Embodied Approaches in Archiving Dance
: Memory, Disappearance, Transformations and the ‘archive-as-body’

  • Erica Charalambous

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis investigates what types of dance archives exist, how they are organised, what the transformation of archival data reveals about archiving dance, and how dance is transmitted through the archive. This study also contemplates what the function of the archive could mean for the future development of dance documentation, dance archives and dance transmission. Furthermore, the research investigates how embodied approaches offer new ways of researching archives and enhancing user-engagement in dance archives.

    In this research, I examine how the organisation, preservation and archiving of dance content transforms the idea of the ‘archive’. I selected three very different archives of dance, as case studies, to examine physical and non-physical archival collections applying a case study and constructive grounded theory approach: 1) The TanzArchiv Leipzig, a traditional archive of dance that flourished in East Germany during the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (1949-1990), in which art and culture were valued as national currencies 2) the Lucy Guerin Inc private dance archive collection of an Australian contemporary dance company based in Melbourne, Australia and 3) the digital archive RePlay of British contemporary choreographer Siobhan Davies. I describe the nature of each case study and develop a methodological framework suitable for drawing on my knowledge and experience as a dance practitioner.

    The research interrogates the nature of dance archives. It, therefore, highlights that anarchive of dance is a lot more than a collection of historical records endemically arranged to be stored and saved for the unknown researcher. By focusing on the seriesof case studies, I provide a deeper understanding of what the core properties of ‘dancearchives’ are, present my analysis of how the digital environment transforms the idea ofthe archive and examine how and to what extent embodied enquiry supports theexamination of the fundamental properties and function of the ‘archive’ of dance.Moreover, an embodied approach to user-engagement generates new ways of thinkingabout dance and consequently provides new conditions for archiving dance. Thus,enabling me to propose a redefinition of what an ‘archive’ means in dance; it is a fluidenvironment. Similarly, to the content it hosts, it moves and transforms throughengagement and the new relations it builds through the passages of body-experience-capture-archive-digitisation-data and re-use.

    I conclude this study with the proposition that:
     - a method of ‘distillation’ which I developed is essential when researching dancearchives, and I explain how this approach was further enhanced through drawingon my practice-based knowledge
    - developing embodied approaches as a way of distilling and transmittingknowledge enables an in-depth engagement with archival content
    - viewing the archive as a body/self that is in a constant state of becoming in amatter/material environment afforded me insight into considering the archive asa body and exploring the possibility of translating archival actions intoembodied approaches.

    Furthermore, the findings of this research advocate for the valorisation of dancearchives as necessary sources of research for an in-depth examination of our sociopolitical history, intangible cultural heritage and the fragility of digital evolution;namely, how we utilise content and curate multimedia-based information while considerembodied ways of inquiry.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    • Deakin University
    SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor), Scott Delahunta (Supervisor), Hetty Blades (Supervisor), Jondi Keane (Supervisor), Rea Dennis (Supervisor) & Elaine O'Sullivan (Supervisor)


    • dance archives
    • dance documentation
    • digital preservation
    • archive as body
    • dance heritage
    • living archives
    • embodied approaches
    • creative archivization

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