Material Words for Voicing Dancers: A practice-led inquiry into the role of voice for the improvising dancer

Robert Vesty

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis stems from practice-led research that has investigated the role of voicing (both linguistic and non-linguistic sound) in improvisatory dance-based performance practices. The author's research is rooted in their training with three independent practitioners — Ruth Zaporah (US), Julyen Hamilton (UK/ES) and Billie Hanne (BE) — which took place intermittently between 2012 and 2017 in Spain, Belgium and the UK. Reference is made to pedagogical processes and Instant Composition performance practice, as well as the author's own artistic performance experiments and outcomes, to draw out the figure of a voicing dancer. The analysis considers: 1) how a dancer might ‘access’ feeling for voicing, taking a somatically-oriented approach that also utilises the author's experience as a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method; 2) how voicing can be ‘arranged’ in a compositional environment with objects; 3) how voicing is amplified for performance in an enlivened acoustic space drawing on theatre aurality. Working through these stages (‘accessing’, ‘arranging’ and ‘amplifying’) aims to discern and differentiate the way voicing and dancing can be considered a potentially unified but situated act, as well as offer an analytical model for researching such practices. The author argues that to describe such practice in terms of ‘embodied voice’ is limited and uses Tim Ingold’s relational ontology, and particularly his notion of ‘ensoundedness’, as a foundation for expanding the terms of engagement. The author suggests that ‘voicing-and-listening’ can more fully account for how voicing(s) are produced by dancers in a studio and performance environment.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • McCaw, Dick, Supervisor
  • Worth, Libby, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 10 Sept 2020


  • Improvisation
  • Voice
  • Dance
  • Instant Composition

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