of art‐related management practice. It invokes dance as an application of the theory to further explore that theory's relevance to management and organisational thinking.


The concept of an organisational dance is explored by considering the notions of presence and rhythm. A definition for social presence is derived in order to present an ability of the individual to perceive a socially constructed reality, against which collective movement – aligned within a concept of organisational rhythm – permits a form of dance to emerge. The organisational dance sets up a form of social constructionism in which new forms of knowledge might arise through creative play.


The paper argues that the metaphor of dance can usefully provide new insight into thinking about management, by providing an intellectual basis for writing about organisational dance. The paper concludes that the research question is not (empirically) “what dances are being practiced” but, in order to better support managers in practice, “how do we make the organisation dance?”



Atkinson, D. (2008), "Dancing “the management”: on social presence, rhythm and finding common purpose", Management Decision, Vol. 46 No. 7, pp. 1081-1095.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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