Ms Jill Cowley

Job: Programme Leader Performing Arts / Senior Lecturer Dance

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Visual and Performing Arts

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 250 6276




Personal profile

Jill is a dancer and choreographer who has worked within a broad range of teaching contexts, including Higher Education, for several years.  Her MPhil explored dance and its impact on physical and psychosocial health.  Her current and key teaching and research interests are the pedagogic study of collaborative practices in choreography and devising, and intermedial/interdisciplinary choreographic practices and forms.  

Research group affiliations

Performance and Digital Arts Research Group; Dance Research Group

Key research outputs

Collaborative Choreography: An approach to making. (Conversations with New Art Club) (2009) DVD and work booklet.  Created by BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J.  Leicester, De Montfort University.

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J. (2009) Coping in Collaborative Choreography.  Proceedings of the Global Perspectives on Dance Pedagogy: Research and Practice.  CORD Special Conference.

Research interests/expertise

Collaborative practices; dance pedagogy; intermedial/interdisciplinary choreographic practices and forms.

Areas of teaching

Dance practice; collaborative processes; devising and choreography; applied arts; intermedial/interdisciplinary principles and practices.


MPhil in Dance Studies and Public Health, Lancaster University

BA (Hons) in Performing Arts: Dance, Lancaster University (St Martin’s College) – 1st class

PGCE (pcet) Canterbury Christchurch University

Courses taught

‘Collaborative performance projects’, ‘Principles of performance and digital arts’, ‘performance research project’ Dance practice and choreography, ‘Dance artists in education and community’, and ‘Promoting dance’.

Honours and awards

Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teacher Award, June 2012.

Conference attendance

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J., FITZPATRICK, M. Assessing collaborative practice in dance. Exploring the Hinterlands: mapping an agenda for institutional research conference, Southampton Solent University, June 2008.  (refereed paper)  Attendance funded by CEPA.

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J. Coping in Collaborative Choreography: Why coping strategies might affect learning.  Global Perspectives on Dance Pedagogy: Research and Practice.  CORD Special Conference, Leicester, June 2009.  Refereed.  Attendance funded by CEPA.

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J. Coping in Collaborative Choreography: Why coping strategies affect learning.  International Conference of Performing Arts Training, Leibnitz, Austria.  May 2010.  Refereed.  Attendance funded by CEPA.

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J. Coping in Collaborative Making: Why coping strategies affect learning.  Theatre and Pedagogy.  IUTA 8th World Conference. 28th June 2010.  Refereed.  Attendance funded by CEPA.

Other forms of public presentation:

Quick Shifts.  Embrace Arts, Leicester.  30th October 2011.

Consultancy work

28/-7/10 Workshop leader at Foundation House, London for American University students.

2010 & 2011 Panel member for Moving Out (graduate choreography platform), Coventry University 

3-6/09/09 Workshop leader at the International Biennale of young artists, Skopje

Internally funded research project information

Collaborative Practices.  CEPA funded focus groups, buy-out time and the creation of a diary room.  July 2008 – June 2009.  Amount: £1100.  Co-investigator with Jo Breslin.

Making visible an existing paradigm of collaborative choreography in the process of professional practice.  RIT funding used to create educational DVD resource. Amount:  £3,818.23.  June 2009 – September 2009.  Co-investigator collaborating with Jo Breslin.   

Case studies

Review printed in British Universities Film and Video Council (2010) Viewfinder.  December 2010, No 81

ISBN: 978-1857214000, £16.99

Tutors and students at De Montfort University have produced this DVD and accompanying booklet to stimulate detailed reflection on collaborative choreographic practice. The DVD is a compilation of edited excerpts from a series of interviews with New Art Club (dance duo Pete Shenton and Tom Roden) on their creative process, whilst the accompanying booklet offers tasks and questions for inexperienced dance makers.

Aimed primarily at dance students starting out in higher education, both booklet and DVD are divided into sections including: Starting Up: Organisation; Rules and Expectations; Being Creative Collaboratively; Valuing Collaboration; Sustaining and Maintaining Collaboration. The intention is that the students listen to the interviews a couple of times and then use this to support specificity and precision in their responses to the booklet questions and tasks on their own experience of collaborative dance making.

The choice of interviewees prove excellent as both Shenton and Roden are generous in their responses and their engaging personalities came across strongly, just as they do in their unusual blend of dance and stand up comedy performances. As a newcomer to their work, the interviews immediately sparked curiosity, followed by a joyful period spent exploring archive clips on their website. The format of the DVD was unusual in that the interviewer was edited out with just printed questions appearing on screen prior to the responses. The advantage was that it eradicated the temptation for the interviewer to grandstand and it correlated with the booklet questions for students, but the pity was that openings for further probing questions in response to some of the more unusual views elicited were not followed up.

With the proviso that the resource be presented within a more rigorously researched context to enable students to access related articles, DVD recordings, internet resources and books, this is a useful addition to learning resources in dance. The questions in the accompanying booklet are important to address when working collaboratively and are so often skimmed over or ignored, thus threatening the success of the creative process. The tasks set could have been more practical to support interrogation of immediate practical experience and to emulate the lively samples of Shenton and Roden’s rehearsal process shown in the DVD.  However, there were inventive approaches within the overall basic framework, such as the focus on how artists contribute to research and development when they are not working together. This tied in very neatly to one of the most interesting elements of the DVD, where Shenton and Roden spoke about their work beyond New Art Club and how a certain artistic independence contributed to their joint projects. 

Dr Libby Worth
Senior Lecturer in Theatre Practice, Royal Holloway, University of London

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