Making Sense of Dance-Making
: Interaction and Organisation in Contemporary Choreographic Processes

  • Tuuli Tahko

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The relationship between dancers and choreographers has often been described as problematic, with the dancer as the silent victim of the powerful choreographer. On the other hand, contemporary choreography has been presented as an inherently collaborative process in which the dancer participates in the creation of movement material, even if she is not credited as a co-author. My thesis explores what we can learn about the social organisation of contemporary choreographic practices by shifting our methodological focus from dance studies to the study of organisational behaviour and interaction. This interdisciplinary approach is based on an understanding of professional dance companies as work organisations with goals to achieve and resources to manage. Professional dance-making is a work activity, and therefore dance companies must be to some extent comparable with other organisations functioning in the same cultural and societal framework. I suggest that by using theories of organisational behaviour to contextualise dancers’ and choreographers’ work relationships we can better understand how their professional identities are implicated in choreographic practices.
    The data for this research come from two ethnographic case studies of professional contemporary dance companies in the process of making new work. Thematic analysis has been combined with close readings of communicative events to shed light on how choreographic processes are socially constructed and organised through multimodal embodied interaction between the participants. The study shows that in order to understand the dancer’s agency and sensemaking in a choreographic process it is crucial to understand that communication encompasses all aspects of behaviour, not just verbal activity, and that the choreographer’s leadership is dependent on the
    dancers’ cooperative followership. Organisational concepts such as sensemaking and communities of practice, and theories of leadership, followership and communication, were found to be in many ways applicable to contemporary choreographic processes, suggesting that this perspective could be useful for dance practitioners and scholars alike.
    Date of Award29 Nov 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorAnna Pakes (Director of Studies) & Ann R. David (Co-Supervisor)


    • Choreogrpahy
    • Contemporary dance
    • Interaction
    • Communication
    • Organisational behaviour

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