Dance, music and theatre arts together form a flourishing research unit at Middlesex University. This longstanding unit has maintained its influence on the fields of practice-as-research and critical enquiry into Performing Arts through enabling infrastructures, strategic appointments, high quality research outputs and a significantly public-facing approach.
The research strategy for this unit is framed by a clear and ambitious institutional vision and builds upon the strengths demonstrated in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008. This submission, based on outputs by 31 staff, sits within the recently restructured School of Media and Performing Arts.
Of particular note is a commitment to expert practitioner-researchers. The Centre for Research into
Creation in the Performing Arts (ResCen) led by Professor Chris Bannerman, offers a pioneering model for interdisciplinary artist-centred research and a forum for knowledge exchange.
Integrated within and alongside this practice-led research enquiry are wide-ranging research approaches that encompass, in all of our disciplines, socio-cultural, historical, analytical and philosophical explorations, with many researchers operating through mixed mode research - generating both artistic and scholarly written outcomes.
The Unit of Assessment case studies are:
Through community arts practice based on the principles of mindfulness, choreographer Rosemary
Lee works with inclusive, therapeutic and inter-generational groups, as well as artists and dancers, using unique elements: close attention through touch and mindful listening.
Her work has evolved over two decades of practice, research and collaborations, and shows impact and reach by bringing transformation to community participants, artists, health professionals and professional arts practice. Lee moves away from the role of choreographer as director with a set agenda, and empowers participants to embody issues that are important to them, setting a model for community life. The performance works Common Dance (2009) and Square Dances (2011) have led to a DVD and symposium that develop a practice-as-research methodology for dance practitioners and researchers, and to workshops for artists and practitioners around the world.
Shobana Jeyasingh is one of a handful of British choreographers – and indeed, choreographers worldwide – who successfully choreograph work using a multiplicity of cultural techniques and methods. Having trained in the Indian classical form Bharata Natyam, Jeyasingh produces work that utilises a mix of classical, contemporary, popular and site-specific techniques.
Impacts are generated through her writing, mentoring, public engagement and performance works, as she asks audiences and dancers to re-think notions of authenticity, unchanging tradition, and binary identities such as Asian and British.
Her workshops in schools and performance works in various British and European sites change perceptions of gender, ethnic identity and Indian dance. A tour supported by the British Council and commercial sponsors saw Jeyasingh take her diasporic, hybrid sensibilities to India to convey a postmodern, multicultural British identity.
Professor Christopher Bannerman conceived this large-scale project as an extension of the ResCen mission to connect academia more intimately with the arts profession. The project promotes international communication and understanding between the UK, China and Taiwan – linking Middlesex University with the Beijing Dance Academy (BDA), China National Academy for Arts Research (CNAAR) and Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA), among others.
Through collaborative dance-making between choreographers and dancers from these countries, artists exchange perspectives and artistic and cultural paradigms, presenting work to international audiences. In China and Taiwan, this develops platforms for experimenting with European artistic methods, and in the UK, it raises the profile of East Asian dance, art and culture, where these endeavours have been under-represented.
Online forums, discussions, seminars and conferences allow the project to open a dialogue about encounters with, and understandings of, the other. The project achieves reach and significance in conversation with policy-makers and producers in three sectors beyond HE: arts professional practice, cultural policy, and civil society.
At its first stage the project was named Danscross, evolving into Artscross as further partners were involved. The project has taken the form of a series of intensive workshop/performance periods including discussion groups, lectures and symposia, linked by ongoing communication and exchange.