Some Pedagogical Provocations

Jen Harvie argues in Fair Play: “social, economic and political contexts, in England in particular but also more widely in the United Kingdom, are radically reconfiguring what an artist is expected to be and, in so doing, putting the value of being an artist at serious ideological risk” (Harvie, 2013:62). How can learning experiences which focus on creativity, community, and social engagement exist within a culture that “obliges art relentlessly to pursue productivity, permanent growth and profit”? (Harvie, 2013:63).

I am beginning to co-write an article about performance pedagogy and am interested in hearing from other arts educators about the following:

  • How do you “teach” creative practices within your institution?
  • What are the limits or challenges facing practitioners and academics who deliver performance training?
  • How do the wider institutional aims and objectives relate to the pedagogical approach of specific performance programmes?
  • Do you feel the “value of being an artist is at serious ideological risk”?
  • Do “growth and profit” models affect pedagogical approaches towards the training of artists?
  • Are academic structures “creatively constraining” or limiting?

As the TDPT blog editor I am also keen for this site to generate discussion and debate over some of the issues facing practitioners and academics working in the field of theatre, dance and performance training so please do “reply” to share your responses.


The Studio is the area of the TDPT blog dedicated to the audio-visual documentation of training practices. We hope that over time the studio will act as a repository of performance training materials, making them available for research and for use in studios and classrooms across the world. Some materials will also provide models of how to document training, possibly with short examples of reflective writing to complement the documentation.
Audio-visual materials should clearly demonstrate a particular aspect of the research/practice. They can be a recording of a training exercise, a series of comments/interviews on a particular approach, or a provocation to adopt, rethink or transform a training example – and an invitation to share these transformations on the blog.



There is great mystery surrounding what really goes on in our acting workshops. Almost a mystique. We hear of particular uses that teachers are making of Alexander [Technique], Tai Chi Chuan, yoga, the work of Slater, Horney, Berne, Laing, May, Lowen, Rogers, Reich, Levi-Strauss; of the exciting things being done with actor training methods with disturbed children, of the extension of theatre games into new areas of gestalt, of new thoughts on Stanislavski System. But little of this work and the ideas, experiences, goals and philosophy which lie behind it, is open to use for sharing. Mostly, there is silence.
Richard Brown (ed), Actor Training I, The Institute for Research in Acting, 1972: xiii.

When I began to think about an introductory statement to the Studio Space, I was reminded of this quote by Richard Brown in a volume, now out of print, that aimed to capture the actor training practices that were developing in the States at the time. What has changed and what has remained the same since then? Which of the observations in the quote above strike a chord today and which ones feel outdated?
To be sure the eclectic mix captured in Brown’s long list is still a feature of contemporary training landscape; some of the names no longer ring a bell, but virtually all of the named disciplines have survived and developed into valid training methods for performance. Partially as a result to this, Brown’s reference to ‘acting workshops’ feels quite outdated, since our instinct today is to speak of ‘performers’ and thus designate the breadth of both training regimes and subsequent work performing artists might be engaged in.
Brown also refers to a perceived silence that is disproportionate to the wealth of experimentation he recognises. This too might be considered outdated; training has since enjoyed numerous publications, conferences, professional bodies and of course a dedicated journal, this blog is part of. And yet a sense of Brown’s ‘mystique’ lingers. The practical and embodied nature of the discipline, its practice in small groups, its potential to effect change over a long period of time often leaves one with the sense that, no matter the number of demonstrations, conferences and publications, there is still a great deal of sharing to be done.
The TDPT Blog then is a step in this direction. The Studio Space, in particular, by testing and harnessing the potential of recording technologies to capture and transmit the tacit, kinesthetic, and practical dimensions that characterise training experiences aims to push the doors of studios around the world further ajar, so that when we are inside them we can look out and when we are outside we can look in. Welcome.

Where’s the Human Connection Gone?

My work is primarily site-specific and last month as part of a wider experiment ( I stood on the high street of my relatively small commuter town in Hertfordshire with a cardboard sign which read, “Where has the human connection gone? Share one minute of eye contact to find out.”Although I didn’t have many takers (you can read all about the details of my experience here!Wheres-the-human-connection-gone/cz7q/5620fe590cf2c3576e616661); it was fundamentally an immediate, meaningful connection shared with others. From the perspective of performer (and specifically contemporary dancer) training my concern is the cultivation of human connection. My research to date has framed this connection within the idea of phenomenological intersubjectivity; but big words aside, what really matters in training to me is a way to get at the fleshy, immediate, shared, open experience of our human-ness.

Continue reading