This paper explores the social capacity of robots as an emergent phenomenon of the exchange between humans and robots, rather than an intrinsic property of robots as is often assumed in social robotics research. Using our Performative Body Mapping (PBM) approach, we have developed a robotic object for studying how social meaning is enacted when movement qualities meet kinesthetic empathy. In this paper we introduce PBM and how it harnesses performers’ kinesthetic imagination and movement expertise for designing the movement potential and movement qualities of abstract, non-humanlike robots. We then present our recent study of how the social presence of our robotic object-in-motion emerges in an encounter, involving experts from performance and design. Preliminary results of this study show that our robotic object can successfully convey movement qualities and their intended expressions as embodied by a dancer as part of the PBM process. Finally, we discuss how our observations can shift our focus from attributing qualities to the object to an emergence of qualities, propelled by the encounter. We believe our study provides a glimpse into the dynamic enactment of agency and how it requires both sides to ‘give’ for the robotic object’s characteristics and the participants’ experience to evolve.