Taking charge - dance, disability and leadership: exploring the shifting role of the disabled dance artist

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Over the past two decades dancers with disabilities have made a significant contribution to the professional contemporary dance sector. Key shifts and initiatives across various contexts in dance have increased debate and practice concerned with dance and disability and the intersections between these two areas.

    Discourse focussed on dance and disability has been centred upon access and participation in dance, there is a considerable deficit in practice, research and scholarly activity that explores the progression of the disabled dancer into leadership roles in dance.

    A lack of disabled role-models holding autonomous, high profile, decision making positions in the sector is detrimental to the position of both disabled dance artists currently practicing and those aspiring to work and train in contemporary dance.

    Dance artists with disabilities possess knowledge of training and working in dance that is as yet under-researched and under-represented in both academic and practice based contexts. Understanding and utilising the knowledge and experience existing in disabled dance artists is central to ensuring progression in the sector. Underpinning this thesis is the claim that disabled dance artists are valued, assessed and critiqued within an existing epistemological framework in dance that is based on normative bodies, rather than through systems and a vocabulary that account for the individual dancer.

    The research, centred around the UK and undertaken by a disabled dance artist-researcher, addresses an existing lack of scholarly activity about dance and disability produced by a disabled researcher. Chapters 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3 offer 3 case studies of disabled dance artists these sections give insight into the lived experience of training and working in dance with a physical disability, in addition these chapters offer discussion specifically relating to the case study participants perception of themselves as leaders in dance.

    The penultimate chapter 7, Reflections on Practice presents autoethnographic research relating to the authors’ experience of using practice as both a vehicle and an artefact for research into dance, disability and leadership. Offering the practice and research of disabled artists within this thesis contributes a new perspective to the field of dance and disability, specifically by privileging the voices and practice of disabled artists and researchers. By challenging a hierarchy of normative leadership ideologies the potential of the disabled dance artist as leader is presented at the forefront of this study.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SponsorsArts and Humanities Research Council & Coventry University
    SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor)

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