Embodied Language Learning through the Arts (ELLA)

ELLA is a research project (2021-2024) funded by Kone foundation which investigates how embodied language learning through the arts may generate substantial change within communities.


This multidisciplinary, four-year research project focuses on how embodiment, artistic activity and language are intertwined. It develops artistic and pedagogical practices that seek to engage human beings holistically, within their social and material environments. The project maps the impacts of these practices especially within culturally diverse settings.

It investigates how embodied language learning through the arts may generate substantial change within communities. More broadly, it aims to articulate and communicate the societal significance of holistic, arts-based practices to wider audiences. ELLA is a spin-off from the research initiative ArtsEqual. The idea about a new research project was born in casual meetings participated by both ArtsEqual researchers and others.

ELLA boldly bridges art and academic research, and reaches beyond boundaries of art and scholarship in a performative manner. The research project explores new ways of fostering language learning through the arts with an equal focus on embodiment, art and language. In doing so, it renews conceptualizations of language and language learning. Embodiment and art bring new opportunities for language learning especially in culturally diverse contexts.

The theoretical foundation

The theoretical foundation of the ELLA project is based on post-structuralism, new materialism, and socio-material perspectives, as well as on theories of embodied cognition. Methodologically, it is situated within the intersection of dynamically developing fields of post-qualitative inquiry, arts-based research and artistic research.

More specifically, it leans on the performative research paradigm that aims not only at an increased understanding of the complexities of the researched phenomena, but also at transformative learning and structural change within the communities involved in the project. The intention is to do research with people, not on or about people, and thus, to serve the interests of those whose interests are mostly at stake. The research team includes doctoral researchers, post doc researchers at different stages of their academic career, and dance artists/pedagogues.

Contact information for the project

Project name

Embodied Language Learning through the Arts (ELLA)




Kone Foundation


  • Eeva Anttila (Uniarts Helsinki)
  • Kaisa Korpinen (University of Turku)
  • Sofia Jusslin (Åbo Akademi)
  • Johanna Lehtinen-Schnabel (Uniarts Helsinki)
  • Mariana Siljamäki (University of Jyväskylä)
  • Niina Lilja (University of Tampere)
  • Riina Hannuksela, Angela Al-Debs and Katja Kirsi work in Zodiak – Center for New Dance.


International partners include

  • Charlotte Svendler Nielsen (University of Copenhagen, Danmark)
  • Rose Martin and Tone Pernille Østern (NTNU, Trondheim, Norway).