In the Dance Studies Programme, the research environment supports local and international work and plays a significant role in artistic, cultural, educational and community environments. Our research covers a variety of disciplinary fields, with many staff incorporating practice as a research methodology.

Choreography as creative research

Dr Carol Brown

Choreographic Research Aotearoa is a recent initiative that provides a meeting ground and project space for dancers, choreographers, performing artists and scholars, hosted by the Dance Studies Programme. Read more

Award-winning choreographer Nicholas Rowe has worked with numerous ballet and dance companies in New Zealand and overseas. His research is focused on the choreographic voice of marginalised and traumatised communities. He is currently engaged in the 5cities5senses dance for the camera project, a collaborative choreographic work involving five community dance organisations in different parts of the world.

Dr Carol Brown is an award-winning choreographer and artistic director renowned internationally for her collaborative performances. Some recent choreographic research projects are summarised below.



This research project explores the limits of technology, the human body and the insect world through a duet between two dancers and a suite of 16mm analogue film projectors extended through wearable sensors into the digital realm. Focusing on film as an endangered species, the project aligns the mechanical sound world of projectors with the shrill antiphonal music of cicadas with their choric behaviours.

Nancy Wijohn in "Cicada", photo by Anne Niemetz
Nancy Wijohn and Katherine Hebley in "bone breath feather", photo by Solomn Mortimer

The House Project

This is an interdisciplinary ambulatory research performance that creates a dialogue between colonial heritage architecture and land, or whenua. The first iteration of this project – out the window bone breath feather – explores windows as liminal thresholds between inside and outside. With original music by Gillian Whitehead, the work was initially researched at the Pah Homestead in Auckland.
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Sophie Williams in "1000 Lovers", photo by Isabel Shaw

Tongues of Stone

Making urban space speak through performance, Tongues of Stone mobilises city architecture constructed by corporate and industrial networks as poetic spaces. Premiered in April 2011, this work launched Perth as a Dancing City, part of the Ciudades que Danzan, an international network of 32 cities that promote dance as a vehicle for urban expression and civic and cultural regeneration. Subsequently it has been adapted for Auckland: Blood of Trees (World Water Day 2012); 1000 Lovers (Auckland Arts Festival 2013) and Tuna Mau (Oceanic Performance Biennale 2013); and it is currently being developed for performances in Rarotonga, Cook Islands and Prague, Czech Republic.
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Research into dance and communities

Josh Mitukulena, a former student in the Dance Studies Programme, who contributed to the research project in its early stages through his work in Tongan, New Caledonian and Niuean communities.

The changing role of dance in local communities around the globe is a strong focus for several staff.

A book series entitled Talking Dance is a major research project involng Associate Professor Ralph Buck, Dr Nicholas Rowe and Dr Rosemary Martin, bringing together the experiences of people and dance in less-researched areas of the globe. Adopting a post-national, post-salvage paradigm, this book series deconstructs cultural stereotypes, hierarchies and assumptions associated with the role of dance in diverse societies. It draws on interviews with hundreds of individuals engaging in dance in a broad spectrum of locations, from state opera houses to refugee camps. Their personal narratives reveal the multiplicity and complexity of how creative, moving bodies engage with social, political and geographic environments around the world. The book series seeks to de-centralise global discourse on dance, and emphasise the dynamic, hybrid and interconnected processes of dance in the majority of the world. The first book Talking Dance: contemporary histories in the Southern Mediterranean was published in April 2014, and the following two in the series, on the South Pacific and South China Sea, are due out next year.

Nicholas Rowe has also worked with indigenous and refugee communities in Palestine, and has recently published  the book Raising dust: a history of dance and social change in Palestine.

Ralph Buck has co-authored articles on experiential learning, taking the studio to the people and negotiating diversity in community dance.
View The Healing Art of Dance in our Communities



Research into dance education

Dance Studies staff play a major role in dance education research, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Ralph Buck has conducted research into curriculum development, pedagogy and dance in schools. Recent publications are focused on the teaching of dance, contemporary dance technique and dance stories.

Nicholas Rowe's investigation into the role of dance education in traumatised countries was selected by Research in Dance Education as one of the top ten articles of the last decade.


Interdisciplinary performance

Mark Harvey in performance

The impact of digital media and the cross-pollination of ideas through artistic collaboration provide rich research opportunities for many staff.

Mark Harvey has presented performance research that traverses visual arts and choreography in Europe, America, Australia and Asia. His current research centres around notions of interactive public performances, social practices and social sculpture. He presented his performance work Political Climate Wrestle at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and is currently recreating this work for Te Tuhi art gallery across the Auckland region. The work involves Mark arguing with volunteers about climate change and wrestling with them, with one aim being to contribute to international discourse about climate change and attitudes towards it.

Alys Longley's research is concentrated in two areas: firstly interdisciplinary creative practice – dance making, film-making, creative writing, drawing and making artist-books. Her book the foreign language of motion was published by Winchester University Press (UK) in early 2014. Another focus is "dance and ecology". She is currently leading the project Fluid City, a dance/science/education collaboration on water sustainability in Auckland City. Dance workshops and performances are an important way of bringing creativity and imagination into public thinking on environmental issues that are important to all of us.



Dance analysis, criticism and related discourse

Nadia Khattab, dancer with El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe, Ramallah, Palestine. Photographed by Arnaud Stephenson

Critical perspectives, including post-colonialism, phenomenology, feminism and post-structuralism, form lenses through which scholars contribute new knowledge to dance studies.

Dr Rose Martin is researching for a forthcoming publication entitled Women, Dance and Revolution. This book follows ten female contemporary dance practitioners from the southern Mediterranean region, examining how these women (all established dancers, choreographers and teachers) have been affected by and responded to recent post-colonial cultural changes in the region that have resulted from the "Arab Spring" uprisings, civil war and occupation.

The women’s journeys of dance abroad and in their homelands of Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria present new perspectives on the Arab Spring uprisings, civil war and occupation in the region. As their personal dreams unfold into public aspirations for their society and country, the moving body becomes central in the debates over the future of the region. Through dance they engage in public protests and performance, endure violence and repression, and reveal new meanings of identity, gender and body politics. Their stories illuminate how, despite moments of disillusionment, objection and betrayal, being a woman and being a dancer can still mean many things and affect society in many ways.