shiftwork - unspooled


Choreographic sensibility in screen based dance


A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Chirstinn Whyte

School of Arts and Education

Middlesex University

October 2007




The principal aim of this research is the critical investigation into the creative processes involved in the making of screen based work in dance and the moving image, with specific reference to the notion of choreographic sensibility. The research process has been located within a climate of evolving production paradigms and the increasingly permeable boundaries of professional roles. A marked increase in educational initiatives and opportunities for showing work within the environment of festival screenings has also coincided with a discernible shift towards smaller scale models of production.

The investigation has been undertaken by means of a written submission and also by the creation of a forty two piece cycle of work submitted on DVD. Selected examples of work from screen based dance and moving image practice have been subject to a process of analysis. This analysis has been informed by critical perspectives drawn from the writings of selected classical film theorists, from influential filmmakers Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage, and from the field of practice theory.

From this analysis, it can be claimed that examples of screen based dance and moving image work have the potential to be read ‘choreographically’. Some of the common practices in theatre dance and screen based dance relate directly to the notion of movement material creation. Others must be regarded as relating to an enhanced and more conceptually-oriented range of choreographic practices which are more usually associated with the non dance-specific professional roles of the director, editor and visual artist. A distinctive choreographic sensibility has also been identified in the creation of my own screen based work. This sensibility can be said to be located within a range of improvisationally-oriented strategies. These strategies relate to the processes involved in performance; the creation of movement material; directing and editing, all of which are informed by a body of professionally developed intuitive knowledge.



With thanks for continued support and encouragement from Professors Christopher Bannerman and Susan Melrose.

Thanks are due to the performers for their commitment of time and expertise

Franck Baranek
Dominique Bulgin
Isobel Cohen
Alan Tongue
Maddy Tongue

And to Jake Messenger for facilitation of the work

Particular gratitude is due to Professor Alexandra Carter, for keeping a positive outcome in sight, and guiding so skillfully towards it.


shiftwork - unspooled