The Philosophy and Science of Performance

This interdisciplinary project has been set up to investigate the questions:

  • What is performance?
  • What are the problems?
  • What is performance excellence?

Libby Fox and Louisa Robey performing at De Montfort University during their BA Dance Course; photo by Olga Galona

Libby Fox and Louisa Robey performing at De Montfort University during their BA Dance Course; photo by Olga Galona

We are exploring how an empirically-tested psycho-mechanical approach (the Alexander Technique) can be applied to develop excellence in performance. This technique promotes the conscious application of principles of efficient psycho-mechanics in posture, movement and voice as the underpinning of skilled performance in the arts, sports, and classroom teaching and also wellbeing in work performance of all kinds. The project theorises the importance of this for performance studies and practice through an original combination of three disciplinary perspectives: artistic (performance quality, creativity), philosophical (body-mind dualism, human autonomy) scientific (anatomy, biomechanics, physiology), and through gathering an unprecedented base of qualitative and quantitative evidence, working with students of dance, drama and education.

People

External resources/links

For further information about the Alexander Technique, please go to www.paat.org.uk

Current Research projects

Well-being in the workplace and the Alexander Technique

This is an ongoing project offering practical sessions on how the Alexander Technique can help both in the workplace and in life generally. Since 2018:

At University of Birmingham

  • Taster sessions were run for staff in Academic Services and for all staff during well-being weeks 2018 and 2019 
  • Three six week lunchtime courses have been run on the Alexander Technique and Wellbeing open to all University staff
  • Rose gave a presentation at the ‘Happiness and Well-being workshop’ on 'Current research into the Alexander Technique and its application to personal wellbeing’ in 2018

Externally

  • Victoria and Rose ran workshops at the Macmillan Professionals conference for staff working within cancer care in 2018

Wellbeing and the Alexander Technique in teacher education

UoB:

This is an ongoing course since 2016 for student teachers at the School of Education at the University of Birmingham who are interested in working on the quality of teacher voice and presence and its relation to wellbeing. The course runs throughout the year as part of the Whole School Issues module convened by Dr Sarah Hall. In 2019-20 46 Postgraduate diploma students have signed up for the course.

Externally:

Victoria and Rose have given sessions on Voice and Presence at the summer school for incoming PGCE students at Bradford College in 2018 and 2019.

Alexander Technique and the Performer

Rose runs The Alexander Technique and Performance module for 3rd year students in the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. The course has run since 2000.

Martin currently runs the Healthy Practitioner module and teaches anatomy, physiology and philosophy in lectures and dance class as part of the Dance Technique modules on the BA Dance at De Montfort University. This continues teaching derived from the principles of mechanical advantage discussed by Alexander in his writings and developed in the modules: Improving Performance, Understanding Balance and Coordination, and A Philosophical Approach to Performance. Martin has taught at DMU since 1992.

Victoria and Rose gave a lecture and workshops as part of The Healthy Practitioner module in October 2018.

Rose gave a workshop on Voice and Presence and the Alexander Technique as part of the University of Birmingham HEFI Festival in July 2019.

Externally:

Martin gave a presentation ‘Plato’s ‘Battle of Gods and Giants’ and the Paradox of Touch in Contact Improvisation’ and we co-presented a workshop ‘Contact as ‘listening’ and the performer’, Sixth International Conference of Dalcroze Studies, Katowice, Poland, August 2019.

Victoria and Rose are offering a one-day workshop at Midlands Arts Centre in March 2020.

Selected Publications

  • Current co-authored monograph project: Performance and Being: Explorations on philosophy, science and practice for actors, dancers and teachers
  • Door, V. (2019) BERA blog relating to 2014 book, Creative and Critical Educational Practitioners. 
  • Door, V. & Wilkinson, C. (2018)The role of the educator's disposition and mental processes in a student’s experience of democracy. In Dewey and Education in the 21st Century: fighting back. edited by Ruth Heilbronn, Christine Doddington, Rupert Higham, Emerald Publishing.
  • Cassell, D & Door V. (2016) Save our Teachers' Souls: Professional and Social Well-being in a Managerial Environment. Word and Deed Publishing. 
  • Door, V. (2014) Developing Creative and Critical Educational Practitioners. Critical Publishing.
  • Huxley, M., Doughty, S., Francksen, K. and Leach, M. (2008) Technological enhancements in the teaching and learning of reflective and creative practice in dance. Research in Dance Education. 9 (1), pp.129-146.
  • Leach, M. (2018) Psychophysical what? What would it mean to say ‘there is no “body” … there is no “mind”’ in dance practice? Research in Dance Education, 19 (2), pp. 113-127.
  • The Problem of 'Feeling' in Dance Practice: Fragmentation and Unity
  • Leach, M. (2009) The problem of feeling in dance practice: fragmentation and unity. In: Global Perspectives On Dance Pedagogy: Research And Practice. CORD Special Conference, De Montfort University Leicester, June 2009, Champaign, Ill., University of Illinois Press, pp. 130–138.
  • Whyman, R., (Current monograph project) Performance in Revolutionary Russia: the Arts and Science of Biomechanics, Routledge 2020.
  • Whyman, R. Explanations and Implications of Psychophysical Acting’, New Theatre Quarterly, 2016, 32:2, 157-168.
  • Whyman, R. The Stanislavsky System of Acting: Legacy and Influence on Modern Performance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008 ISBN 978-0-521-88696-3 (hbk), 978-0-521-28337-3 

For further information, contact Rose Whyman r.whyman@bham.ac.uk