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MDX hosts Per/forming Futures conference, with dance performances by top artists

Attendees praise audience engagement and opportunities for thoughtful feedback on artistic practice offered by event

Collage of images of Rita Marcalo's One Last Dance/An Chéad Damhsa in performance

Middlesex University has hosted a major conference on the future of arts doctorates which involve artistic research in dance and performance.

Per/forming Futures, held in the Grove Building on 11th-13th April was the major event in the three year Artistic Doctorates in Europe (ADiE) project, which aims to bring higher education institutions and the dance sector together to understand and promote the benefit of doctorates of this kind. The event considered the impact of artistic doctoral education within and beyond universities through a series of panels, keynote speeches, working group debates and workshops, and celebrated it through performances and screenings.

Highlights included talks by Finnish performance art pioneer, researcher and pedagogue Annette Arlander, and by University of London Professorial Fellow and expert in practice as research, Robin Nelson; a cross-sectoral debate with funders and arts managers on the impact of practice as research on the future of the profession; and a work-in-progress performance by choreographer and dancer Matthias Sperling, who is currently pursuing a practice-based PhD at De Montfort University. There were also presentations of work by well-established artists Angela Woodhouse (also a MDX dance lecturer) and Sara Giddens of Bodies in Flight.

On Friday 12th April – the day the UK was scheduled to leave the EU - Rita Macarlo of Instant Dissidence presented One Last Dance/An Chéad Damhsa, her response to Brexit. On Saturday there were panels on publishing, supervisory practices and rethinking models for doctoral study.

From Exposure, video/live performance by Kerryn Wise

The convenor of Per/Forming Futures, MDX Professor in Dance and Choreographic Practices Vida Midgelow, has twenty years of experience in facilitating and lecturing in performance and promoting practice as research internationally.

“Against a background of an increased focus on STEM in education, what we propose is that artistic doctorates offer insights not only into the potential of embodied work and creative practice, but can also inform other disciplines and reach out to address real-world issues”, Professor Midgelow says.

"The conference offered the option for delegates to choose how they wanted to contribute or exchange knowledge" said attendee Leo Burtin, a theatre maker, producer, writer and researcher  who is a PhD candidate at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds.

"The mix of keynote presentations, performances, panels, seminars, the use of open space, practical workshops, screenings, etc. was reflective of Artistic Research as diverse and formally adventurous as a field.

"The second thing which was excellent was the opportunity to engage with colleagues from all over Europe, and beyond. Given the sorry state of British politics, the opportunity to grow connections beyond our institutional borders was joyfully welcome".

East Midlands-based choreographer, lecturer and PhD candidate Kerryn Wise said: "Performing my work Exposure at the event was a very useful platform to gather perceptive, reflective, critical feedback on the practice. A range of academic-practitioners offered feedback acknowledging the conceptual concerns within the work. I was also able to make connections with experienced academics who came to experience the 360 video/live performance work such as Professor Robin Nelson".

Artist, writer and performer Monika Jaeckel who is undertaking a practice-based PhD at the University of Westminster said: "The conference provided a fantastic environment in terms of facilities and technical support. I liked the combinations of audience engagement through smaller group sessions, which were all done in a very playful way".

Dance organisations Dance4, Independent Dance and The Place attended and participated in the event. Per/forming Futures launched ADiE’s two most recent publications: Reconsidering Research and Supervision as Creative Embodied Creative Practice: Reflections from the Field and Researching (in/as) Motion, A Resource Collection. Together, these publications offer guidance and materials to support research practices and the supervision and delivery of artistic research.

For more information, visit the ADiE website

Click here to find out more about dance at Middlesex

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