Ms Jill Cowley

Job: Head of School

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities and Performing Arts

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

T: +44 (0)116 250 6276



Social Media:


Personal profile

As Head of School, Jill is responsible for strategic leadership, including portfolio and partnership developments, international strategy, engagement with enterprise and commercial activity, and human and financial resource distribution.  Jill’s approach to leadership is collaborative and adaptive, and recognises that that people respond in different ways, and require particular levels of information and incentive in order to understand the purpose behind requests or tasks. She employs a ‘ground up’ approach, fostering a culture of empowerment and transparency.  Additionally, Jill is a dance practitioner who has worked extensively within a broad range of teaching contexts, including Higher Education, joining DMU in 2009.  Her MPhil explored the impact of dance on physical and psychosocial health.  Her interests are the pedagogy of collaborative and intermedial practices in performance-making and arts and wellbeing.

Research group affiliations

Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Dance

Key research outputs

COWLEY, J. et al (2015) ‘Will You Play? Implications of audience interventions in improvised dance performance’, Choreographic Practices, 6: 2, pp.297-315, doi:10.1386/chor.6.2.297_1

Collaborations in Choreography and Dance (CiCaDa) (2015) [online]. Available from

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 performance-making; dance and dementia; personal development within HE students

Areas of teaching

Dance practice; collaborative processes; performance-making; applied arts; dance management; personal development.


MPhil in Dance Studies and Public Health, Lancaster University

BA (Hons) in Performing Arts: Dance, Lancaster University  – 1st class

PGCE (pcet) Canterbury Christchurch University

Courses taught

BA Performing Arts (Physical Theatre, Contemporary Music Theatre, Personal Development Planning, Performance Research Project and International Performance Project)

BA Dance (Dance Techniques, Choreography and Promoting Dance)

Honours and awards

Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teacher Award, June 2012.

DMU Teacher Fellow, August 2016

Conference attendance

BRESLIN, J, COWLEY, J & DOUGHTY, S.  Keep that, leave that.  Questioning the Contemporary Conference.  Leeds Metropolitan University. 18th July 2014 (refereed paper)

BRESLIN, J & COWLEY, J. Collaborative Choreography: An approach to making. On Collaboration II Symposium. Middlesex University, 18th May 2013. (refereed paper)

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J. Coping in Collaborative Making: Why coping strategies affect learning.  Theatre and Pedagogy.  IUTA 8th World Conference. 28th June 2010.  (refereed paper) 

BRESLIN, J., COWLEY, J. Coping in Collaborative Choreography: Why coping strategies affect learning.  International Conference of Performing Arts Training, Leibnitz, Austria.  May 2010.  (refereed paper) 

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 paper) 

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) 

Other forms of public presentation:

Quick Shifts: Stripped. [24th January 2016. Attenborough Arts]

Quick Shifts. [15th November 2015 Attenborough Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts.  [26th April 2015. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Three ones [11th March, 2015.  Nottingham Concert Hall]

Quick Shifts: Found in Translation. [27th February 2015. Cultural Exchanges, Leicester]

Quick Shifts.  [25th January 2015. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts.  [16th November 2015. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts: Danscriptions [July 6th 2014. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts: Lin-gwis-tiks [March 16th 2014. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts: Double Take [January 26th 2014. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts: Salon #12 [November 3rd2013. Embrace Arts, Leicester]

What’s The Score?  [March 17th 2013. Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham]

Quick Shifts. [March 9th 2013.  Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Quick Shifts. [December 2nd 2012, Embrace Arts, Leicester]

Three ones. [November 17th 2012. PACE, Leicester]

Consultancy work

11/03/22            Process Panel Member for revalidation for The Open University, of BA (Hons) Acting (Top-up), Leeds City College

03/02/20            External Academic Panel Member for revalidation of BA Dance, BA Theatre and Performance and BA Performing Arts, Leeds Beckett University

11-12/11/19      HE Academic Consultant for Pearson International Diploma Performing Arts

15-16/11/16     Process Panel Member for O.U. validation of FdAs and BA Top ups at Leeds City College

15-16/12/15     Panel Member for O.U. validation of degrees in Theatre Arts and Contemporary Dance Practice at Deree College, Athens.

22/10/10          Represented Dance in H.E. at Medway Dance Careers event.

21/10/10          Advisor - Preparation for University Dance Auditions, Mid Kent College

28/07/10          Workshop leader at Foundation House, London for American University students

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

21/05/10          Advisor on FE to HE transition, New College Telford

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

External Examiner

09/19 - ongoing    University of Winchester BA Dance, BA Dance and Choreography, BA Dance and Young People

09/16 – 02/22   DEREE: The American College of Greece, Athens BA Contemporary Dance Practice (Open University)

01/14 – 10/17  Canterbury Christ Church University MA Arts and Cultural Management; BA Performing Arts and HNC Performing Arts

09/13 – 10/16  Hull College (Open University) BA Dance

11/12 – 10/14  Hull College (Leeds Metropolitan University) FdA Dance and Level 6 Top Up

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.   

Published patents


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