CIRID at Dance Fields

CIRID at Dance Fields April 19-22 2017

Dance Fields was a conference convened by Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE), Coventry University; Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Dance (CIRID), De Montfort University and Centre for Dance Research (CDR), University of Roehampton.

The conference blurred boundaries between scholarly, writerly and material based artistic practices; emergent discourses between and across disciplines. New forms of collaborative and collective working were explored via mixed modes of enquiry, presentation, participation and dialogue.

By asking, ‘Where are we now?’ The conference focussed on strategic issues and questions pertaining to the UK socio-political landscape, whilst acknowledging the importance of the European and international dimensions as practices cannot be contained within any specific country-based framework.

A documentary video about the Conference was made by University of Roehampton and can be viewed here:

The following members and doctoral researchers of CIRID attended as presenters/ performers:

Ramsay Burt, Sally Doughty, Marie Fitzpatrick, Marie Hay, Michael Huxley, Martin Leach, Pete Shenton, Jayne Stevens, Tia-Monique Uzor

Their conference abstracts can be found below


Ramsay Burt 

Elroy Josephs and the de facto canon of British dance history 

This paper gives a brief overview of the career of the Black British dance artist and teache rElroy Josephs and reflects on the reasons for his relative obscurity. Josephs danced with LesBallets Nègres in 1952. From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, he appeared on stage andscreen as a dancer, and sometimes actor, in Britain. In the early 1970s, in Camden, hestarted a community dance project ‘Workshop No. 7’ which was a precursor for CarlCampbell’s ‘Dance Company 7’, and around this time was appointed as one of GreaterLondon Arts first dance animateurs. In 1979, he became the first Black lecturer in dance inBritish higher education teaching at IM Marsh in Liverpool which subsequently became partof Liverpool John Moores University. In 1993, he chaired an event ‘What is Black Dance inBritain?’This paper addresses the conference theme of emergent discourses about histories. Researching Josephs’ career raises issues not just about the inclusion of once forgotten or marginalized artists but also the need to rethink the basis of selection that led to their being forgotten or marginalised in the first place. The history of contemporary dance in Britain has not been researched in the way US modern dance history has been documented. There are, however, largely unwritten assumptions about the British dance history narrative in which Black British artists are highly marginal. Josephs specialised in jazz dance. Because high art and popular entertainment are invariably treated as entirely separate, the ways in which, at any period, both emerge from the same socio-cultural matrix is often not recognised. By offering an overview of Josephs’ career, this paper raises questions about how the de facto canon of British dance history can become more diverse and inclusive.


Sally Doughty and Pete Shenton

This is... where we are now

A performance by Sally Doughty and Pete Shenton that responds explicitly to the conference theme of ‘where are we now?’ in relation to both histories andconfluences. The performance is a 25-minute excerpt titled This is... from a full-length danceperformance, titled Renaissance, which uses dancing and speaking to investigate howmemory can serve as a fundamental line of enquiry to produce improvised contemporaryperformance. This is... is designed to develop multiple layers of meaning for bothperformers and audience through the interrelationship of movement and text. It demandsthat Doughty and Shenton recall and tell individual personal memories that are positionedconcurrently with – at times – seemingly unrelated movement material, which promptsperformers and audience to consider ‘how one thing connects to the next thing... [and that]within this passage of relation lies the logic, narrative, pattern or subject that we, as humanbeings, are bound to look for (Burrows 2010: 111). Memory, as the driver in the work,places dual creative and performative demands on us as performers, which is to generateimprovised movement and speech drawing from memory, and to commit (as much) of it tomemory (as we can) in order to revisit and conclude it later on. As Hannah Ewenceobserves, ‘History and memory can, and do, successfully overlap and crossfertilize’ (2013:p.160) and in this instance, it does so to produce new improvised performance.
This is.... operates at the intersections between individual, collective and confluent memoryto produce witty, moving, thought provoking and unexpected commentaries on one’s pastand present self. It asks performers and audience alike to consider ‘where are we now? atany one moment in the work.

Renissance is supported by Arts Council England, Dance4 and De Montfort University



Marie Fitzpatrick

What’s in it for us? An examination of the role of authenticity within 21st Century choreographic practices

This paper discusses current choreographic practices that forefront notions of authenticity and will be examined through the lens of Gestalt Psychotherapy. Drawing on Gestaltconceptions of the contact boundary, relational encounter and field theory the author will explore how the reconfiguration of audience-performer relationships and the assertion of the identity and individuality of the dancer via phenomenological enquiry are shaping engagement with dance in the 21st Century. Issues of authenticity that are addressed either within the creative process and/or revealed in performance are considered. Practices that give significance to the quality of contact/encounter between self and other will be examined. In Gestalt terms, the contact boundary is ‘the point at which one experiences the ‘me’ in relation to that which is ‘not me’ and through this contact, both are more clearly experienced’ (Polster and Polster, 1973: 102). Wider implications of authenticity are examined in terms of Lewin’s concept of field theory where the field is ‘the context, the situation and the influences’ and where the field is considered to be constantly in flux (Joyce and Sills, 2014: 64). Discussions will consider current discourse surrounding dance and authenticity. Notions of the ‘real’ or ‘authentic dancer’ are problematized and re-examined in terms of questioning the value and role of authenticity within choreographic practices. The author proposes that new relational aesthetic forms are manifesting and questions what this can reveal about dance as a socio-cultural practice within the wider field and how this challenges practices within more traditional institutional frameworks and paradigms. 

Marie Hay and Martin Leach 

Things Taken as Obvious ... Distort: The (Speaking) Dancer as Paradigm in the Question of  Being 

What do we see when we see a dancer dance? It seems obvious that we see a body moving.But what if the dancer speaks? The animation of the body alone should have told us that weare not only looking at a body. That words are also spoken reinforces the fact that we arelooking at a being, a thing-in-animation, and that the pro-duction of movement and word isnot reducible to body but is concealed in un-say-ability. How might we say the unsayablebeing? This speaking dancer, this living combination of speech and gesture, may also betaken as a paradigm for the problem of considering what we see when we see any human being in its process of being. As Heidegger has observed, ‘things taken as obvious [...] distort beings’. When we see and hear the dancer we think we perceive a body that is living. Butwhat we really experience is the living itself in its essence of animation: the human being inthe process of its being. How does the obvious presence of the body as the means by whichwords and gesture are expressed distort the essential being of the dancer? Does the body imply a being that is not there? And if so, is this unsayable being still a being? Does bodydistort being by obscuring soul? Flesh is flesh. Space is space. Time passes. Here, in this room, we experience a dancer who moves and speaks. What can this tell us about the being of human being? We will explore this question through the format of a performative essay involving movement, speech and intervention. We will attempt to disrupt the obvious in order to expose ways of thinking about the question of being through the paradigm of a dancer that speaks.

Michael Huxley

Dance Studies in the UK 1974-1984: A historical consideration of the boundaries of research  

The first Study of Dance Conference was held at the University of Leeds in 1981. The following year saw the First Conference of British Dance Scholars in London, leading to the inauguration of the Society for Dance Research and then the publication of its journal, Dance Research. Since 1984, the field of dance studies in the UK has both developed and been debated.My paper draws on archival and other sources to reconsider this period historically. With the benefit of current ideas of what constitutes dance, practice, research, and history, it is possible to consider the early years of UK Dance Studies afresh. In the twenty-first-century there are some accepted notions of dance studies. I would argue that they have established boundaries, but that these are often unstated. The period is re-examined with a view to uncovering a broader, and indeed more inclusive, idea of dance studies. In this, attention is given to the researches of practitioners in the period; both published, including in New Dance, and unpublished. Whilst recognising the significant scholarship of the period, the paper also considers the ideas that dancers gave voice to. The analysis is taken further by considering the unexamined discourses that helped enable research in dance in the UK to develop in the way it did. It includes discussions between dance scholars and practitioners that began in the mid-1970s. In this, it gives due attention to the contributions of Peter Brinson in his many roles as artistic director, scholar, writer, facilitator and advocate. It is argued that our field, by its nature, needs to take a broad, but disciplined, approach. The period of the 1970s and early 1980s may seem distant, but the contributions made in the early years of British Dance Studies had, and still have, far reaching influence.

Jayne Stevens and Linda Jasper

Youth Dance in the 1980s: collaboration and creativity 

The value of young people’s engagement in the arts is generally accepted. There is,however, much debate as to the nature of that engagement and, especially since 2010, howit might be provided for and resourced. There is relatively little published on the history ofyoung people’s engagement in the arts generally and in dance in particular.With this in mind, this paper focuses on developments in youth dance in the UK in the1980s. It draws on archival research and interviews with those who were young dancers andprofessional practitioners at the time. Evidence attests to a vigorous, increasingly visible andextensive youth dance movement epitomised, for example, in a series of National Youth Dance Festivals. Such activity arose from extra-curricular dance clubs, from leadershipprovided by the very first advisory teachers for dance and from the work of an increasingnumber of dance animateurs. From the early 1980s there was encouragement—andfunding—for professional dance companies and choreographers to work with youth dancegroups. This interaction of teachers, community dance practitioners and professionalperformers was not without its tensions and challenges, some of which this paper explores.Ultimately, however, it was precisely such interaction that gave rise to pedagogies capableof engendering transformational experiences and creative learning for young people.In 1986 Peter Brinson suggested that youth dance was significant for the development ofBritish dance as a whole by challenging accepted practices in the creation and performance of dance. This paper considers his view in relation to dance at the time and ‘where we arenow’. It considers the legacy of the youth dance movement for current strategies such asthose enshrined in the most recent Culture White Paper (2016) to make culture an essentialpart of every child and young person’s life.

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