The department is housed in the Kingsway Buildings a few minutes away from the main Chester site. We have four large multi-purpose performance spaces, music rehearsal rooms, computer suites and seminar/lecture facilities. Performing Arts has a team of committed staff - teachers who believe in creating the best possible atmosphere of support and encouragement for all their students. In the last Research Assessment Exercise, this department was declared to be of international standing, so you belong to a department where cutting edge scholarship in the disciplines will inform all your learning.

Recent Submissions

  • Lost, Found, Reimagined - Roberto Gerhard’s Viola/Cello Sonata(s)

    Sproston, Darren; University of Chester
    The Viola Sonata (1948) sits at a pivotal time in Gerhard’s output. Through the 1940s he had composed his Symphony: Homenaje a Pedrell (1940-41), Don Quixote (1940), Alegrías Suite (1942), Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1942-43), Pandora Suite (1944-45) culminating in the tour de force which is The Duenna (1945-47). The Sonata marks the point at which Gerhard starts to seriously style his method of adopting serial technique leading to the exploration of its use beyond mere pitch manipulation. The Viola Sonata had been lost for a number of years until deposited at the Cambridge University Library as part of the Roberto Gerhard archive in 2016. There are two manuscripts, the full score and the solo viola part. It consists of 33 pages on 12 stave landscape manuscript paper. The dedication is to the viola player Anatole Mines (1915-1993) who performed the premiere of the work in 1950 accompanied by Gerhard. Until 2016, the only available legacy of this work was its revision in the form of the Cello Sonata (1956). This paper investigates the differences between the Viola and the Cello Sonata to discover the extent to which the later work arranges or reimagines the former.
  • In touch and between: a tactile toolkit for creative practitioners to navigate touch within their creative practice

    Robinson, Dina; University of Chester
    Touch in performance and movement practice is not a new concept, although it tends to inhabit movement therapy, partnering techniques, alignment studies, and ethics. However, this article addresses the importance of touch in creative practice with reference to holistic embodied movement, sense of self, one’s agency and situatedness. Employing a somatic methodology and phenomenological lens, this article presents tactile practice as research carried out from 2019 to 2022 with master’s students and professionals delivered in the space and online as a lecture-workshop at People Dancing UK’s Perspectives on Practice. This overarching framework highlights methods of touch prior to the pandemic demonstrating how one perceives and responds to contact from another body whilst retaining authenticity; shifts in tactile engagement during the pandemic and how it aids solo practice; and opens up conversations on reintroducing touch post pandemic with possible cross-disciplinary practice. The research investigates/investigated tactile stimulations within passive, active and intra-active touch as a listening tool in the solo body and between bodies. Through various case studies, these are examined in relation to creative inquiry and artistic identity. The article aims to challenge power relations and conventional connotations around touch and practice as well as offer new tactile engagements within solo creative practice. It also proposes touch as a collaborative mesh for cohesion and keep us in touch through a practical tactile toolkit. This will resonate with somatic movement practitioners in particular, however its inclusive nature means specific approaches may resonate with practitioners in other creative disciplines.
  • Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott: The Anthropocene as Tragedy

    Kerrigan, Stef; University of Chester (International Association of Theatre Critics, 2022-12-01)
    The fate of the tragic Greek figure Iphigenia is intrinsically connected to her environment in classical canonical source texts. Her death, depicted in Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, is the result of human failings, and yet the natural world and the climate play an integral part. In 2015, Gary Owen transposed the narrative of this classical heroine to Cardiff, Wales, to consider the ruins of contemporary Britain in an increasingly hostile environment of austerity. Owen’s play is a scathing indictment of the overpopulated and under-resourced urban environment, but it is ultimately a catastrophic climate event that leads to the tragedy within this adaptation. Classical tragedy is a predominantly anthropocentric dramatic form. However, with reference to Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott and utilising emerging ecocriticism and discourse, I argue that there is potential for an ecologically sensitive, revisionist perspective in contemporary adaptations of classical tragedy. Building upon Carl Lavery’s and Clare Finburgh’s provocation that, “the Anthropocene is a term that invariably attests to humanity’s inability to impact upon and intervene in natural processes [and] it simultaneously highlights humanity’s failure to harness or control such interventions” (34), I consider what the real tragedy is within Owen’s play. Is the tragedy of his Iphigenia a tragedy of humanity’s failure to cohabit with the natural environment without causing harm or, perhaps more broadly, a tragedy that reflects the failure of a historic and dogmatic anthropocentric view in theatre and beyond?
  • The collaborative programme leader: Embedding meaningful collaboration into a programme culture

    Jamieson, Evelyn; University of Chester (Routledge, 2022-03-31)
    The section serves to highlight the importance of collaboration and move the PL role away from one of the potential overwhelm and isolation to one of connection and meaningful interdependence.
  • The Studio

    Dockwray, Ruth; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2022-02-10)
    This chapter is part of an interdisciplinary volume, drawing from sociology, geography, ethnomusicology, media, cultural, and communication studies, which covers a wide-range of topics germane to the production and consumption of place in popular music. This chapter focuses on the recording studio, primarily within a popular music context, in the following areas: as a physical place where its function relies on social interactions to encourage creativity; as a place where virtual auditory spaces are created; and as a place where music practice can ultimately ascribe unique identities.
  • Conflicting professional identities for artists in transprofessional contexts

    Lehikoinen, Kai; Passila, Anne; Owens, Allan; University of the Arts; LUT University; University of Chester (Routledge, 2021-07-02)
    This chapter investigates how the artists navigate multiple and at times conflicting identities within the challenges of working in unfamiliar transprofessional contexts. It also investigates the expanding professionalism of artists in the transprofessional realm of artistic interventions in organisations. Ariane Berthoin Antal argues that artists’ professional identities and also responsibilities are geared towards some fundamental values in the arts, and that it is vital for artists to maintain such values as they collaborate with other professions. To exemplify expanded work in transprofessional contexts, our attention now turns to the experiences of four artists—a theatre director, a performance artist, a dancer, and a dramaturg—who took part in the pilot programme at Uniarts. It is imperative in higher arts education to discuss critically the relationship between professionalism in more traditional artistic practice and the expanding professionalism of hybrid artists in new transprofessional domains.
  • From Rugby League to Marriage Intrigue

    Sproston, Darren; University of Chester
    This paper traces the creative evolution of Roberto Gerhard's Epithalamion from its genesis as a film score in 1962 through to its final version, c. 1968 which makes it one of the last orchestral compositions on which Gerhard would have worked. It sits alongside two works left incomplete in 1968 Metamorphoses (the reworking of the Second Symphony) and the Fifth Symphony. It explores its origins through the film score of This Sporting Life and how this music is incorporated into the concert work and investigates the revisions made by Gerhard and end with exploring the final published version of the work.
  • Adaptations: Moby Dick Performance Research Project

    Piasecka, Shelley; University of Chester
    Adaptations: Moby Dick is a performance research project, consisting of a script, stage production, and site-sensitive performance. The adaptation was commissioned for the International Cornerstone Arts Festival (2017). In-kind funding was provided by the Tall Ship Zebu for a site- sensitive performance for the River Festival, Liverpool (2019). There were two interconnected stages to the project, underpinned by three research questions: 1. How do we re-imagine character within ensemble-led practice? 2. How does dramatic time differ from narrative time? 3. What is the relationship between the source text and adapted iterations? The first stage of the project led to a fully realised stage production, shown in Liverpool and Chester (2017). A further iteration of the adaptation was performed on the Tall Ship Zebu, Liverpool (2019). Following this performance, the project considered the impact of site as cultural memory, disseminated through conference papers.
  • Postcolonial pictures examining the Penguin edition book covers of Paul Theroux's travel writing through a visual social semiotic lens

    Waller, Rhian; University of Chester
    Travel literature, Paul Theroux writes, “moves from journalism to fiction, arriving […] at autobiography” (2008: 332). Perhaps because of this hybridity, travel writing is an enduring genre, and its texts are subject to fertile academic interpretation and re-interpretation. However, less attention has been given to the paratextual elements of the travel book. Book covers play a key role in establishing the nature and context of a written work. They operate as visual social semiotic forms, comprising textual and visual signifiers that stand “for an object or concept” (Moriarty, 2011: 228). The argument here is the resulting signs may encode meanings beyond the commercial purpose of the book cover. Semiotic analysis is therefore applied to the covers of Paul Theroux’s novel-length travel books. It is argued the Penguin book covers that feature on editions released over the last 40 years frequently include covert signifiers of unequal power relationships between western travellers and the peoples and cultures they encounter.
  • Concentrated Noir: Reinforcing and transgressing genre boundaries in Echo

    Waller, Rhian; University of Chester
    Nordic Noir has emerged as an increasingly codified set of aesthetic, political and philosophical televisual elements. Echo compresses these elements, subjecting them to the crucible of short film. This article investigates the dramatic potential of stripping back cross-genre tropes to reveal the defining characteristics of a newly emergent format.
  • Meaningful play: applying game and play design practices to promote agency in participatory performance

    Harper, Jamie; Newcastle University (Taylor & Francis, 2019-06-24)
    As interactive and immersive forms of performance have proliferated, performance scholars have devoted increasing attention to gaming practices in order to describe the types of agency that these forms offer to their participants. This article seeks to problematise links that have been drawn between interactive performance and games, however, arguing that discussions of gaming in relation to performance are often limited to a textual paradigm which conceives game play as the exploratory uncovering of performance texts rather than the generative creation of emergent play narratives. This argument will be advanced by making three propositions: firstly, that performance practitioners and scholars who wish to draw upon games in their work should move beyond a textual paradigm to develop an understanding of how games can be understood as systems. Secondly, the article will propose that if the enhancement of participatory agency is desired, participatory performance designs might usefully respond to the cultural particularity of those involved. Thirdly, the article will argue that although system-based design can imply connotations of top down control, participatory performance design can be reconceived as a ‘curatorial’ practice that creates contexts for play that is co-created by participants, affirming their agency in shaping the emergent content of the work.
  • Rattling- Arts Based Initiatives in learning and transformation

    Owens, Allan; Passila, Anne (IKAM, 2015-06-10)
    This track explores the process of arts-based initiatives, ABIs, (Schiuma, 2011; 2013) in the context of practice-based innovation (Melkas & Harmaakorpi, 2012). According to Schiuma (2011, pp. 2–3), an ABI is the planned managerial use of art forms to address management challenges and business problems with the aim of developing employees and infrastructure that affect the organizational value-creation capacity. ABIs integrate the traditional rational-based perspective of the organization with the emotive-based perspective of organizational life and its components. The organizational knowledge creation process depends on the integration of “technical knowledge“ with emotive knowledge. The arts provide approaches and innovation action tools to handle emotional and evocative dynamics within and around organizations.
  • The Furling of the Sails

    Piasecka, Shelley; University of Chester (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020-03-01)
    Article reporting on the Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut. A post-conference day trip for presenters and participants of "Melville’s Origins: The Twelfth International Melville Conference.”
  • The Materiality of Conflict in Contact: Improvisational Explorations in 'Pitch'

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; University of Chester (Dance Studies Association, 2018-12)
    This presentation investigates the 2017 site-based dance film project Pitch, featuring choreography by Charlie Morrissey, as an investigation into the materiality of conflict within contact improvisation practices. New materialist philosophies invite reconsideration of matter as animate in ways which dance improvisers might be said to already perceive the body. Deborah Hay’s knowledgeable cells, and Steve Paxton’s animal body can arguably be read in light of Karen Barad’s notion of posthumanist ‘iterative intra-activity’ in which the consideration of the differentiated mass of thebody as nonhuman becomes another kind of choreographic agent within the performance.Working processes within the project, which included focusing on the tactility of conflict as friction and the consideration of resistance itself as a material, placed emphasis on the dancers’ material experience of the body as a key performative strategy. In this sense, matter became figured, in the words of Barad, not ‘as a mere effect or product of discursive practices, but rather as an agentive factor in its iterative materialization’ (2012: 32) in which the identity of the dancers became ‘radically reworked’. From an analysis of the choreographic process and film product, this presentation will investigate how contact improvisation practices which focus on the tactile experience of matter can be said to be examples of iterative intra-activity on multiple perceptual levels. Tactile confrontation of ‘the other’ and his/her struggle toward aliveness in movement, and confrontation of the porous materiality of the human bodybecome hallmarks of the film.
  • Excitable tissues in motion capture practices: The improvising dancer as technogenetic imagist

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; Falmouth University (Intellect, 2013-10-01)
    This article outlines the potential of dance improvisation practice to function as a technological interface with one’s environment, drawing parallels between the performances of Twig Dances (Sarco-Thomas 2010) and technologies used in the life sciences to map living matter onto still frames. A postphenomenological approach is used to compare improvisation scores with image-making technologies. Scores that invite corporeal responses to the non-human, and kinaesthetic responses to organic matter, are highlighted as technologies which stand further exploration and examination as they mediate our experience of the world. A diversifying field of somatic practices is proposed as a means to investigate the potential knowledges generated by ‘excitable tissues’ enlivened through improvisational practices.
  • Diving Into the Wild: Ecologies of Performance in Devon and Cornwall

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; Falmouth University (Routledge, 2015-03-31)
    This chapter explores different examples of site-based dance performance in Devon and Cornwall, analysing them for the different ways they invite audiences and performers to engage with nature. The essay maps a continuum for engaging with the outdoors via a table that categorises different sited dance activities and performances from 2001-2014, drawing on findings of reports which identify the health benefits of engaging with green spaces. Works are analysed for their ways of encouraging viewing nature, incidental involvement, and purposeful, somatic involvement with the outdoors. The chapter argues that such performance initiatives offer conceptual and social frameworks for outdoor experiences that provide individuals with health-giving benefits whilst simultaneously proposing ways to think differently about our relationships to wild places.
  • Questioning through Doing: Shaping Praxis through the Individual Dance Project

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018-04-27)
    How might flow theory explain dancers’ experience of technique class? Can auditory learning stimulate a deeper understanding of tap dance? How does “play” build group cohesion in improvisation? These and other questions can spark undergraduate dance research. Artistic research at the undergraduate level creates an opportunity for students to exercise a range of skills as scholars, facilitators and performers. This case study will look at the Individual Dance Project (IDP) as integral to the Bachelor (Honors) in Dance Studies course offered by the University of Malta’s School of Performing Arts as an example of high-impact teaching where students are guided and challenged to build unique projects which investigate a phenomenon in both theory and practice.
  • Introduction to the book: Interdisciplinarity in the Performing Arts: Contemporary Perspectives

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; Aquilina, Stefan (Malta University Press, 2018)
    The introduction to this book includes an overview of current discourses on interdisciplinary research and practice within the performing arts, and gives an overview of chapters contained in the book. Interdisciplinarity in the Performing Arts: Contemporary Perspectives contributes to current discussion about the intrinsic interdisciplinary nature of the performing arts, while also identifying the potential which theatre, dance, and music have in creating bridges with other disciplines like neuroscience, social sciences, philosophy, pedagogy, and therapy. Coordinated by the School of Performing Arts of the University of Malta and featuring contributions from KU Leuven, Ghent University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), Royal Holloway (London), Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Brazil), and Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland), this publication explores questions brought forward by approaches to performance that interweave theory and practice, through examples of methodologies, philosophies, interpretations, and applications of interdisciplinarity today.
  • Interdisciplinarity in the Performing Arts: Contemporary Perspectives

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; Aquilina, Stefan; University of Malta (University of Malta Press, 2018-12-31)
    Interdisciplinarity in the Performing Arts: Contemporary Perspectives contributes to current discussion about the intrinsic interdisciplinary nature of the performing arts, while also identifying the potential which theatre, dance, and music have in creating bridges with other disciplines like neuroscience, social sciences, philosophy, pedagogy, and therapy. Coordinated by the School of Performing Arts of the University of Malta and featuring contributions from KU Leuven, Ghent University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), Royal Holloway (London), Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Brazil), and Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland), this publication explores questions brought forward by approaches to performance that interweave theory and practice, through examples of methodologies, philosophies, interpretations, and applications of interdisciplinarity today.
  • Momentum, Gravity, and 'Sensational Facts': Attending to Interdisciplinary Materiality through Contact Improvisation

    Sarco-Thomas, Malaika; University of Chester (University of Malta Press, 2018)
    This chapter maps out some initial territory for examining how the movement practice of contact improvisation, a form born in the 1970s out of the explorations of Judson Dance Theatre artists, might be seen to offer a sensation and attention-based approach to matter. I suggest that such an attention-based practice can be understood as crucially interdisciplinary when viewed through the lens of new materialism. In doing so, I discuss the imaginative privileging of the sensate, characteristic of contact improvisation, as a frame through which to point to the significance of two further performance forms: the author’s solo performance Twig Dances and Min Tanaka’s Body Weather training. I conclude by identifying how these scores, which might be broadly identified as ‘contact [and] improvisation’ practices, open up questions of how performance philosophies that seek identification with, or question another, are significant to interdisciplinary investigations of materiality, including scientific processes. Such attention-based scores introduce new understandings of material entanglement, through embodied improvisation, which can be desirable to what this essay will call an experiential posthuman project. As such, ‘posthuman’ is understood in this essay as an approach whereby a collective set of forces, and attention-based processes, study material encounters through post-anthropocentric perspectives. I argue that such attention to materiality may be seen as interdisciplinary, when viewed as both a physical and imaginative performance practice.

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