Dancing sites
: ethics, agency, and the choreographic act

  • Melanie Kloetzel

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The following PhD by published works assembles a series of publications and creative works that focus on site-based dance practice in live performance and film. Together, this collection activates, contributes to, and expands the discourse around site dance as a cultural practice, with particular attention paid to the form’s political, ideological, and ethical underpinnings.
    The thesis draws from three central building blocks. First, it draws on a collection of interviews (conducted by myself and Carolyn Pavlik) of site-based choreographers in North America, Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces (2009). Due to this anthology’s standing as the first volume to address site-based dance practice and due to its focus on first-person experiences by well-known site choreographers, the volume offers an essential primary resource that grounds many of my assertions in this thesis. Of particular import, I argue through the text’s introduction that a defining trait for the field is the concept of ‘attending to place’, a concept that has evolved into a thematic basis for this thesis. The second building block includes the gathering of key critical theories from the disciplines of dance studies, performance studies, visual art, geography, philosophy, architecture, sociology, and anthropology to frame the investigation of site-based dance practice; such theories – specifically those concerning agency, discipline and the dancing body, the unpacking of space and place, the critique of neoliberal globalization and its impacts on cultural practices, and the appraisal of site-based practices via environmental ethics – serve as a basis for scrutinizing site dance over the past fifty years. As a third building block, my own practice-based research (in choreography, direction, film editing, and performance) provides concrete, hands-on data to further the investigation of site-based practices, data that has elicited critical insights into the changing role of site-based performance in an era of ideological and environmental upheaval.
    Employing these building blocks and adopting a transdisciplinary methodology, the thesis argues that the considered choreographic act as undertaken in site dance practice operates to expose and potentially destabilize hegemonic and hierarchical value systems and ideologies, generating new ethical and agential avenues in a neoliberal, globalized, and Anthropocenic age. Yet, the thesis also encourages a level of vigilance, advocating for the evaluation of particular acts under an environmental and social justice framework. In assembling these publications and creative works and then offering a retrospective analysis of them through this supporting statement, the thesis works to problematize and evaluate site-based dance practice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
    Date of Award17 Dec 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorStacey Prickett (Supervisor) & Fiona Wilkie (Supervisor)

    Cite this