Professor Ramsay Burt

Job: Emeritus Professor

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities and Performing Arts

Research group(s): Dance

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

T: +44 (0)116 207 8478




Publications and outputs

  • Modern movements: women’s contributions to the success of Rudolf Laban’s ideas and practice in England 1930-1941
    dc.title: Modern movements: women’s contributions to the success of Rudolf Laban’s ideas and practice in England 1930-1941 Huxley, Michael; Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: This journal article considers women who could all be said to have been working in the shadow of Rudolf Laban. During the 1930s and 40s in England a number of them developed the new modern dance as independent performers and teachers. Laban’s arrival in 1938 set up a series of complicated criss-crossings of ideas, practices, events, and relationships that were to have far reaching consequences and which left a legacy where it is Laban’s name that is canonical. These dancers and teachers included Anny Boalth, Sylvia Bodmer, Leslie Burrowes, Anny Fligg, Hilde Holger, Ann Hutchinson, Diana Jordan, Jean Newlove, Valerie Preston-Dunlop, Peggie Rowlands, Geraldine Stephenson, Veronica Tyndale-Biscoe, Lisa Ullmann, Jane Winearls and others. We give an overview of the ways in which these women interacted with Laban and his ideas and how they variously became Laban’s shadow or shadowed his practices. Their marginalization is largely because they were overshadowed by his name and reputation. We therefore focus on Lisa Ullmann and Anny Boalth as two individuals with different narratives in relation to Laban. We go on to consider three disparate women Leslie Burrowes, Louise Soelberg and Diana Jordan, who came together to establish the short-lived Dance Centre in London. The histories of these women working in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s in Laban’s shadow are histories that are in Foucault’s terms a genealogy of divergent traits with a focus on the corporeality of experience. ‘The body’, he wrote, ‘is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), … Genealogy, as an analysis of descent, is thus situated within the articulation of the body and history’ (1977: 148). As a genealogy, this chapter is a reappropriation of those archival records out of which the canonical history of dance and theatre performances have been created in order to find something altogether different, the hidden histories of the contributions that these women made to the field of movement training, bringing their contributions out of the shadows. dc.description: The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Elroy Josephs and the hidden history of Black British Dance
    dc.title: Elroy Josephs and the hidden history of Black British Dance Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: This chapter gives a brief overview of the career of the black British dance artist and teacher Elroy Josephs and reflects on the reasons for his relative obscurity. Josephs danced with Les Ballets Nègres in 1952. From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, he appeared on stage and screen as a dancer, and sometimes actor, in Britain. In the early 1970s, in Camden, he started a community dance project and was appointed as one of the Greater London Arts Association’s (GLAA) first dance animateurs. In 1979 he became the first black lecturer in dance in British higher education teaching at IM Marsh in Liverpool, subsequently part of Liverpool John Moores University. In 1993 he chaired an event “What is Black Dance in Britain?” There are largely unwritten assumptions about the British dance history narrative in which black British artists are largely marginalized. Josephs specialized in jazz dance, and spent his later years working away from the metropolitan center. By offering an overview of Josephs’s career, this paper raises questions about how the de facto canon of British dance history can become more diverse and inclusive.
  • A Study in Solo: Steve Paxton's Goldberg Variations
    dc.title: A Study in Solo: Steve Paxton's Goldberg Variations Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: Steve Paxton's Goldberg Variations, which he performed nearly 200 times between 1986 and 1992, fits uneasily into accounts of recent dance history because it was an improvisation. This essay discusses the problems of acknowledging the liveness and uniqueness of the performance event that improvisation in particular raises, and uses this as a basis to analyze Goldberg Variations.
  • Remembering Rosemary Butcher
    dc.title: Remembering Rosemary Butcher Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: Reminiscences of Rosemary Butcher, both personal and general following her death.
  • Dance, Brexit and post-truth hate merchants
    dc.title: Dance, Brexit and post-truth hate merchants Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: Discussion of Rita Marcalo's project Dance with Strangers: From Calais to England and its treatment by right-wing tabloid journalists.
  • Dance, Modernism, and Modernity
    dc.title: Dance, Modernism, and Modernity Burt, Ramsay, 1953-; Huxley, Michael dc.description.abstract: This collection of new essays explores connections between dance, modernism, and modernity by examining the ways in which leading dancers have responded to modernity. Burt and Huxley examine dance examples from a period beginning just before the First World War and extending to the mid-1950s, ranging across not only mainland Europe and the United States but also Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific Asian region, and the UK. They consider a wide range of artists, including Akarova, Gertrude Colby, Isadora Duncan, Katherine Dunham, Margaret H’Doubler, Hanya Holm, Michio Ito, Kurt Jooss, Wassily Kandinsky, Margaret Morris, Berto Pasuka, Uday Shankar, Antony Tudor, and Mary Wigman. The authors explore dancers’ responses to modernity in various ways, including within the contexts of natural dancing and transnationalism. This collection asks questions about how, in these places and times, dancing developed and responded to the experience of living in modern times, or even came out of an ambivalence about or as a reaction against it.
  • Diasporic cultures and colonialism: Katherine Dunham and Berto Pasuka's dance translations
    dc.title: Diasporic cultures and colonialism: Katherine Dunham and Berto Pasuka's dance translations Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: This paper discusses two examples of the translation of African diasporic dance forms from the Caribbean to Great Britain and the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. It examines the American choreographer Katherine Dunham and the Jamaican choreographer Berto Pasuka’s staging of movement material relating to spirit possession for theatres in New York and London. Stuart Hall, who was born in Jamaica, has argued that the distinctiveness of Caribbean culture is the result of creolization of African diasporic cultural forms. Caribbean culture, in his view, has absorbed a number of influences from different sources – from the American hemisphere, European colonial countries, India and Asia as well as from Africa. Unequal power relations, he argues, have always influenced the extent to which these influences have been accepted or resisted. Where religion is concerned, Hall uses the term translation to describe this process. Acknowledging the complex role of religion in Caribbean life, he points to the ‘translation’ between Christianity and the African religions and the mixtures in Caribbean music. In Jamaican revivalist churches, music and dancing can lead to expressions of ecstasy. Katherine Dunham’s experience as participant observer in Haitian vaudun ceremonies informed the pieces like L’Ag’Ya and Shango that she choreographed and performed in the United States in the late 1930s and 1940s. Her aim was to teach both Black and white Americans about the rich cultural heritage of people of African descent. Pasuka, developed his ideas about Africa and religion through his work with Marcus Garvey’s Eidelweiss project. Emigrating to Britain in 1939, he founded Les Ballets Nègres in 1946 with his savings from performing in British wartime films. The anti-colonial stance of his ballets like De Prophet and They Came are marked by a tension between pride in his African heritage and the need for emancipation from residual African religious superstitions. This paper examines the way each choreographer negotiated between the different things that African diasporic culture meant to them and the limitations arising when these were translated and framed through the cultural forms and conventions of European and North American theatrical practices.
  • Avoiding Capture
    dc.title: Avoiding Capture Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: This essay discusses three recent British contemporary dance works that radically rework the spatial relation between audience and performer. These are: Nicola Conibere’s Assembly (2013), Katye Coe’s (To) Constantly Vent (2014), and Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small’s Voodoo (2017). The essay draws on Henri Lefebvre theorisation of the social and political production of space to analyse the kinds of reworkings of space time that these works enact. It argues that the works evade capture by the apparatuses that maintain normative ideologies, not only those governing the reception of art but also the apparatuses of racial classification. dc.description: The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Blasting out of the past: the politics of history and memory in Janez Jansa's Reconstructions
    dc.title: Blasting out of the past: the politics of history and memory in Janez Jansa's Reconstructions Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: This chapter analyzes three reenactments by the Slovenian director Janez Janša, two reconstructions of experimental performances made under communism in Ljubljana during the late 1960s and early 1970s by poets and performers associated with the Pupilija group, and one which subversively reappropriates canonical contemporary dance works from the United States, Germany, and Japan. The two earlier works, it argues, interrogate the utopian ideals espoused by the communist partisans who freed Yugoslavia from German occupation during World War II. It develops a framework for this analysis by drawing on Walter Benjamin’s discussion of the philosophy of history and on Michel de Certeau’s work on memory and the everyday. It places the three reconstructions in their social, historical, and political context and evaluates their meanings in relation to misperceptions about art in post-communist countries.
  • Cynical Parrhesia
 And Contemporary European Dance
    dc.title: Cynical Parrhesia
 And Contemporary European Dance Burt, Ramsay, 1953- dc.description.abstract: This paper draws on Michel Foucault’s discussion of the concept of cynical parrhesia to explore some similarities between the kind of provocative dialogue practised by the Cynics and the provocative way in which some recent European contemporary dance pieces criticise contem- porary dance as an institution. It focuses on one ancient and one modern, twenty-first century example of provocative dialogue: the meeting between Diogenes and Alexander the Great, and that between gallery visitors and dancers in Production (2010) by Xavier Le Roy and Ma° rten Spa° ngberg in response to an invitation to create a work for exhibition in an art gallery. The purpose of provoca- tive dialogue, Foucault argues, is not to make someone to accept the truth but to persuade them to internalise the voice of the provocateur and thus initiate within themselves a process of ethical self-criticism. This paper argues that Production offers opportunities for this ethical practice both to gallery visitors and to the institution that commissioned it.

View a full listing of Ramsay Burt's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

2019 Dance, Modernism and Modernity. with Michael Huxley, London and New York: Routledge.

2016 Ungoverning Dance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

2016  British Dance, Black Routes. editedwith Christy Adair London and New York: Routledge.

2007 The Male Dancer: Bodies, Spectacle and Sexualities London: Routledge [Expanded and Revised 2nd edition].

2006 Judson Dance Theater: Performative Traces London: Routledge.

Research interests/expertise


Dance, gender, and sexuality

Dance, philosophy, and politics

Judson Dance Theatre

Contemporary European Dance

Dance of the African Diaspora

Areas of teaching

Twentieth and Twenty-first century dance

Undergraduate, Masters, and PhD supervision 


1972 – 1976 Leeds University:  BA Fine Art.

1994 PhD CNAA/University of Southampton.  Title "Representations of masculinity in theatre dance with special reference to British new dance"

Courses taught

DANS2524 Dance Contexts
DANS3500 Dance Research Project


PERF5002 Perspectives

also supervises MA by Research and at PhD level.

Membership of external committees

ADAD North Steering Group 2012-2016

Re:Generations Conference steering group 2014-2016


British Dance and the African Diaspora: this was a two year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, 2012-14.  For further information see this project's website (details below).

Current research students

Matthias Sperling, PhD in Choreography (awarded AHRC-funded Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership), No-How Generator. 1st Supervisor. 

Iyobosa Olaye, PhD in Drama, Thematic Concerns of Post-Colonial Playwrights in Nigeria: A Study of the Last Two Decades in Nigerian Drama (1995-2015), 1st Supervisor.

Tia-Monique Uzor, PhD in Dance Studies (awarded AHRC-funded Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership), Roots: Establishing British Caribbean Diasporic Identity Through Dance, 1st Supervisor.

Angharad Harrop, PhD in Dance, Embodiment and Performance: The use of folk and cultural dance in choreographic practice and performance. 2nd Supervisor. 

Elizabeth Short, PhD in Performance Art Practice, The Big Reckoning: Performing against sexual violence within the Western 21st Century Arts Industry. 2nd Supervisor.

Sophie Swoffer, PhD in Performance Art and Film (awarded AHRC-funded Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership). In Her Prime, or Past It?: Reconsidering the Gaze and Feminine Monstrosity in Feminist Performance Art and Film Studies. 2nd Supervisor.

Externally funded research grants information

British Dance and the African Diaspora, AHRC, two year research project with Professor Christy Adair, York St John University, start date 14 February 2012.

Internally funded research project information

Remembering British New dance, RIT funded project, series of events at Siobhan Davies Studios, Sadlers Wells Theatre, and Chisenhale Dance Space in London, June 2012, in collaboration with Jonathan Burrows. Podcasts from these talks can be found on the Siobhan Davies Studios website.

Professional esteem indicators

Founder Editor (with Professor Susan Foster) Discourses in Dance

International Advisory Board of Research Center S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media). University of Ghent.

Editorial boards of Choros, Amfitheater, South African Dance Journal.

Ramsay Burt