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Working With Dance


Basal Tears
Reflex Tears
Emotional Tears



[Image: Persephone Dixon, photographed by Judie Waldmann]


What Are Reflex Tears?

Reflex tears are tears, which work to protect the human eye from harsh irritants such as smoke, onions or a strong dusty wind.

Reflex tears are triggered by the sensory nerves in the cornea of your eye.

These sensory nerves let your brain know when there is something irritating your eye.

The nerves transmit this information through impulses. These impulses are sent via the central nervous system and carry messages to the eye telling it to produce tears.

We call these tears 'reflex tears'.

Reflex tears help clear the eye of the irritant such as dust, or sand.



Now look at examples in film of dance using Reflex tears as the inspiration and of young people exploring what reflex tears are.

You can listen to the young people discuss reflex tears. 

You can also see how they used drawing to help plan, communicate and remember their ideas for creating dance.


The videos below are examples of discussions on reflex tears:



Reflex Tears: With Susan Norwood and Samantha Walsh

Format: colour stereo video
Duration: 1:35 minutes


What Are Reflex Tears?

Format: colour stereo video
Duration: 3:57 minutes

Samantha Walsh and Vanessa Cook discuss reflex tears, how the eyes respond to irritants.

Thomas Dolan: Drawings / Visual Scores
Thomas Dolan, an experienced dancer and a participant in the Summer Dance Intensive at Dance Exchange, created a series of drawings to outline his choreographic ideas in response to reflex tears.

The drawings below were used as a 'visual score' for his duet with Samantha Walsh, exploring reflex tears; how the eyes respond to irritants.

Click the images below to enlarge

WordPress plugin

[Images: Drawings by Thomas Dolan, photographed by Judie Waldmann]


View the video of Thomas and Samantha's dance below


Reflex Tears: A Duet

Format: colour stereo video
Duration: 1:56 minutes

An example of a dance duet choreographed by Samantha Walsh and Thomas Dolan exploring reflex tears.


Further thinking on the role of reflex tears

The video below shows an example of how ideas of basal and reflex tears can be brought together in dance. Look at the quality of the sudden response in the movements, which the dancers have used to show the role of reflex tears. The sudden response in the movements also helps us think about the idea of reflex tears being produced because of an irritation to the eye.



Ruth Williams Choreography on Vanessa Cook

Format: colour stereo video
Duration: 2:45 minutes


Ruth Williams a dancer with learning disabilities has studied dance for some years. In this film you will see Ruth’s choreography, which are her ideas for dance, she has directed on Vanessa Cook, a professional dancer.



Reflex Tears Excercise:

This exercise is a kind of game that can be played (under the supervision of your teacher) in your science lessons and your dance sessions. This game can help you remember the particular reason we have reflex tears.

  1. In your group, stand in a line against a wall.
  2. Let the person at the end of the line be the ‘tears’
  3. Let one person stand away from the line, and be the ‘irritant
  4. The person being the ‘irritant’ then throws a soft ball at the first person in the line. This ball is the ‘irritant’.
  5. The first person in the line then passes the ball down the line. This is to show how the messages are sent to the eye that there is an irritant and therefore that there is a need to produce ‘tears’.
  6. Once the ball gets to the final person, they show a movement or action for crying.


Central Idea Exploring Reflex Tears Through Dance:

Think about how one movement you may make triggers, or causes another movement to be made, this is like a reflex.

You may want to try this idea in partners, where one person moves, and this causes and triggers a reflex movement in their partner. Keep exploring how movements can trigger your partner’s movement, taking it in turns.


Key Words List

Here are some new words for you to learn:






Visual Score


Central Nervous System



Sensory Nerves




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