Encounters with Somatics and European Choreography: Discourses, Narratives and Embodied Ethnography between the 1980s and the 2010s

  • Elisa Frasson

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis investigates the influence of somatic knowledge within European contemporary choreography by examining representations and embodiments in different choreographic works premiered in the 1980s and their 21st century restagings. The 1980s decade encompassed an evidential change in choreographic practices stemming in part from the dissemination of somatic knowledge within the field and reconsiderations of corporeality in dramaturgical approaches. The development of the field of somatics and its international connections are established through archaeological analysis of writings by somatic pioneers and somatic practitioners.
    Forging new ground in documenting European choreographic trends, this thesis expands on seminal historical accounts to fill gaps in knowledge. Contemporaneous publications by dancers and choreographers during the 1980s shapes analysis of the New Dance movement in Britain and the New Flemish Wave, which were carriers of innovative paradigms in how to consider the performative body. Focusing primarily on British Gaby Agis and Belgian Wim Vandekeybus, links are established to the third case study in the work of German Isabelle Schad, offering a genealogical connection and exemplifying the integration of somatic practices into choreographic processes in the 21st century. As a somatic movement educator and dancer, I utilise embodied ethnography in the process of participant-observation and analysis of the case studies. Connections are traced between somatic practices and choreography through encounters with ten dance artists and somatic practitioners, observation of three reconstructions, including performing in one of them, and witnessing a new creation in progress. The perspective of the inter-relationships between dancer and choreographer informs fieldwork analysis,
    delving into the direct and indirect impact of somatics on their works and creative approaches. The enquiry combines theoretical perspectives and fieldwork that acknowledges methodological interactions and parallels in different choreographic narratives. Significant influences of somatic practices in 1980s European Dance Theatre are reinforced through a focus on restaged and new works, while the fieldwork offers a unique perspective into creative methods, providing a somatically informed investigation and a historical reflection on working process
    Date of Award22 Mar 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorAnn R. David (Director of Studies), Stacey Prickett (Co-Supervisor) & Larraine Nicholas (Co-Supervisor)


    • somatics
    • Isabelle Schad
    • choreography
    • the 1980s
    • Wim Vandekeybus
    • Gaby Agis,

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