TDPT 11.2. Training for Performance Art and Live Art

We are delighted to announce the publication of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 11.2, Training for Performance Art and Live Art, guest edited by Heike Roms (University of Exeter).

The view that one can only practice and not practice for performance art and live art has persisted since the emergence of time-, body-, and action-based performance artworks in the 1960s. After all, to speak of ‘training’ evokes ideas of technique, mastery or tradition, ideas that the artists engaged in performance art and live art have frequently sought to challenge or altogether abandon. However, many of the artists who have shaped the history of performance art and live art have also been committed teachers; pedagogical approaches to performance practices emerged at the same time as the practices themselves; educational institutions have frequently offered material support for the making of performance works and provided a living for artists; and artist-led, non-institutional training spaces have adopted events and publications as alternative forms of curricula. Acknowledging the importance of training not just in the formation of a performance artist but as part of their continuing practice also means to value experience, expertise and professional standing as part of the work of performance art and live art.

This special issue brings together contributions that address the theme of training for performance art and live art in reference to different histories (covering the 1960s and 1970s as well as the recent present); diverse geographies (examining developments in the UK and in Portugal); institutions and anti-institutions (covering art schools, summer schools, festivals and workshop programmes); and varied approaches to teaching and training as a performative inter-generational transaction.

Gavin Butt’s ‘Without Walls: Performance Art and Pedagogy at the “Bauhaus of the North”’ traces the impact of libertarian teaching in the 1970s at arguably the most influential teaching institutions for the history of performance art in the UK, Leeds Polytechnic. In ‘Lessons from Outside the Classroom: Performance Pedagogies in Portugal, 1970-1980’, Cláudia Madeira and Fernando Matos Oliveira recount approaches to performance training as they developed in Portugal in the wake of the 1974 revolution outside of formal institutions.

Deirdre Heddon’s ‘Professional Development for Live Artists: Doing it Yourself’ explores the history of the DIY professional development scheme as an example for how training practices are being reimagined as live art practices in themselves. In ‘Training for Live Art: Process Pedagogies and New Moves International’s Winter Schools’, Stephen Greer examines the New Moves International (NMI)’s winter school as another key example for an artist-led scheme that made productive live art’s resistant relationship to established forms of performer training.

In ‘“I’ve been as intimate with him as I have been with anybody”: Queer Approaches, Encounters and Exchanges as Live Art Performer Training’, Kieran Sellars identifies in the cross-generational performance collaboration between Sheree Rose and Martin O’Brien a form of queer embodied discipline that draws on BDSM as well as Live Art lineages. And in ‘Curious Methods–Pedagogy Through Performance’, Leslie Hill and Helen Paris document the close ways in which their training methods have reflected on and contributed to their creation of live performance work.

The Training Grounds section (edited by Bryan Brown) supplements this with a collection of shorter essais, postcards, and a book review (edited by Chris Hays). Will Dickie’s expanded essai (accompanied by videos available here on the TDPT blog) investigates the application of psychophysical actor training to live art. In the issue’s second essai, a trio of practitioners (Áine Phillips, Dominic Thorpe and Tara Carroll) offer insight into three generations of Irish live art practice by detailing transformative encounters with their teachers. The two postcards for this special issue (by Sara Zaltash and N. Eda Erçin) wrestle with the entanglements of live art practice, life and communities. And Campbell Edinborough’s review of Marina Abramović’s memoir Walk Through Walls furthers the discussion of how a live artist’s work is their life while querying the ability to turn that life into a method.

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Training to be me: videos

The following video recordings have been collected to go with the essay ‘Training to be me’, found in TDPT 11.2 Live and Performance Art. The entries comprise a short film and 3 videos of exercises I created to help me make 3 different performances. Each entry works as an example of how I have applied a principle or technique from my experience with performer training to my autobiographical, live art making processes.


This short film, created in 2011, is included here to share how I applied my martial arts training in the South Indian Martial Art Kalaripayattu. I used an embodied sense of ‘listening to space’ to make choreographic responses to the built environment of my childhood hometown – Hampton – in South West London. Camera by Will Hanke. 


This video records the vocal training I undertook to deliver the final text in my solo dance theatre work – Memories of Suburbia. The video includes 2 exercises from the Suzuki Method of Actor Training, as taught to me by John Nobbs and Jacqui Carrol from their own method – the Nobbs Suzuki Praxis. Introducing a recording I made from interviewing my Nan to the process, I used these exercises to deepen my capacity to embody her voice and listen to it at the same time.  The video ends by showing the text on its feet in performance at Battersea Arts Centre in 2014.  

image by Diego Ferrari

Memories of Suburbia was created with support from Chisenhale Dance Space, with movement direction from Fabiola Santana & lighting design by Marry Langthorne. Camera by Chris Jenkins.


This video records an exercise created for the two performers of Team of the Decades, an outdoor participatory work for 10 audiences members at a time. The purpose of the exercise is to give myself and the team coach the chance to drill aspects of the show within the performance environment. We are attuning to the landscape, each other, our individual scores, and an imagined audience we will guide through the experience.

image by Paul Blakemore

Team of the Decades was created with support from Battersea Arts Centre, and is performed by Will Dickie & Tim Hopkins. Camera by Fabiola Santana.


This video records an exercise created to train my kinaesthetic relationships to the equipment and playing space of The Rave Space – an immersive DJ performance for nightclubs. My final 90 minute performance score includes all the sonic manipulations and movement work that appear in this exercise. 

image by Joe Twigg

The Rave Space was created with support with Arts Council England, Battersea Arts Centre, Camden Peoples Theatre, Heart N Soul, Shoreditch Town Hall, South Street Reading & ZU-UK, and the creative team includes Chris Collins, Dan Canham, Fabiola Santana, Hayley Hill, Marty Langthorne & Peader Kirk. Camera by Chris Jenkins.