Professor Ramsay Burt

Job: Professor of Dance History

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Visual and Performing Arts

Research group(s): Dance

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

T: +44 (0)116 207 8478




Research group affiliations

Dance Research Group 

Publications and outputs 

  • Diasporic cultures and colonialism: Katherine Dunham and Berto Pasuka's dance translations
    Diasporic cultures and colonialism: Katherine Dunham and Berto Pasuka's dance translations Burt, Ramsay, 1953- 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
    Avoiding Capture Burt, Ramsay, 1953- 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. 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.
  • A Greater Fullness of Life: Wellbeing in Early Modern Dance
    A Greater Fullness of Life: Wellbeing in Early Modern Dance Huxley, Michael; Burt, Ramsay, 1953-
  • The politics of speaking about the body
    The politics of speaking about the body Burt, Ramsay, 1953-
  • Blasting out of the past: the politics of history and memory in Janez Jansa's Reconstructions
    Blasting out of the past: the politics of history and memory in Janez Jansa's Reconstructions Burt, Ramsay, 1953- 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.
  • Yvonne Rainer's *Convalescent Dance*: on valuing ordinary, everyday, and unidealized bodily states in the context of the aging body in dance
    Yvonne Rainer's *Convalescent Dance*: on valuing ordinary, everyday, and unidealized bodily states in the context of the aging body in dance Burt, Ramsay, 1953-
  • Ungoverning Dance: Contemporary European Dance and the Commons.
    Ungoverning Dance: Contemporary European Dance and the Commons. Burt, Ramsay, 1953- Ungoverning Dance examines the work of progressive contemporary dance artists in continental Europe from the mid 1990s to 2015. Placing this within its historical and political context – that of Neoliberalism and austerity – it argues that these artists have developed an ethico-aesthetic approach that uses dance practices as sites of resistance against dominant ideologies, and attests to the persistence of alternative ways of thinking and living. In response to the way that the radical values informing their work are continually under attack from Neoliberalism, these artists recognise that they effectively share common pool resources. While contemporary dance has in effect been turned into a market, these artists nevertheless value the extent to which it functions as a commons. These artists make works that ungovern dance. Theoretically, Ungoverning Dance begins with a discussion of dance in relation to Neoliberalism and post-Fordism, and then develops an account of ethico-aesthetics in choreography drawing in particular on the work of Emmanuelle Levinas and its adaptation by Maurice Blanchot. It also explores ethics from the point of view of affect theory drawing on the work of Erin Manning and Brian Massumi. These philosophical ideas inform close readings of works from the 1990s and 2000s by two generations of European dance artists: the generation that began showing work in the 1990s such as Jérôme Bel, Jonathan Burrows, La Ribot, and Xavier Le Roy; and those appearing in the 2000s including Fabián Barba, Faustin Linyekula, Ivana Müller, and Nikolina Pristaš. Topics examined in Ungoverning Dance include dance and precarious life, choreographing friendship, re-performance, the virtual in dance, and a dancer’s experience of the Egyptian revolution. Ungoverning Dance proposes new ways of understanding recent contemporary European dance works by making connections between cultural and aesthetic qualities and their social, political, and theoretical contexts.
  • British Dance: Black Routes
    British Dance: Black Routes Adair, C.; Burt, Ramsay, 1953- British Dance: Black Routes re-examines the distinctive contributions made to British dance by dancers who are Black. Covering the period 1946 to the present, it presents a radical re-reading of dancers and their companies, placing their achievements within a broader historical, cultural and artistic context. The result of a two year research project, British Dance and the African Diaspora, led by editors Christy Adair and Ramsay Burt, the collection looks at artists working with contemporary dance, African Caribbean dance, jazz dance, and dance improvisation. Chapters illuminate the commonalities and differences between sub-Saharan West African dance forms and hybridised dance forms from the USA and the Caribbean, addressing key themes such as rhythm, community, and spirituality. This outstanding collection re-evaluates dancers’ work in the context of cultural and aesthetic issues relevant to the African diaspora, looking afresh at over ve decades of artistic production to provide an unparalleled resource for dance students and scholars.
  • Cynical Parrhesia
 And Contemporary European Dance
    Cynical Parrhesia
 And Contemporary European Dance Burt, Ramsay, 1953- 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.
  • Traversées transgressives des frontières: genre, ‘race’ et sexualité dans la chorégraphie contemporaine des années 1970
    Traversées transgressives des frontières: genre, ‘race’ et sexualité dans la chorégraphie contemporaine des années 1970 Burt, Ramsay, 1953- Cet article explore les intersections entre les discours normatifs sur genre, ‘race’ et sexualité qui entrent en jeu dans la mise en scène des masculinités par des danseurs professionnels. Il le fait à travers l’analyse de deux versions d’une pièce de danse contemporaine à succès, Troy Game de Robert North : la production originale présentée à Londres à partir de 1974 et sa reprise en 1979 aux États-Unis. Chaque production a créé une tension autour des limites des identités masculines normatives. L’article explore ces tensions à partir des réflexions de Michel Foucault sur la transgression et de Stuart Hall sur les impératifs sociaux qui visent à restaurer l’ordre et à contrôler les frontières à l’intérieur des systèmes de classification.

Click here for a full listing of Ramsay Burt's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

2011 ‘Dancing bodies and modernity’ in Peter Brooker, Andrzej Gasiorek and Andrew Thacker eds. The Oxford Handbook of Modernisms, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 562-81. 

2009 Writing Dancing Together. with Valerie A Briginshaw. Palgrave. 244 pages, 14 illustr.

2009 ‘History, memory, and the virtual in current European dance practice’ Dance Chronicle, 32, pp. 442–467.

2007 The Male Dancer: Bodies, Spectacle and Sexualities Routledge, London: [Expanded and Revised 2nd edition] 233pp: 14 illustr.

2006 Judson Dance Theater: Performative Traces London: Routledge.

Research interests/expertise

dance, gender, and sexuality

Aesthetics and Ethics
Dance History
Judson Dance Theatre
Contemporary European Dance
British-based dance artists who are black

Areas of teaching

Twentieth and Twenty-first century dance

Undergraduate, Masters, and PhD supervision 


1972 – 1976 Leeds University:  BA Fine Art.

1986 – 1994 PhD CNAA/University of Southampton.  Title "Representations of masculinity in theatre dance with special reference to British new dance"

Courses taught


DANS1503 Understanding Dance 1
DANS2509 Understanding Dance 2
DANS3503 Dance as History
DANS3500 Dance Research Project


PERF5001 Research into Performance
PERF5002 Perspectives

also supervises MA by Research and at PhD level.

Membership of external committees

ADAD North Steering Group

Re:Generations Conference steering group


British Dance and the African Diaspora: this was a two year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, which began in February 2012.  For further information see this project's website.

Current research students

‘Funmi Adewole (1st supervisor)

Angharad Harrop (2nd supervisor)

Sarah Julius (2nd supervisor)

Kelly Jordan (1st supervisor)

Kieran Sellars (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.

Peer Review College AHRC

Case studies

Ramsay Burt was invited to evaluate the social and political significance of Tanz Aller, a re-invention by the German group Ligna of early twentieth century German movement choirs. A video interview about this has been made and put on line by its commissioners,, a project funded by the German Ministry of Culture as part of Tanzplan Deutschland. The video can be seen here.

Ramsay Burt has recorded a podcast about the African American choreographer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham. This is part of the series Hull Drama - Performance Pods by Dr Campbell Edinborough, and can be downloaded here.

Personal website

Ramsay Burt

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