How Dance is Analyzed and Re-Imagined in Diverse Settings



Anja Ali-Haapala

Doctoral Candidate, Queensland University of Technology

Brisbane, Australia


Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in behind-the-scenes events from mainstream dance companies and audiences alike. Online videos, open classes, open rehearsals, and backstage tours all provide insights for audiences about daily life in a dance company and how dance work is made. This article focuses on the use of open rehearsals in studio sites and investigates audience experience and relationship with dancers during these events. Applying Clare Dyson’s (2010) scales of audience engagement, I analyse two open rehearsal models that I observed as an audience participant in 2013: Friends Open Days with English National Ballet (London), and Inner Workings with Chunky Move (Melbourne). Through this analysis, open rehearsals emerge as an experience with elements reminiscent of both the traditional presentation paradigm and non-traditional presentation models. Elements such as close audience-dancer proximity, authenticity, and experiences in liminal sites, such as staircases and green rooms, present the possibility of new audience-dancer relationship within the mainstream dance company context.


Anja Ali-Haapala is an audience reception researcher based in Brisbane, Australia. With an interest in audiences without formal dance training, her research examines audience enrichment tools within mainstream artistic dance settings. In 2014, Anja contributed to the initiation of a research student group in association with the World Dance Alliance Research and Documentation Network. This group provides peer support and professional development opportunities for emerging dance researchers. Anja has previously undertaken teaching and unit coordination at Queensland University of Technology in the areas of dance history, dance analysis, music theatre skills, commercial dance and world dance. She was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Dance (Distinction) in 2010, First Class Honours in 2011 by Queensland University of Technology, and was recently selected for a university-wide Student Leadership Award. Anja is in her final year of a PhD with the same university.

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Hiroki Koba

Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Tokyo, School of Education



In 1994, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act became law and the educational reform of standards and assessment, which seems to be a global trend now, became a major focus in the U.S. In this educational reform, dance was added to the core curriculum as a fine art subject and voluntary national standard for dance education were created. However, the current environment for dance education is not beneficial for students, especially after the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) became law. This author feels that educational reform of standards and assessment, in general, did not fulfill its promise to improve the status of dance education K-12 schools; instead it denigrated any advancements made in the past. To explore more deeply the dilemma, I summarize the history of educational reform in the U.S and then elucidate how this history connects to the history of national standardization of dance education, referring to K-12 schools in Wisconsin as a case study to see how the events in dance education took place. At the end of this paper, I propose what can be done in order to change what is the severe situation of dance education in the U.S.


Hiroki Koba is a Ph. D. candidate at the University of Tokyo, School of Education, in Japan. As an exchange artist, he studied in the United States at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dance Department from September of 2013 to September of 2014. While at the UW, he focused on the history of dance education of Japan and the U.S. Hiroki is also the artistic director of the Tokyo-based MACOBA Dance Company.  To date, he has performed with his company in major cities, to include Tokyo, Osaka, Sendai (Japan), Madison (U.S.), and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

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A. P. Rajaram

Ph.D. Candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India 


The body of the devotee is often subjected to pain in rituals related to penance. Such an experience cannot be clearly explained through words. In both Indian and western languages, there are no exact meanings or feelings that can be expressed as pain. In this article, the author discusses how this difficulty of expression can be mistakenly understood as trance in various contexts in the specific cultural milieu of the ritual.  Insights are presented from Elaine Scarry’s text, the Body in pain, in which she describes this condition of the inexpressibility of pain through words, while also positing processes through which this expression can become possible through abstract actions. To bring Scarry’s theories into practice, this article discusses how the body undergoes pain during ritual penance, specifically through a series of performed actions, which are often mistakenly described as trance by differing scholars and observers.  This article presents how these mistaken actions can be more adequately expressed and practiced as codified dance movements performed for various reasons, not just as an example of trance.


A.P. Rajaram is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, after having completed his M.A. in Arts and Aesthetics and M.Phil. in Theatre and Performance from the same school. He is a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi national fellowship and University Grants Commission –J.R.F for higher studies. Rajaram has published several research articles in international journals and peer-reviewed publications. He also presented papers in the World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific-2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; at the 2014 Conference “The Future with/of Anthropologies” of The International Union of Anthropological and Ethnographical Sciences (IUAES) in Chiba City, Japan; and in the International Federation of Theater and Research-2014, World Congress, Warwick University, London, U.K.  In London, his paper’s topic asked the following question: The Body in/as Ritual or Performance or both? His current research interests focus on “Looking for performance: Trance and related body movements in rituals of Thai Pusam and Panguni Pongal festivals.”

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Kaustavi Sarkar

Ph.D. Student at The Ohio State University, USA


Odissi, one of eight Indian classical dance forms, incorporates indigenous performance traditions of Maharis, temple-dancers, and Gotipuas, pre-pubescent boys, as female impersonators. The three practices of Odissi, Mahari, and Gotipua exist contemporaneously and influence one another. Contemporary Odissi dancers appropriate Mahari bodies by performing the Mahari style of Odissi through specific sartorial choices and movement aesthetics. Gotipuas continue to exist in their indigenous context exposing what remains acceptable among indigeneity. This article argues that the confluence of Odissi, Mahari, and Gotipua bodies distorts historical timelines in the history of Odissi that depends on a linear transmission of movement from the Maharis to the Gotipuas and then the present day Odissi dancers, bringing forth a queer temporal moment. Maharis and Gotipuas are temporally deroutinized by their performative twisting of chronological time. Emergence of a queer temporal dimension critiques, comments, and subverts the gendered negotiation of acceptable indigeneity that selectively appropriates Mahari bodies, allowing Gotipuas to continue in their lived realities. As an Odissi soloist, I center my argument on the twists of the torso or the feet that queer temporality in a potent interdisciplinary conversation between South Asian aesthetics and queer theory. I expose the ontological crack between the living and the dead through the persistence of a temporal force that is virtual, indefinite, and infinitely performative. Committed to a fuller understanding of appropriated histories, I reclaim Mahari and Gotipua performance through a queer temporal twisting of accompanying identities, while simultaneously acknowledging their shifting centers.


Kaustavi Sarkar is a third year doctoral student at The Ohio State University, Kaustavi is a dancer-choreographer-educator, performing and teaching well over the past decade. She has an interdisciplinary research interest involving Practice-as-Research, Arts Entrepreneurship, Digital Humanities embedded in critical cultural theory. She employs entrepreneurial measures to build an Odissi fraternity. Both her choreography and writing build conversations across academe, performance, and business. She has performed in numerous dance festivals and conferences in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She is currently working on a pilot-project on creating a digital archive for Odissi using motion capture technology for Advanced Computing Center for Animation and Design at The Ohio State University. This collaboration between Indian classical dance and motion capture technology enhances the scope of movement as inspiration as well as co-creator in the world of 3D animation.

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Sophie Williams

Ph.D. student at The University of Auckland, Dance Studies Programme

New Zealand


This article explores the creative potential developed by sustaining indigenous knowledge, meanings, and connections, specifically when Māori cultural concepts are transferred into a contemporary dance context and practice. Te Hau Kainga – The Breeze of Home, represents foundational ideas and experiences of how Māori performative concepts like ihi, can be stimulated and connected through our whenua, place, and environment. This study will draw on the practices that foster ihi within the author’s own performance and choreographic process of producing a duet, Ngā Whaiaipo o te roto – Lovers of the Lake, performed in the 2013 Auckland Tempo Dance Festival. A Kaupapa Māori whakawhanaungatanga method of inquiry was implemented as the overarching philosophy guiding the process of this research. The experiences and reflections explored throughout this study are associated with understanding and making connections to the creative potential of Māori ideas and concepts that are then transferred and negotiated within contemporary dance practice and performance.


Ko Tarawera te maunga,

Ko Puarenga te awa,

Ko Te Arawa te waka,

Ko Te Pākira te marae,

Ko Tuhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao te hapu,

Ko Te Arawa te iwi

Kia ora. My name is Sophie Williams and I am currently a first year Ph.D. student at The University of Auckland, Dance Studies Programme. I am New Zealand Māori, from a place called Rotorua. I come from a strong Kapa Haka background, which is where I draw most of my ideas and concepts about creative practice, performance, and dance. I am currently interested in the process of creative and choreographic dance practices of indigenous dance companies.

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Wei-Chi Wu

Ph.D. Student in Critical Dance Studies, Department of Dance,

University of California, Riverside, USA


Folk dance is unique amongst different nationalities because it is affected by specific cultural, historical, and geographical factors. In Taiwan, the practice of international folk dance served as a political tool throughout the nation’s history; thus, I consider folk dancing as a way to represent a Taiwanese national identity.    However, folk dancing has recently become unfashionable in Taiwan, while more contemporary dances are viewed as more stylish and fashionable. Because of the negative associations, folk dance groups and associations have fallen out of the main stream of recreational activities. Despite these stereotypes, contemporary folk dance instructors in Taiwan have worked and continue to work hard to again popularize world traditional forms of dance and music. Specifically, many instructors have begun holding folk dance camps for Taiwanese college students and offering dance fellowships. These camps and fellowships give young people incentives—including those that are financial—to explore and recapture practices of these traditional cultural forms. I believe folk dancing is a reflection of Taiwanese history, as well as unique narrations in many Taiwanese people’s memories. This paper investigates the resurgence in Taiwan’s folk dancing popularity, and I focus on the Orodancer Folk Dance Group, one of the most famous folk dance companies in Taiwan, to examine how they have become part of this resurgence, furthermore to reveal current developments in and problems facing the practice of folk dance in Taiwan.


Wei-Chi Wu is a second-year Ph.D. student in Critical Dance Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She completed her M.A. at the National Taiwan University of Arts, where her work focused on Taiwanese indigenous performing arts. Wei-Chi holds the certification of Primary Level Instructor in Folk Dance issued by the Taiwanese Sports Administration, Ministry of Education, and she is currently a member of two famous Taiwanese folk dance organizations: the Taiwan International Folk Dance Association and Orodancer Folk Dance Group. She currently investigates cultural, social, and political dynamics in the Taiwanese folk dance communities in Taiwan and the U.S. (mainly California). She is also interested in examining traditional performing arts through cultural and anthropological critical lenses.

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