Dancing materiality
: a study of agency and confederations in contemporary outdoor dance practices

  • Paula Kramer

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis studies materiality in the context of contemporary outdoor dance practices in the natural environment. The more particular territory of this research is comprised of receptivity-, materiality- and/or exposure-based practices, influenced predominantly by the international lineages of Amerta Movement and postmodern dance. This territory is understood to be a relevant niche domain that is relatively uncharted and particularly informative regarding questions of materiality. The practitioners that this study turns to are mostly located in the UK, but also in Germany. The key influence of Amerta is rooted in Central Java, Indonesia. The main empirical data was collected between 2010-2012 in the UK.

    This work is a practice-as-research project and consists of a written thesis and a performative afternoon. All questions and arguments have been generated and developed through movement – as well as text-based research practices. The methodology draws on qualitative, ethnographic research methods such as participant observation, fieldnote writing and interviews. It further employs creative research methods such as movement-based writing, research installations and the documented immersion into dance practice and performance making. The main theoretical resonances were found in the field of new materialism and speculative realism. The key arguments of the research were thus developed through creative practice and diffractive reading (Barad), particularly of the work of Jane Bennett, Karen Barad and Graham Harman.

    The findings of this research suggest that attending to materiality supports dancers in refining a sense of embodied emplacement that furthers movement practice, especially in outdoor contexts. Sensing ones own material body is paramount here. In resonance with new materialist and speculative realist scholarship this research argues that dance making takes place in intermaterial confederations that cross the familiar human- non-human divide. Such confederations allow for a decentralisation of the human positionality that is relevant beyond dance and affects ontological conceptualisations and practices of life at large.

    The findings of this thesis further suggest a partial integration of concepts that on philosophical grounds preclude each other. For the context of dance practice this research puts forward that Barad’s proposal of entanglement can co-function with and is co-relevant to the autonomy of objects and materials proposed by Harman. The thesis thus argues that materials of all different orders occur in inter-independence (Suryodarmo) rather than only entangled with or withdrawn from each other. Both discrete and independent entities and mutual affordances impact the practice of outdoor dance; reality both exceeds the dance and resonates materially within the human body.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor) & Natalie Garrett Brown (Supervisor)


    • Dance

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