Physical Performance: Choreography in Theatre-Making (DRA3084)

StaffDr Pamela Woods - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisites  DRA1004 Acting and Not Acting and DRA2067 Staging the Text  
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

What is Physical Theatre? What is Dance Theatre? What are the similarities, differences, the boundaries within and between?

The module aims to identify key features of Physical Theatre and Dance Theatre through studio practice, research and analysis. Students will be encouraged to arrive at their own understanding of these genres and to develop their own physical language and choreographic practice. It aims to develop students’ performance, compositional and collaborative skills. More specifically these include: movement skills (creation and performance) including embodied practice and individual movement potential; compositional skills (ability to navigate relationships between movement-performance space, performer-audience, performer-performer; movement-time factors (e.g. speed, duration, rhythm, dynamics etc.), visual-aural elements; collaborative practice applied to the creation of new work.

Do you love moving? Are you interested in human behaviour? Do you enjoy expressing ideas through movement and voice in non-literal ways? Are you interested in the multiplicity of relationships possible between theatrical elements?

Students will engage in small-form choreographic tasks over the course of the term, examining a range of movement styles and approaches to choreography within the genres of Physical Theatre and Dance Theatre. These will include individual and collaborative experimentation.

Following a practice which has been well established by artists in many fields, the major written element will be an individual Creative Process Journal. Students will record and reflect on their continuous research and practice process towards and including the final collaborative group choreography. There will be supplementary short written critical analyses during the module. These will be integral to module content and provide opportunity to demonstrate critical engagement with theories, methodologies and principles in addition to that shown in the Creative Process Journal.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate confidence in performance skills (including embodiment practice) in physical/dance theatre genres.
  • 2. Demonstrate secure understanding and application of a) embodiment and corporeality b) movement compositional skills (including effective use of space, time, relationship, dynamics, phrasing).
  • 3. Draw on and apply a range of choreographic principles and methodologies to create original physical theatre/dance theatre in collaboration with others.
  • 4. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the inter-relationships of elements (strands of nexus), as this pertains to choreography (including movement, space, accompaniment, design).

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. 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 times limits and to solve a number of specific technical problems and apply that understanding to performance work.
  • 6. Demonstrate ability to contribute research to small groups in effective presentations, to evaluate visual evidence and to develop advanced confidence in the ability to analyse, critique and manipulate complex material.
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to engage critically and analytically with physical discipline; the development of thoughtful creative processes, understanding of physicalisation in performance and the capacity to articulate that understanding in appropriate ways.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Develop group cooperation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback, and to improve communication skills and advanced analytic abilities in discussions.
  • 9. Demonstrate the ability to think laterally and demonstrate originality in problem solving, to express and communicate creative ideas and images, and the ability to initiate and sustain creative work, both group and solo.
  • 10. Demonstrate the ability to balance between self-direction and collaborative work; to adapt and design working methods for each new situation, self-management, collaborative working skills, problem solving, critical analysis and valuing own and others’ ideas and beliefs.

Syllabus plan

The module will begin by examining notions of embodiment and corporeality in Physical Theatre and Dance Theatre through: studio practice: reading and research; analysis of archive performances (past and present key exemplars of the genres). It will move to a focus on choreographic practice, including a range of methodologies. The module will follow a trajectory of studio practice including whole group, solo, pair and small group work. This will be supplemented by individual and group research tasks including presentations to disseminate findings to peers. The final practical outcome will be a collaborative group choreography (which will include an individual element) appropriate to the genres of Physical Theatre, Dance Theatre or which investigates the boundaries between.

Of key importance will be each student’s Creative Process Journal, which will enable creative, reflective and critical means of recording processes as they unfold from the perspective of a creative artist. It provides an opportunity to: detail, notate, draw, assemble and collate; develop, critique and evaluate ideas; write in ways that differ from essay or portfolio. Students will be required to include evidence of critical engagement on a continuous basis through their Creative Process Journals, but to supplement this there will be one formative and two further short written tasks during the module to enable students to succinctly demonstrate their critical engagement with key aspects of the module.

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 Activities66Studio-based contact hours
Guided independent study33Fulfilment of tasks: scheduled self-directed sessions
Guided independent study44Class preparation: reading assigned material, researching, formulating responses
Guided independent study33Creative process journal: recording processes, critical and reflective writings
Guided independent study124Planning, preparation, devising and rehearsing towards and including final performance project

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation/performance tasks each week5-15 minutes each week incrementally longer as module progresses1,2,3,5,6,7,8 9 10Peer and tutor verbal feedback
Written critical analysis 1,000 words2,4,6,7,10Tutor verbal feedback
Creative Process JournalN/A (buddy exchange of journals mid-way to establish good practice2,3,7,8,10Peer and tutor verbal 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
Final performance project5025-30 minutes: collaborative group choreography including cameo solo section/interlude for each group memberallPeer verbal evaluation and tutor written feedback
Written components: Creative Process Journal 50appropriate to methods of recording: journal entries should be at least thrice weekly, building to frequent/ daily inputs (3,000-4,000 words); 2 x 1,000 words critical analyses; total word count no more than 6,000 2,3,4,6,7,9,10; 2,4,6,7,10Tutor verbal feedback at mid-module tutorial, plus end of module written feedback; Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Final performance projectPiece of written work related to intended performance plus additional critical analysis of professional archive performance (3,000 words total)2,4,6,7,9,10Referred/deferred period
Written components: Creative Process Journal Written components as intended2,3,4,6,7,9,10Referred/deferred period

Re-assessment notes

Written submission in lieu of performance: a) a critical commentary of 2,000 words that draws on studio processes and outlines the potential or hypothetical performance project in line with the assignments objectives b) an additional critical analysis (1,000 words) of professional Physical Theatre/Dance Theatre archive performance.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Albright, Ann Cooper (1997) Choreographing Difference, Wesleyan Press

Bradley, K. (2009) Rudolf Laban, London & NY: Routledge

Climenhaga, R, (2009) Pina Bausch, Routledge

Fernandes, C. (2002) Pina Bausch and the Wuppertal Dance Theater. P.Lang

Newhall, M. (2009) Mary Wigman, London & NY: Routledge

Preston-Dunlop and Sanchez-Colberg (2002) Dance and the Performative, Verve Publishing

Partsch-Bergsohn, I. (2003) The Makers of Modern Dance in Gemany – Laban, Wigman, Jooss, Princeton Book Co.

Steinman, Louise (1985) The Knowing Body, Shambala

Todd, Mabel Elsworth (1997) The Thinking Body, Dance Horizons

Tufnell M. and Crickmay, C (1993) Body, Space, Image


Journals:          Dance Theatre Journal (St Lukes’s library)

                       PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Exeter Digital Archives

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Physical performance, choreography, theatre-making