Theatre Practice Dance/Choreography (DRA2013)

StaffDr Pamela Woods - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Pre-requisitesDRA1004 Acting and Not Acting
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The overall aim of the module is to help you find and/or develop your own choreographic voice.

Specifically, it aims to develop your skills, knowledge and understanding of dance as a performing art through the inter-related process of:

  • Performance - developing proficiency in movement awareness and expression
  • Composition - using a variety of stimuli as starting points for improvisation, exploration, selection and refinement of movement content
  • Critical study and appreciation of dance composition and choreography, with reference to their own work and exemplars of professional dance.

Although not exclusively so, the emphasis of study is, for pragmatic reasons, on the practice, history and development of the genre of contemporary dance (including dance-theatre).

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate physical performing skills in a range of styles
  • 2. Demonstrate development in personal movement vocabulary
  • 3. Utilise a range of dance compositional skills (including space, time, relationship, dynamics, phrasing)
  • 4. Demonstrate an understanding of the choreographic process with reference to choice of movement content, style and accompaniment
  • 5. Demonstrate understanding and appreciation of choreography within an historical and cultural context

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. The ability to relate to others in theatrical processes and performances; to work effectively with others in small task-orientated groups and to initiate and sustain creative, analytic and interpretative work within strict time limits and basic technical competence
  • 7. The ability to utilise research tools effectively and to translate theory into practice
  • 8. The ability to apply library and IT skills in independent additional research
  • 9. The ability to contribute research to small groups in effective presentations, to evaluate visual evidence and analyse, critique and manipulate complex material
  • 10. The ability to engage critically and analytically with physical discipline; the development of thoughtful creative processes and understanding of physicalisation in performance
  • 11. The ability to explore theoretical concerns through practice, and vice versa, and to synthesise findings in practical and written tasks. The ability to interpret research into physical practice and vice versa

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 12. To develop personal research skills using personal initiative; to set personal objectives and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies
  • 13. To develop group cooperation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback and to improve communication skills and analytic abilities in discussions
  • 14. To develop confidence in performance skills and public presentation, both of dramatic practice and researched material
  • 15. The ability to express and communicate creative ideas and images; ability to initiate and sustain creative work, both group and solo
  • 16. The ability to collaborate in various groups and group sizes, to learn elements of teamwork and presentation
  • 17. The ability to balance between self-direction and collaborative work; self-management, collaborative working skills, problem solving, critical analysis and valuing own and others' ideas and beliefs

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

You will be introduced to key individuals and companies in the field of contemporary dance (including dance-theatre), and the movement styles, dance techniques and approaches to choreography which have informed the development of modern dance in Europe and USA and contemporary dance in Britain.

Each week there will be reading and practical dance composition tasks. Students will work in supportive group situations (small groups and pairs) and on short solo tasks, gradually building towards a final solo choreography.

Fundamental to practical sessions will be the development of movement awareness, based on sound anatomical principles, and facilitating students to develop their own movement potential and expressive vocabulary.

During the first half of the module, through and alongside practical sessions, students will become familiar with key choreographers and Independent Dance practitioners (past and current) including:

  • Europeans: Rudolf Laban, Mary Wigman, Pina Bausch, Wim Vandekeybus, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and others
  • Americans: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, William Forsythe and others
  • British: Robert Cohan, Christopher Bruce, Richard Alston, Siobhan Davies, Lea Anderson, Lloyd Newson, and others

The second half of the module will continue to develop students' dance composition and choreographic skills, with a greater focus on solo. Each student will research for and give a seminar presentation on a selected practitioner or style of professional dance work (selected according to the individual's area of interest and enthusiasm), which will inform their solo process. A written portfolio (critical and reflective) will draw together research, studio practice and solo process.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 66Practical studio sessions
Guided independent study70Studio choreography tasks and solo preparation
Guided independent study94Research (set readings, viewing professional work, preparation for seminars)
Guided independent study70Writing (reviews, artists' journals and portfolios)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Solo choreography process tasks2-3 minutes1-4,10,11,14,15, 17tutor and peer verbal feedback
2 x short written tasks: review; short analysis of solo process500 words each4,5,7,11Tutor oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Continuous assessment tasks (practice and research) including individual formal seminar presentation35Varying lengths for the duration of module; individual formal seminar presentation 10-12 minutes1-16Oral feedback in sessions and written feedback at end of module
Solo choreography process and performance355 minute solo performance1-4, 7,10-12,14,15Oral and written feedback
Portfolio302000 words plus appendices up to 1000-1500 words4,5,7,8,10-12Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Solo choreography5 mins solo performance1-4,7,10-12,14,15Referral/Deferral period
PortfolioPortfolio4,5,7,8,10-12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Preston-Dunlop, V. (1998) Looking at Dance: a choreological perspective on choreography, Verve Publishing (* key book for dance composition class)
  • Adshead, J. (ed.) (1988) Dance Analysis: Theory and Practice, London: Dance Books Albright,
  • Ann Cooper (1997) Choreographing Difference, Wesleyan Press
  • Au, Susan (1988) Ballet and Modern Dance, Thames and Hudson
  • Benbow-Pfalzgraf, T. (1998) International Dictionary of Modern Dance, St James Press
  • Banes, S (1994) Terpsichore in Sneakers, Wesleyan University Press
  • Blom, L.A. and Chaplin L.T. (1982) The Intimate Act of Choreography, Pittsburgh: Uni. Pittsburgh Press Bremser, M. (ed.) (1999) Fifty Contemporary Choreographers, London: Routledge
  • Copeland, R. (2004) Merce Cunningham: the modernizing of modern dance, London: Routledge
  • Cohen, Selma Jeanne (1992) Dance as a Theatre Art, Dance Horizons
  • Cunningham, M. (1968) Changes: notes on choreography, New York: Something Else Press
  • Ellfeldt, L. (1988) A Primer for Choreographers, Illinois: Waveland Press
  • Hodgson, J. (2001) Mastering movement: the life and work of Rudolf Laban, London: Methuen
  • Jordon, S. (1992) Striding Out: Aspects of Contemporary Dance in Britain, London: Dance Books
  • Mackrell, J. (1992) Out of Line: the story of British New Dance, London: Dance Books
  • Mazo, J. (1977) Prime Movers: the making of modern dance in America, London: Black
  • Morgenroth, J. (2004) Speaking of dance: twelve contemporary choreographers on their craft, London: Routledge
  • Morrison-Brown, J. (1980) The Vision of Modern Dance, London: Dance Books
  • Partch-Bergson, I. (2003) The makers of modern dance in Germany: Rudolf Laban, Mary Wigman, Kurt Jooss, N.J.: Princeton Book Company
  • Smith, J. (1976 ) Dance Composition, London: Lepus Steinman, L. (1985) The Knowing Body, New York: Shambala
  • Todd, Mabel Elsworth (1997) The Thinking Body, Dance Horizons
  • Worth, L. and Poyner, H. (2004) Anna Halprin, Routledge Journals: Dance Theatre Journal, Dance Now

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE –

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Exeter Digital Archives
  • Video and DVD recordings (to be detailed during module)

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

dance composition, dance improvisation, choreography, dance-theatre, contemporary dance