Contemporising the past: envisaging the future Refereed proceedings* of the 2014 World Dance Alliance Global Summit

In This Article


These proceedings are dedicated to the memory of Dr Maggi Phillips (1944–2015). Associate Professor Phillips made an outstanding contribution to dance as a teacher, researcher and scholar. In her quiet manner, she inspired us with her insightful musings, extraordinary intellect, imaginative yet rigorous writing, irrepressible humour, and above all with her non-judgmental and positive support.


This publication of 31 papers with authors from 13 countries takes as its focus the theme that was the title and driving force of the activities comprising the 2014 WDA Global Summit. Hosted and presented by World Dance Alliance (WDA) and the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (CNDC), the Summit was held in the city of Angers with its impressive history and its contemporary outlook. In addition, it was supported by the Dance Delegation of the French Ministry of Culture, together with our partners, the University of Angers and Angers Loire Tourist Office, and with the assistance of scores of people both in France and internationally through our WDA committees.

The Summit embraced Contemporising the past: envisaging the future in an interconnection between theory and practice, as echoed in the proceedings through papers by artist/scholars and artist/teachers. The Summit program featured 346 presenters from 38 countries and included an international conference of 197 presentations, 31 showcase performances featuring 83 dancers, 34 masterclasses with 24 teachers and 650 participants, and a choreolab with mentors Robert Swinston and Germaine Acogny working with four emerging international choreographers and 38 dancers. In addition, there were evening performances featuring the work of French companies including Robert Swinston’s Event and Olivier Dubois' controversial work Tragedie. The principal aim of the Summit was to provide a supportive platform for sharing research and creative work, as well as nurturing professional development opportunities. Importantly, this gathering was a networking opportunity to forge new partnerships, potential collaborations and to strengthen existing relationships.

Following the Summit, we invited conference presenters to submit a full paper in order to provide a publication platform to continue the conversations around Contemporising the past: envisaging the future. These conversations include how we engage with a contemporary networked world of digital transformations, interdisciplinary/transcultural practices and pedagogies in ways that intersect with the ongoing evolution of our social and cultural identities. Underpinning these enquiries lies the premise that knowledge of the past enriches and informs the present in envisaging an innovative and dynamic future for dance. 

Emerging dance scholars who presented at the Summit were invited to contribute to the July 2015 issue of World Dance Alliance’s Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship. This issue, with the themed title 'How dance is analyzed and re-imagined in diverse settings', includes writing from Anja Ali-Haapala, Hiroki Koba, A. P. Rajaram, Kaustavi Sarkar, Sophie Williams and Wei-Chi Wu.

Publication process

The following papers were chosen in a double blind refereeing process followed by a thorough editorial process. Our heartfelt thanks go to the international review committee for their comprehensive feedback and time spent providing constructive comments. Special thanks also to our editorial committee for their painstaking work: Linda Ashley, Debanjali Biswas, Stephane Burridge, Dena Davida, Julie Dyson, Bilqis Hijjas, Marie Gabrielle Houriez, Nicole Harbonnier-Topin, Sarah Knox, Rose Martin, Ann Moradian, Kelly Preece, Jennifer Roche, Janet Schroeder, Jordan Vincent and Bethany Whiteside. Our appreciation also goes to Ausdance, in particular publications editor Rachael Jennings whose attention to detail and collaborative approach made the final stages so enjoyable. Finally, thank you to the authors whose positive engagement with the review process has made editing these proceedings a stimulating and pleasurable experience and whose papers have made a significant contribution to the field of dance scholarship and practice.


In a world fraught by bitter divisions and unspeakable violence it is more important than ever to confront and challenge intolerance in all its forms, and to interrogate the past to work towards a more humane future. We need to embrace the cultural diversity and multiple viewpoints which the arts contribute; to the individual, to society and to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. As did the WDA Global Summit, these proceedings aspire to contribute to that larger cultural agenda by bringing together artists, scholars, educators and those with a passion for dance from the Asia-Pacific, Americas, European and African regions. In exploring the cognitive and the sensory, the rational and the instinctive, the explicit and the implicit, these writings create and celebrate common and differentiated dance understandings—at times directly and provocatively, and at times liminally and poetically.

In reinforcing the Summit and proceedings theme, we draw on dance historian Laurence Louppe in Poétique de la Danse contemporaine (Contredanse, 2010, translation, Sally Gardner):

It is clear that evolution in dance thinking can only occur by recognising the heritage of modern dance and the bodies of knowledge it furnishes, including in its rupturing processes. Without these, neither the dancer nor the theoretician breaks with anything, especially not with the said heritage which he or she often reiterates without any knowledge of what has already been given shape and without re-tracing the great disruptive forces which could give real substance to further ruptures (p.7).


Within this overarching theme the authors interrogate a number of issues which are organised into five sub-themes:

  1. Approaches to choreography and performance
  2. Shifting cultural dance identities
  3. Contemporary research perspectives in contexts past and present
  4. Changing dance pedagogies
  5. Site-dance: a dialogue of past and present

Approaches to choreography and performance

These five papers explore links between the past, present and future of choreographic activity, foregrounding shifts in both dance practice and analysis/theory of dance practice. Authors investigate the somatic, experiential and non-linear; employing strategies of disequilibrium, destabilisation, re-integration, and decentring. In addition, interdisciplinarity and cultural perspectives are interrogated in discussing works that go beyond form, structure and experience to matters of science, social justice and audience engagement.

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Romain Bigé, drawing on his personal experience and the texts of Steve Paxton (initiator of contact improvisation in the United States) explores the specificity of this practice, its current state and its evolution. He privileges the haptic and the sensory in a weighted experience of space where constant contact and oscillating imbalance, through mutual falling and support, creates an environment of destabilisation. In marrying Aristotelian philosophy and notions of space with the practitioner’s play of disequilibrium Bigé posits that the nature of contact improvisation and what it can tell us about the falling body is integral to all dance.

In contrast Lucinda Coleman situates dance as a space for social justice and activism in which differing cultural perspectives are privileged. Her approach encourages ‘engagement with social issues along frontlines of the body’. This is exemplified by a case study in which Remnant Dance partnered with a Myanmar charity for orphans to make a film with children from Myanmar in a multi-arts community project set in an abandoned glass factory. In this project young Burmese participants were encouraged to tell their own stories, using movement as a shared language where the transparency of glass was utilised, for example, in writing names on broken glass fragments. Through applying practice-led research methods involving reflective practice, Coleman suggests that this engagement resulted in a form of praxis comprising a dialogic relationship between interdisciplinary art-making and social justice agencies.

Focussing more on the nature of dance itself as a movement practice, Nicole Harbonnier, Geneviève Dussault and Catherine Ferri examine movement analysis processes by skilled, experienced experts through two different approaches: Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) and functional analysis of the body in dance motion (AFCMD). In this comparative investigation the authors hypothesise that creating an interdependent framework of both approaches will enable a more complete articulation of movement analysis and thus contribute to updating Laban’s conceptual configuration in the light of new knowledge. In merging the two systems, the external attributes of form, function and expressivity of LMA are integrated with the more internalised AFCMD approaches, in which ideokinesis, somatics, visualisation and neuroscience’s mapping of the experiential come together.

The papers by Clare Dyson and Anny Mokotow cover differing aspects of performances codes. The former questions the way in which artists might engage audiences through a variety of different models, and directly links dance presentation formats to audience engagement. Dyson maps, along a continuum, five fundamental areas in experiencing contemporary dance from the point of view of process as well as the final production. These five areas are defined as: variations of site, liminal spaces, audience agency, audience-performer proximity, and performer qualities. 

From another perspective, Anny Mokotow suggests that multiple performance approaches, particularly in dance, form part of a contemporary (philosophical, cultural and artistic) outlook in which non-hierarchical and fluid conceptual structures are crucial. Drawing on Derridean and Deluzian notions of ever shifting and multiple centres, as a dance-maker and performer, she argues for a non-linear dramaturgy through the lens of decentring (with the body as its defining agent), proposing an ‘alternative linearity’ that encompasses the physical, spatial, temporal, interdisciplinary and intermediated aspects of dance practice today.

Shifting cultural dance identities

Cultural identity in our globalised and often displaced world—both literally and metaphorically—continues to be a key preoccupation for dance. Community dance practice, empowering individuals and groups, reconsideration of definitions of tradition, intercultural dance in diasporic communities, maintenance of dance’s religious and sacred functions, and the de- and re-contextualised cultural dance in a social setting, are the concerns of these eight papers, all of which assert the ongoing significance of place and culture in a hybridised dance landscape.

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In examining diasporic identity, ‘Chineseness’ and ideas of re-orientalisation, Ting-Ting Chang focuses on the differing contexts and resulting choreographic aesthetics of two versions of the Rite of Spring by Chinese choreographers Zhang Xiaoxiong and Shen Wei. She uses both works to discuss how choreographers negotiate tradition and innovation through their particular creative processes and aesthetic visions in producing subtle hybridisations of western contemporary dance and Chinese cultural influences.

Unlike the previous paper on ‘Chineseness’, based on recent case studies of choreographic work, Zhu Min posits that (re)invention of tradition within mainland China arises from a modernisation of tradition in an evolutionary process, with a conscious formalisation of ‘tradition’ in dance through the institutionalisation of ‘classical’ Chinese dance drawn from opera, martial arts and ballet. Occurring from the early 1950s, this process was driven by a political and ideological agenda in a nationalist environment. Unlike ruptures with tradition, which tend to characterise the western process of modernisation, Chinese dance practitioners embrace national characteristics as a deliberate principle of dynamic cultural continuity, rooted in a training system in which ‘the philosophical premise of a tradition [is] a constant state of invention and reinvention’. Zhu argues that the resulting deconstruction and reconstruction in form and style leads to variation in Chinese dance vocabulary and the hybridisation of contemporary Chinese classical dance works.

In a fundamentally different environment Shanny Rann’s contribution demonstrates that in spite of spatio-temporal displacement, the essential elements of traditions can be brought back to life. Diaspora takes on a potent meaning when speaking of Tibetan spiritual leaders in exile. Looking at dance as a sacred cultural practice in preserving not only tradition but a complete spiritual belief system outside the country of origin, Rann’s research focuses on the cham performance of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, a highly revered reincarnated lama who currently resides in India. This is dance with the introspective gaze of deep spiritual experience, unlike those created with an external focus, to communicate directly with an audience. Rann’s personal account of an audience with this spiritual leader is a powerful example of a living tradition, never more salient than in troubled times where the preservation of Tibetan culture is crucial as a continuing dynamic presence. Especially in exile, Tibetans are reinstating the ancient practice of cham with an unyielding drive for survival against the erosion of time and space.

Bethany Whiteside, in contrast, examines cultural transposition of a dance style as practised in a setting and country radically different from its country of origin. Her ethnographic study interrogates patterns of social interaction through the micro realities in behaviour at a salsa club in Glasgow, Scotland, and demonstrates how those community norms can override the nature, function and content of the original dance. Through observation and interviews she maps how a distinct salsa sense of ‘identity’ has emerged out of Glasgow; one containing inherent tensions between the staged promotion of authenticity and the ‘exotica and glamour intrinsic to the global salsa experience outside its sites of origin’.

The theme of identity, but within one’s own country, is continued by Emma Meehan through an account of the early development of contemporary dance in Ireland and the history of its first professional company, Dublin Contemporary Dance Theatre. The latter was founded in the early 80s when Irish artists were increasingly making contacts with companies in Europe and America and bringing back new working methods. At that time, changes in social and political conditions in Ireland opened the way for cross-fertilisation of ideas. In addition, the gradual lessening control of Catholic morality and censorship over Irish culture allowed a more nuanced and complex sensibility of what ‘Irishness’ might encompass. Importantly, Meehan points to the necessity for documenting dance histories as a marker of where we have been, and how dance charts and even precipitates cultural and social change through a reappraisal of shifting values and styles in performance and their ‘embodied histories’ .

The final three articles in this section are dedicated to ‘shifting dance identities’, and demonstrate the power of community dance and the positive role it can play in situations of social conflict. Through the ‘Meeting the Rivers’ intergenerational community arts project, Ralph Buck maps small but profound and affirming changes in the violent, distrustful, marginalised and poverty-stricken Cabelo Seco, situated on the edge of the City of Marabà in Brazil. Affecting pedagogies of practice are outlined by Buck who draws on key arts education theorists to propose practical strategies in shaping the development and implementation of this initiative which assisted in rebuilding the community of Cabelo Seco. His educational focus and practice is centred upon valuing dance in a way that enables community transformation; in a classroom, a street, a hospital, a refugee camp; and attests to the ability of community dance to make a difference in people’s daily lives.

Focusing on another case study, in Mindanao, the Philippines, Erica Rose Jeffrey explores how embodiment and the collaborative relational aspects of dance can assist as a peacebuilding strategy in an environment of violence and suspicion: helping to shift cultural prejudices, and minimise potential and actual conflict by building trust and cooperation as well as positive concepts of identity. Dance activities (such as ‘mirroring’ tasks), designed to build confidence in personal movement identity and empathy between participants, can create ‘safe conceptual meeting places’ and the possibilities for social bonding. However, as Jeffrey warns, these strategies also carry risks due to the nuanced complexity of culturally specific gestures and potential misunderstandings that might occur in particular situations. 

Suzan Moss also investigates dance from a politico/social perspective, through an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach to Afro-Caribbean Dance at Bronx Community College, where the class combines studio practice and creative writing. Bringing together movement experiences, class discussions, and written assignments helps to create a powerful platform for teaching critical thinking and global activism for students predominantly from Afro-American backgrounds. This innovative learning program specifically examines the role of dance during the slave trade and its adaptation over time, as a basis for understanding African culture. In parallel with this historical perspective, exposure to information on the widespread prevalence of modern slavery is used to introduce awareness-raising activist tools.

Contemporary research perspectives in contexts past and present

This section tackles the issue of dance research and its evolution through various levels of reflection: the specificity of the choreographic field linked to the ephemeral character of dance, the complex relationships experienced with other written or visual language forms and the possible means of conserving its memory.

Moving from the recent history and debates around practice as research to a more historical view of artists across the centuries positing arts practice as a significant form of knowledge creation and interpretation, this section also embraces artists’ practices and how they represent their work, and multiple ways to consider the dancing/writing inter-relationship. It looks both back and forward to dance developments in policy as well as new immersive technologies, with an interdisciplinary focus encompassing management, disability, science, and pedagogy.

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Several papers emphasise recording limitations and the documentation gaps this may entail. Renate Bräuninger revisits questions of performance documentation and, in particular, the problematics behind documenting live dance through the notion of scoring. Using de Keersmaeker’s A Choreographer’s Score, Brauninger discusses the format and content of this ‘score’ which is in both printed and digital form. She notes that although it contains much of the choreographer’s writing, the work is documented after the event rather than including notation before or during the making process. She also discusses how the various documentation formats are a testament to the ongoing search for ways to effectively capture dance, embracing the complexity of the components, including form, purpose and authorship, in an attempt to preserve practice, and to enable the restaging of a dance work. 

Christopher Dolder’s article also explores dance documentation, beginning with an account of the history of dance notation from the 15th century to the latest advances in technology, setting the scene for a more sophisticated and holistic approach. Dolder has been developing and testing the capability of a new tool—Physical Data Capture Lab—which will potentially provide the physical data necessary for the creation of a personalised avatar in virtual space. In combining motion capture, sensing and other 3-D software, his aim is to bring together the ‘internal’ aspects of dance with the ‘external’ aspects developed by other forms of notation. The ultimate goal is to create ‘a visually descriptive dance meta-language that integrates movement, art, anatomy and biomechanics into an inviting and user-friendly human-computer interface’ to enable a student or dancer to process both kinesiological and aesthetic information. Still in its infancy, this research is an ambitious experiment of combining science and art through emergent technologies.

A different interdisciplinary coming together occurs between dance, disability and law in a unique research project by Sarah Whatley, Shawn Harmon and Charlotte Waelde, who examine the experience of differently-abled dance practitioners and challenge existing norms and the dominant aesthetic frameworks by which we engage with this growing sector. The authors argue that disability dance forms part of the cultural heritage of dance, especially in relation to identity. Interviews with disabled professional dancers reveal a strong performance practice countered by frustration at the lack of audience literacy in the reception of their work. Together, dance and law experts investigate strategies to empower dancers with disabilities, in recognition of the fact that these performers are currently almost entirely absent from the cultural heritage of dance. They further argue for the necessity to develop a critical literacy that will provide a space for disability dance to be an integrated part of the arts environment and thus engender more informed understandings and debates.

In terms of current cultural dance heritage in France, Michel Briand takes up the very notion of ‘contemporary’ and its elusive definition. He juxtaposes several coexisting temporalities in both performance and its reception: time measured and its duration, the instant, eternal flux, and, more broadly speaking, the past-present-future trinity. In illustrating this argument, Briand takes four French contemporary choreographers to examine what he refers to as the dialectical tension of the contemporary in dance; specifically in terms of binaries including those around temporality, presence, reflexivity and performativity. In his four choreographic examples, Briand foregrounds the nature of co-presence in dance and text in performance, and suggests that the notion of time in defining the ‘contemporary’ in dance, privileges its ‘spirality’. The four works examined all draw on archaic, ancient and/or mythic themes and text in their creation of this time trinity. Briand also proposes that the contemporary embraces the trans-cultural and the trans-historical in an evolution of art and aesthetics.

In contrast, Patrick Germain-Thomas examines the dramatic policy shifts in contemporary dance in France since 1975, with cultural initiatives by the French government resulting in major changes to government funding for the sector. Well subsidised regionalised choreographic centres, together with project-based funding for independent contemporary choreographers and dancers, however, have led to an imbalance between the amount of work produced and audience demand, resulting in the need for a second tier of funding by venues and other distribution outlets. The drive for innovation in contemporary dance, with its focus on open-ended processes, continues to be supported but is at odds with the ongoing dilemma of accessibility in attracting, keeping and growing audiences. Significantly for the art form, the strong social anchoring of contemporary dance, despite this public support, is now constrained by a lack of theoretical resources in French—in the field of dance history and aesthetics—hindering the possibilities of informed debates and thus the democratisation process.

This section also focuses on the artist/researcher through debates around praxis, with its variant views around the articulation of the nexus of theory and creative practice. Fiona Bannon presents a provocative and thoughtful discussion on the dangers of codifying practice-as, practice-based, and practice-led research into a set of methodologies that can become formulaic and work against the open-ended emergence and transformational aspirations that originally inspired the development of artistic practice in research settings. Bannon proposes the concept of ‘mindful motion’ which focuses on the generation and revelation of ideas. Through a journey of not knowing, practitioner researchers can more effectively engage with the potential for knowledge which emerges, and in so doing create their own frameworks through which to view experience and comprehend ambiguity, leading to insightful discoveries for themselves and, more broadly, in the field of creative practice research.

In order to progress the current debates around this form of research as a field of emergent knowledge, Maggi Phillips turns to the past and visual arts. Taking the Velazquez painting of Las Meninas, she juxtaposes Michel Foucault’s scholarly gaze and interpretation with Pablo Picasso’s visual interpretation and ruminations of the same work, exhibited in the Barcelona Museum. This juxtaposition across time becomes a springboard for a philosophical discussion on how past and present play into the future, adding a sense of lineage to the more recent arguments of what constitutes art as research, and reflections on art as ‘thinking-in-practice’, in order to produce viable research knowledge.

Also drawing on the past, Rachel Sweeney explores writing dance historically from Noverre to Foster to Lepecki, and examines, in the current context, the relationship between words, images, languages and movement. She proposes that the ephemerality of dance is captured in memory, text and bodily inscription and that phenomenological responses to dance may reveal, in the writing, hidden creative processes, through ‘affective engagement’ of dancer, viewer, writer. Her paper discusses how this relationship between writing and dancing can vary from mutual or independent to symbiotic, arguing that the dancing body is not passive matter waiting to be shaped by logos. Rather, it is invested with physical thoughts of its own making, transpiring towards meaning-production in those slippages that appear between flesh and paper.

Changing dance pedagogies

This series of papers concerns various aspects of pedagogical reflection: the educational value of dance, new teaching approaches and intersections of innovation and tradition. The importance of somatics, including body/mind integration, embodied awareness and functionality of movement, is the focus of several papers in relation to the development of sustainable and renewed pedagogical approaches to training dance artists, teachers and scholars. The transferability of this internalised embodied learning approach is applied to teaching and learning traditional cultural dance as well as community and professional concert dance.

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Ann Kipling Brown, Susan R. Koff, Jeff Meiners and Charlotte Svendler Nielsen set up an international study to map perspectives on the value and frequency of dance experiences in diverse settings, through questionnaires targeting dance educators and students in different countries in Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Asia Pacific region. Preliminary results foreground the importance of embodiment in terms of participants feeling an interconnection between their mind and body, as well as reporting holistic development in terms of creativity, self-expression, broadened forms of communication and confidence building. Also highlighted are the social, cultural and community benefits of dancing, whether within one’s own family and friends or as a more structured activity. Finally, the study reveals an overwhelmingly positive response as to the value of dance education in the curriculum.

Mapping a different educational terrain, Duncan Holt, Angela Pickart, Kelly Preece, Sara Reed and Cathy Childs present a study of dance in higher education in the United Kingdom, examining the UK education system, the origin of undergraduate dance programs and the now perpetually developing curricula, along with the future prospects of UK dance students. The authors argue that innovations and shifts in performing and choreographic practice have had a significant impact on pedagogical approaches in UK universities, with a current emphasis on somatics as a training basis and a ‘focus upon increased sensory awareness, body/mind integration and efficiency of movement’. This approach is posited to be of more relevance to 21st century thought and practice than conventional dance training based in modern or postmodern techniques. Student expectations, modes of assessment and philosophies underpinning the different types of institutions are also discussed, as are precarious career outcomes, in contrast to the rise in dance-based research and publications. 

In the field of pedagogical innovation, Csaba Buday and Evan Jones document a study of the use of smartphones to record and play back movement sequences in both ballet and contemporary technique classes. In pairs, peers took turns in filming each other and then analysing the playback within a studio setting. This immediacy facilitated the dancers’ capacity to associate what they felt as they were dancing, with how they appeared. The often-dissonant realities of self-perception and perception by others were seen to generate improved performance and a higher level of knowledge related to dance technique. This approach also led to a more realistic self-assessment for learning outcomes and importantly to greater ownership by students of their learning process. This case study demonstrated a marked and rapid improvement in the accuracy, dynamic and increased movement range of the students’ technique in addition to a greater level of reflexivity and critical analysis by the students about their own progress.

In the contrasting setting of an annual mentoring residency for professional dancers, Aastha Gandhi outlines the program of Gati Dance Forum, founded in 2007 in New Delhi. Introducing emerging pedagogies in the Indian context of contemporary dance (predominantly based on classical Indian forms), she describes choreographic approaches which move away from traditional norms through investigation of exploratory processes that contemporise ancient dance forms in the making and dissemination of new work: physically, methodologically and performatively. The main focus for choreographic creation is body centred rather than starting from external ideas or narrative content. Working in sub-units of movement explored through the body, this process later integrates those units into a choreographic whole incorporating mythologies or contemporary concepts, and thus provides a ‘structural continuity of narrative’.

Yoga, also a body-centred practice, is the pedagogical focus of Karen Barbour’s paper. She undertook a study in New Zealand of yoga teachers who work in a recreational or health environment, outside a professional or tertiary dance setting, but where some of the participants had dance training backgrounds. Her research revealed that the latter, unsurprisingly, demonstrated a higher level of concentration, body awareness and movement skills than others in the class. Despite, or perhaps because of, this high level of training, the most significant benefit to those students in the yoga class was to ‘unlearn’ their performative expectations and behaviours and work more internally. A mutually fruitful exchange occurred from this experience with dancers bringing their fine-tuned knowledge of corporeal movements to the yoga class, whilst the yoga teachers were able to free the dancers of the needless constraints of working extrinsically.

Aadya Kaktika investigates essential elements of traditional training in Indian classical dance, to counteract the assumption that a repetitive learning regime leads to fixed and immutable forms of learning and practice. Kaktikar argues that traditional Indian dance pedagogies provide access to the ‘kinetic sensorium’ which foregrounds bodily experience as a central element in teaching Indian classical dance. Importantly she suggests that this type of ‘guru’ learning underpins a creativity in its very discipline, and that far from mindless repetition, this type of learning inculcates mindful, holistic performances where nuances of difference and individuality provide agency to the performer in tangible and powerful ways.

Site-dance: a dialogue of past and present

This final but smaller section is included as a separate theme in view of the rapid growth in practices and scholarship surrounding the investigation of site and the environment, across both professional and community engagement sectors, with increasing inclusion in dance education and training. Terms such as site-specific, site-based, performance installation or ‘performing’ site cover a broad range of approaches in dance, though most espouse or adapt the open exploratory processes of much contemporary dance. The common elements of these diverse practices is placing site or environment at the centre of the work(s)’s spatial and temporal exploration, forging an interdependent relationship between site and spectator/ performer.

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As an experienced practitioner, Benedict Anderson draws on his own work in three different environments to investigate not only intersections of body and site, but the indeterminacies of site/boundary and performance/spectator, which encompass both disruption and permeability. He firstly investigates how indeterminacy is played out in relation to spectators in a single site, and proposes in the second study, of mutable territories of multiple sites, that the audience journey between the sites is determined by the very indeterminacy of those sites. In this scenario Anderson reveals how indeterminacy can be understood as a ‘convergence of site, place, history, language and performance to create a coherent theme’ across all sites. In the final case study he focuses on the ‘material qualities of each environment’. Through the processes engendered by the three exemplars, Anderson proposes a ‘spatial dramaturgy’ which creates ‘a framework of unframed spectatorship’ where indeterminacy in relation to site is ‘the unconscious apprehension of space’, exploring site ‘through temporal modes of occupation, performance and spectatorship’.

A multi-site project is also the focus of Cheryl Stock’s paper which evokes a Malaysian-Australian collaboration Naik Naik, in the world heritage setting of Melaka. For both Anderson and Stock the sites themselves foretell the performance journey that will unfold, despite specific interventions in the site and often spectator choice of pathways. However, Anderson focuses on the sites as ‘relational territories’, often between the performance and the audience, whereas Stock focuses on the performer experience in relation to site and memory. Naik Naik is partially recaptured through the presence and voices of its collaborating artists; and from moments recalled, the research seeks to uncover a poetics of memory, through metaphor rather than narrative. It explores complex and interdependent layers of experience revealed by the artists’ cultural, ancestral, historical, personal, instinctual and embodied memories connected to sound, smell, touch, sensation and light, in a spatiotemporal context for which site is the catalyst and where artists and the sites themselves become both memory-gatherers and memory-keepers.

Whilst Stock insists on the specificity of site in her multi-site work, Sue Cheesman interrogates a process of transference of previous work from several sites (between 2009–2012) and the re-visioning and re-shaping that necessarily takes place in that process to make a new site-specific work. Interject (2013), performed on a ledge inside the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, incorporates ideas, movements, digital records and concepts from the previous sites together with interactions of herself and her dancers with the everyday use of the site and the renegotiation of previous dance content. The re-visited site results in a virtually new work, but one that retains traces of those that came before. Largely spatially driven, particularly in terms of the formal architectural setting, it also highlights the audience / performer relationship in a shared public space. 

In a radical provocation to the performer-centred and indeed human-centred dance practice of most site-dance as she sees it, Joanna Stone introduces the notion of environmental dance, based on ethics that support a ‘non-anthropocentric value theory that recognises the intrinsic value of all species to the function of an ecosystem’. In pursuing an environmental dance practice that de-centres human experience from the environment, Stone examines the concept of ‘ecocentrism’, based predominantly in somatic practices, to pursue a new ideology in environmental ethics through ‘an artistic experience in nature’; one which she and fellow practitioners define as being ‘rooted in the act of “listening”’.


In summary, these 31 papers traverse a wide range of conceptual underpinnings, processes, methodologies, pedagogies, cultural embeddedness and varying practices, to reveal a rich and diverse dance ecology. It would be naïve to believe that this ecology is particularly robust, but its very diversity and continual adaptation are surely signs of continued survival. Acknowledging the strong roots of our dancing past, even as we rub up against it to make room for the new, assures our journey into the future.


Haptics and the fall: spaces of contact improvisation

In this paper, Romain Bigé examines the way contact improvisation implies a redefinition of dancers’ subjective spatiality when they enter in contact. Bigé draws on his personal experience as a contact improviser, but also on the writings of Steve Paxton, who initiated the form in 1972, and on philosophical writings, notably phenomenology. He argues that contact improvisation is characterized by a specific sensory cartography, based on the haptical sense. This postural investment in touch produces an overlapping of the dancers’ kinetic spheres, whereby the possibilities of action become co-defined, in particular in the movements of falling and micro-falls that they share. The relationship to the surroundings is thus constructed through this commonality, making space an invitation for falling.

Conversations on the frontlines of the body

The Australian performing arts collective Remnant Dance has a partnership with a charity organisation that supports an orphaned community in Myanmar (Burma). The creation of a contemporary dance film with this community generated a performance in which young Burmese participants were encouraged to tell their own stories. The film was set in an abandoned glass factory in Myanmar, using glass as a metaphor for a surface that invites reflection as well as open transparency with the young people from the children’s centre. The story of making the dance film Meeting Places offers a case study for reflection on ideas of interconnection through dance making; and a site for engagement with social justice concerns within diverse communities. The creation of new dance through cross-cultural, multi-arts forms and inter-disciplinary contexts enables narratives to emerge through the frontline of dance’s unique communication.

Towards contemporising qualitative movement analysis

Nicole Harbonnier, Geneviève Dussault and Catherine Ferri's research aims to better identify the processes involved in movement observation-analysis. The participants in the field study are recognized experts highly trained in one of two (or both of these) approaches to movement observation: either in Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) or in Functional Analysis of the Dancing Body (AFCMD). The authors highlight the elements of convergence and divergence which characterize these two perspectives by drawing on Activity Analysis epistemology. Activity Analysis is also seen to facilitate the transition from a professionally circumscribed lexicon to semantics of shared intelligibility. Explicitation interview methodology, a psycho-phenomenological approach, is used in order to give non-directive support to the experts in their introspective study of the process of observation and analysis. We put forward the hypothesis that the encounter between these two approaches can lead, over time, to a greater articulation between expressive and functional components of movement analysis and, by bringing to bear the results of recent studies in human movement, will contribute to bringing the Laban-based conceptual framework into the twenty-first century.

Mapping the experiential in contemporary dance

This research questions how a ‘lived experience’ of contemporary dance could be deepened for the audience. It presents a series of choreographic ‘tools’ to create alternative frameworks for presentation that challenge the dominant modes of creation, presentation and meaning making in contemporary dance. The five tools established and applied in this research are: variations of site, liminality, audience agency, audience-performer proximity and performer qualities. These tools are framed as a series of calibrated scales that allow choreographers to map decisions made in the studio in relation to potential audience engagement. The research houses multiple presentation formats from the traditional to the avant-garde and opens up possibilities for analysis of a wide range of artistic dance works. This research presents options for choreographers to map how audiences experience their work and offers opportunities to engage audiences in new and exciting ways.

Decentring dance dramaturgy—a proposition for multiplicity in dance

The last decades have revealed how dance artists can recast the body in dance through multiple points of view, genres and styles. The outcomes offer a challenge to the means of engagement with performances that mine from multiple sources and inspirations. This paper proposes that the means by which to engage with and understand the dramaturgical reasoning in these contemporary works is through a decentred perspective. In considering the contemporaneity (Agamben, 2007) of current dance practice, together with cultural, scientific and philosophical inquiries into order from chaos or complexity theory, the paper invokes Derrida’s use of the term decentred—used to reposition the dynamic aspects of cultural structures, with Deleuze’s suggestion of rhizomatic thinking—which goes even further in delineating structure—to describe a somewhat idealistic proposition that may enable contradictory practices within dance to inhabit the same philosophical space.

Linking the tradition to modernity

Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring has inspired a plethora of artists in its hundred years of history. As it transcends geographic barriers, it has also been choreographed by many great dance masters such as Maurice Béjart and Pina Bausch from the West, and Hwai-Min Lin and Helen Lai from the East. In this paper, Ting-Ting Chang focuses on the choreographic aesthetics of versions of The Rite of Spring by choreographers Zhang Xiaoxiong and Shen Wei. Zhang’s version depicts images with references both to the original work of Vaslav Nijinsky, and to aspects of Asian culture in a way that is sensitive to the original music and to his memories as a child living in Cambodia. Shen has been known for his organic movement vocabulary and unique way of using Chinese cultural elements. By tracing their separate creative processes, she discuss how choreographers negotiate tradition and innovation through their different choreographic methods and aesthetic visions through contemporary dance.

The reinvention of tradition—in contemporary Chinese classical dance creations (1980–2010)

Over the past thirty years, Chinese classical dance has developed in parallel with the explicit social process of the search for and the construction of Chinese modernity. Unlike the dismissal of tradition which tended to characterize the western process of modernization, Chinese dance practitioners embrace Chinese national and cultural characteristics for the purpose of cultural continuity as a matter of principle, subscribing to the political slogan ‘inheritance and development.’ This logic of constant change in the nature of Chinese cultural traditions leads to variation in Chinese dance vocabulary and the hybridisation of different dance styles in contemporary Chinese classical dance works. Therefore, this paper proposes that the idea of a reinvention of tradition, based on the premise of the academic establishment of Chinese classical dance as the ‘invention of tradition’, may produce new understandings about the phenomena of variation and inherent contradiction within contemporary Chinese dance creations.

Dance of a Tibetan lama in exile

It is not very often that monks are spotted dancing in costumes. This paper is as much about the rarity of such a performance as it is the sanctity of ’cham (also referred to as Tibetan Sacred Dance) that has been in existence for over a thousand years. Too little is known about the origin of the dances, the meaning and significance of them, not to mention how they have come to survive over the centuries and their evolution as a form of ritual. My research project focuses on the ’cham performance of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, a highly revered reincarnate lama of seventeen times, who currently resides in India as a refugee. Through fieldwork observations and interviews, I hope to provide a rare insight into the ancient all-male ritual that has withstood the erosion of time and space.

Salsa and the city: a case study on a Glaswegian ‘community’

‘Globalisation has led to the global export of salsa as a leisure pursuit’ (Skinner, 2007, p. 495), with salsa classes, clubs and congresses taking place ‘from Gothenberg (Sweden) to Sacramento’ (Skinner, 2007, p. 486). However, as Hannerz (1996) argues, cultural life continues to be heterogeneous despite the impact of globalisation, and with particular reference to social salsa dancing, ‘local particularities and individual reactions’ (Skinner, 2007, p. 485) give particular distinctions to ‘salsa communities’. Recent ethnographic case studies have interrogated the salsa scenes in London (Urquía, 2005), Los Angeles (García, 2013) and Belfast (Skinner, 2008). This paper interrogates the distinct nature of the ‘salsa community’ in the heart of the city of Glasgow, Scotland. Erving Goffman’s (1959/1990) model of dramaturgy is utilised to frame qualitative data gathered through observations and interviews, to ask: How may this ‘salsa community’, a product of globalisation, be considered as having a distinct identity?

Dublin Contemporary Dance Theatre: body, language and fleshing out Irish cultural heritage

Dublin Contemporary Dance Theatre (1979–1989) was a significant company in the development of dance in Ireland, and the first state funded contemporary dance group. For a period, the company were leading innovators in the country in contemporary dance and explored the boundaries of what constituted the dance form, leaving a lasting impact on Irish dance heritage, although relatively little has been written about their work to date. This paper explores the context for the company’s work, discussing the relationship between the body and language in Irish social, political and cultural history. Specifically, I focus on their production Bloomsday based on James Joyce’s Ulysses, which reveals key issues about the relationship between body and language in the company’s work.

Reclaiming the community of Cabelo Seco through dance

Paulo Freire and John Dewey are helping the youth of Cabelo Seco in the southern reaches of the Amazon to reclaim their violated community. Freire (1921–1997) and Dewey (1859–1952) remain alive in Cabelo Seco, identified as one of Brazil’s most dangerous communities. After describing the context of Cabelo Seco, the local community arts projects and the philosophies driving this work, I examine meanings of community dance in Cabelo Seco. Utilising a constructivist methodology that values dialogic interaction to build shared understandings, interviews and observations provide insights into diverse ways that people experience, value and make meaning from dance in community contexts. Dewey, Freire, Eisner, Boal, Zequinha and other arts educators are ever present in Cabelo Seco; understanding a lineage of influence helps to examine current practices and envision future projects. This paper explores the shifting and emerging role of dance in this community, focusing on how dance is helping to reclaim it.

Peace moves: dance, identity and peacebuilding

Dance is a potential asset for peacebuilding, creating opportunities for nonverbal, embodied learning, exploring identity, and relationships. Peace scholars consider identity and relationships to the ‘other’ as key components in transforming conflict. Focusing on a case study in Mindanao, the Philippines, this paper explores the potential of dance in a peacebuilding context through embodied identity and relationships. In Mindanao, deep-seated cultural prejudices contribute to ongoing conflict entwined with identity. The permeable membrane (Cohen, Gutiérrez & Walker, 2011) is the organising framework describing the constant interaction between artists, facilitators, participants, and communities. It expands peace scholar John Paul Lederach’s concept of the moral imagination, requiring the capacity to envisage one’s self within a web of relationships. In this paper multiple methods of qualitative research including personal interviews are used to further the discussion regarding dance’s potential to diversify the nonverbal tools available for peacebuilding.

Afro-Caribbean dance, critical thinking, and global activism

Dance educators at every level are aligning their teaching with wider educational goals. The general education movement in higher education, as well as the standards movement in the public schools, ask us to focus on student learning objectives that require analysis, critical thinking, multi-cultural awareness, and student engagement with social problems. This paper describes the pedagogical approach to Afro-Caribbean Dance at Bronx Community College, where the class combines a studio and lecture component. The integration of movement lessons, lectures, and writing assignments is discussed, focusing on addressing these broader educational concerns and motivating student activism.

The documentation of Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker’s choreography in A Choreographer’s Score

Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker has published three different volumes of A Choreographer’s Score in which she explains her choreographic processes. Each of the volumes contains interviews and parts of the choreography which are recorded on DVDs and published in writing together with the scores. The need for those publications might have been triggered by Beyonce’s use of de Keersmaeker’s choreography in her video Countdown and by a general need to create a legacy for her work. The question that such a publication poses is: what is documented here? Is it based on an idea of the work or a choreographic process or is it an instruction manual for performance? How does de Keersmaeker’s attempt relate to the archive as a place of reinforcing patriarchal law as stated by Jacques Derrida or is it rather an open approach to dance and performance as an art form, able to escape that law as Rebecca Schneider has discussed?

The science of art: kinesiology, computation, and Kinect

The evolution of dance education over the last 100 years can be clearly contextualised by examining the developing technological lineage from Gray’s Anatomy to Dance Forms 2.0, highlighting the transformation of how we record and represent the human body and the physical act of dance. Column symbols and two-dimensional line drawings have metamorphosed into interactive anatomy software, and tele-immersion has created an entirely new way of being ‘present’. This paper summarises the capability and subsequent benefits of a new tool for recording human movement, the Physical Data Capture Lab. Movement is captured via infra-red depth mapping and gravitational pressure sensing, providing the physical data necessary for the creation of a personalised musculo-skeletal avatar. This personalisation is accomplished by digitally embedding the avatar with the measured physical properties of the subject dancer. Movement recorded in this manner may then be studied in detail, allowing for a more comprehensive examination of the internal geometry, architecture and physics that coalesce to become the external art of dance.

Being visible: dance, disability and difference

Several UK dancers with physical impairments have been developing careers as dance makers, leaders and performers but there remain many barriers for dancers with disabilities to enter training and then the dance profession. Each has a story about the experience of being accepted, or not, within the ‘mainstream’ contemporary dance environment. This paper examines the experience of artists who are contributing to a research project that brings together experts in dance and law to discover more about what would better enable dancers with disabilities to play a full role within the cultural landscape. Observations based on witnessing rehearsals together with analysing the discourse that emerges from the artists’ work shows the potential impact of this work on legal frameworks and the dominant aesthetic frameworks that take root in professional dance practice. The paper brings fresh insights to questions about how we critically engage with and value disabled dance.

Interrogating the contemporary in contemporary dance: presence, performativity, actuality

The notion of “contemporary” is based on dialectical tensions between: actuality/ virtuality, presence/representation, narrativity/performativity, action/reflexivity, or even vocalised text/performed gesture. A “contemporary” choreographic work, where syn-chrony and ana-chrony intensely interplay, may be defined as a process of temporal (de)sedimentation, which consciously associates several co-present temporalities: measured time and felt duration, eternal flow and occasional moment, and more traditionally the essential and triadic tension of past—present—future. Thus danced contemporary time may be figured as a spiral; intrinsically multi-versal (and not uni-versal), based on a cyclic repetition, but swerving in a layered linear progression. This perspective of “contemporary” is explored here through specific effects of presence, actuality, performativity, and reflexivity, in four works: Maguy Marin’s Description d’un combat (2009), François Chaignaud and Marie-Caroline Hominal ‘s Duchesses (2009), Carlotta Ikeda et Pascal Quignard’s Medea (2012), and Olivier Dubois’ Tragédie (2013).

The establishment of a policy for contemporary dance in France (1975–2010)

Right up until the 1960s, classical dance occupied a monopolistic position in France. In the mid-1970s, we could observe a repositioning of dance policy through the recognition of contemporary dance as an area of specific public intervention. This policy, pivoting on professional arts subsidy, also included measures in relation to distribution and teaching. It led to the establishment of an artistic world distinct from classical dance, and the existence of rich and diverse performance choices. In the 1980s and 1990s, scheduling and the contemporary dance public expanded significantly, as did companies’ offerings, which increased in equivalent proportions. This paper therefore meets two main objectives: an analysis on the means deployed to develop contemporary dance audience statistics, and presentation of a report on these actions; demonstrating both their tangible results and the stumbling blocks encountered.

Mindful motion: engagement with the messy vitality of research

The arguments presented in this paper, offer a reminder of ways we might practice research as a mindful endeavor and in the process, seek new comprehension of our world. Sparked by my annual reconsideration of what is important to share as a teacher, I visit ideas that we might underpin nimble thinking and so hone significant change. In this way, the paper offers, a gentle disturbance to the streamlining and consolidation of practice-as-research in the academy. The discussion champions practice that reveals ideas, without rushing to answers. To recognise the opportunities afforded by this place of not knowing, there is need to recognise that our search is to provisionally affirm, rather than finally confirm, order. In grappling with ways to guide researchers, I argue that understanding the consequences of ‘how’ you engage with the potential of knowledge is the significant aspect of practice-as-research that we must protect.

Playing past and future: knowledge as revealed by artist and scholar

History is not often regarded as a location to search for practice-based artistic researchers, since its relatively recent academic acceptance designates this activity as ‘new’ or of a pioneering nature leaping forward from the confines of history. However, the space devoted to Picasso’s 1957 ruminations upon or fierce dialogues with Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas (1656) at the Museu Picasso, Barcelona, presented evidence of an artist probing into thinking-in-practice. These paintings demonstrate how an artist pursues knowledge about representation that immediately interconnected with memories of Foucault’s (1970) play, in the introduction to Les mots et des choses, of the very same Velasquez art work. In using a classical art work as the touchstone for investigation, both researchers trusted in painterly vision as a viable mode of knowledge. This interrelationship between excavating what came before (Foucault) with what the future may hold (Picasso) is reflected in dance scholarship and its processes and choreographies.

Staging the logocentric body: transcribing dance as utterance

This paper proposes a challenge to the status of dance in writing practices, where historical definitions of dance writing found within modern western dance traditions of the early twentieth century might question dance’s dependency on writing as that which serves to ensure its permanence through inscription. Significantly, John Martin’s proposition of metakinesis will establish the grounds for an interpretative approach to viewing dance performance that offers a physiological rather than a verbal/written descriptive response. Drawing from debates surrounding ephemera and inscription put forward by Andre Lepecki (2006) and Susan Foster (1996), as also the author’s own phenomenological approach to writing dance practices, the writing will consider how dance writing practices have evolved over the past three decades to embrace the often hidden processes found within their own production methods.

Dance learning in motion: global dance education

Reports indicate that dance-learning experiences provided for young people in and outside schools impact positively upon young people’s learning in schools, as well as in pre-service and professional development programs for those who teach dance in various settings. Support of major dance organizations as well as the goals of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) affirm the importance of dance education and encourage the research and practice to provide lifelong and intergenerational learning in, about and through dance education. This paper describes the results of a survey questionnaire, which captures the narratives and contexts from lived experiences of university students and graduates in formal, informal and non-formal settings and how those are experienced. This initial study confirmed the power of dance and the significance of dance in peoples’ lives as well as deficiencies in the provision of dance for many.

Dance in higher education in the UK

Universities are not individually unique. They stand next to each other in the various hierarchies of excellence that are underpinned by commonalities of the various statures that they accrue in learning, teaching, research and a host of cultural and social impacts as are measured regionally, nationally and internationally. It is as we move toward closer international ties with our World Dance Alliance colleagues in higher education who work in dance that we look to our own ways and means with a view to revealing what we, in the UK, do in our delivery of dance to higher education students, and some of the constraints within which we work. With this in hand as a reference, we might then seek to discuss with our colleagues in other countries the many ways and means in which the similarities and differences have emerged from our various contexts as we all work towards inspiring the next generation of dancing graduates.

Self and peer review in dance classes using personal video feedback

Many forms of formative feedback are used in dance training to refine the dancer’s spatial and kinaesthetic awareness in order that the dancer’s sensorimotor intentions and observable danced outcomes might converge. This paper documents the use of smartphones to record and playback movement sequences in ballet and contemporary technique classes. Peers in pairs took turns filming one another and then analysing the playback. This provided immediate visual feedback of the movement sequence as performed by each dancer. This immediacy facilitated the dancer’s capacity to associate what they felt as they were dancing with what they looked like during the dance. The often-dissonant realities of self-perception and perception by others were thus guided towards harmony, generating improved performance and knowledge relating to dance technique. An approach is offered for potential development of peer review activities to support summative progressive assessment in dance technique training.

Emerging choreographies: developing new pedagogies in dance

New dance forums in India have evolved recently, allowing performers to identify conflict areas in performative practice. This development has arisen as a consequence of questioning techniques as exercised in classical dance pedagogy. Aastha Gandhi's research looks into different tools of performance provided by Gati Dance Forum in New Delhi to engage with these techniques through different pedagogical approaches. The learning and unlearning of performance skills constantly challenges the dancer’s perception of audience-performer, body-dance and dance-space relations, vis-à-vis the individual choreography-creating process. The need to challenge the body to go beyond the taught and practised language has consequently developed a distinct performative text, which is visual, verbal and embodied. Deriving from a theoretical idea of Paul Ricoeur’s, the performance text is examined at levels of structural explanation and interpretation, where the different components act as ‘discrete units’ to form an arranged whole and the constituent units acquire a signifying function.

Yoga teachers’ insights in working with dancers: pedagogical approaches in transformation

The focus of this article is an initial investigation of general pedagogical approaches of local yoga teachers and their specific insights in working with dancers. I engage with broad themes of how we ‘contemporise the past and envisage the future’ as I explore the pedagogical challenges and transformations offered from learning about yoga pedagogy. Literature on yoga and dance pedagogy that focuses on experiential and embodied ways of knowing provides a broader context from which to understand my own and local teachers’ practices. Framed within feminist and phenomenological perspectives, I draw on the qualitative research method of in-depth interviewing in order to delve into yoga teacher’s lived experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand. I reflect on these interview findings to offer a consideration of pedagogical practices of yoga teachers in relation to dancers.

Disciplined creativity

Traditional Indian dances with highly codified performance techniques are often understood as immutable within a world where fluidity and flux constantly challenge our notions of stable identities and unchanging traditions. Why is it then that in spite of the severely disciplining nature of dance training, dancers do not simply repeat what they are conditioned to do? If agency is dependent upon social structures and power matrices, why does innovation, deviation, resistance and confrontation occur changing scripts and evolving new meanings of what is danced within tradition? This paper accesses traditional Indian dance pedagogies through the kinetic sensorium, highlighting the bodily experience that the traditional dance forms provide. My own training in Odissi, challenges the notion of creativity as a product. It leads to an understanding of creativity and the role that discipline plays in its expression which is culture specific, yet may find universal applicability.

Indeterminacy in site-specific performance

‘Site-specificity’ is typically aligned to those practices of visual art where their meanings are inextricable to site; however, its theorisation has been elaborated through a defense of disciplinary boundaries. In One Place After Another, Miwon Kwon begins by referring to site-specific art as: ‘Site-determined, site-orientated, site-referenced, site-conscious, site-related’. Yet site-specificity in relation to site-performance, would I propose, be better served by negotiating the intersections of body and site. Site-specificity and indeterminacy will be considered through what happens between site and performance: disruption, undetermined and permeability. Detailing a number of projects from my own practice including: White Trash 2006,Toulouse, France; En Residencia 2009 Gijón, Spain and Patrwn 2010 Minde, Portugal, I will highlight the indeterminacies of site and boundary, performance and spectator through the practice of site-specific performance.

Evoking poetics of memory through performing site

Memory, time and metaphor are central triggers for artists in exploring and shaping their creative work. This paper examines the place of artists as ‘memory-keepers’, and ‘memory-makers’, in particular through engagement with the time-based art of site-specific performance. Naik Naik (Ascent) was a multi-site performance project in the historic setting of Melaka, Malaysia, and is partially recaptured through the presence and voices of its collaborating artists. Distilled from moments recalled, this paper seeks to uncover the poetics of memory to emerge from the project; one steeped in metaphor rather than narrative. It elicits some of the complex and interdependent layers of experience revealed by the artists in Naik Naik; cultural, ancestral, historical, personal, instinctual and embodied memories connected to sound, smell, touch, sensation and light, in a spatiotemporal context for which site is the catalyst. The liminal nature of memory at the heart of Naik Naik, provides a shared experience of past and present and future, performatively interwoven.

Interject: a choreographer’s struggles in one specific site

Interject (a site-specific dance work) was performed on a ledge inside the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand in November 2012. This paper reframes a complex picture of web-like connections and challenges around the relocation and re-envisioning of several site-specific choreographies into one specific site. How do you re-negotiate the dance content in a different site? What are the ramifications of an additional dancer? How do you interact/negotiate with the everyday use of the site? Is it a new work or not? These questions are discussed along with the unpacking and interrogation of my journey and a review of the end product as the choreographer in this process. This reframing will make reference to the past and how it has enriched and informed the expanding field of international site-specific dance (Brown 2010, Kloetzel & Pavlik 2009, Hunter 2005) and this particular project.

Environmental dance: listening to and addressing the big questions gently

Efforts to maintain and protect the environment have recently gained notable attention. Scientists, philosophers, educators and artists, among many others, have initiated positive actions that seek to change the ways that humans relate to the ecosystem. As well, members within the dance community have inadvertently established new movement values that seek to promote and encourage ecological balance. New ideologies in environmental ethics support a non-anthropocentric value theory that recognises the intrinsic value of all species to the function of an ecosystem. In this paper I show that environmental dance can be an artistic experience in nature that upholds contemporary environmental ethical values. I evaluate past personal choreographic choices, examine movers who explore the concept of ecocentrism in somatic practice, and present a possible ideology for environmental dance artists rooted in the act of ‘listening’. The role of aesthetics as a philosophy for art and nature and how it applies to social art making and environmental ethics is explored.