Evaluating dance

What is creativity in dance and how might you nurture and facilitate it in young dancers? This was the breakthrough moment for me in 2008 at the end of a hard year on the Dance Science MSc at Laban (now Trinity Laban). This was followed up by an invitation from Dr Kerry Chappell (from University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education) who was looking for Masters students who were interested in learning about qualitative research techniques while being part of the Leverhulme-funded Identifying Talent in Young Dancers dance science project.

As much as I had enjoyed my MSc course, something had definitely been missing and it was only when Kerry continued to talk about the qualitative research that I realised what it was… real life; it’s messiness, it’s unpredictability, it’s complexity and it’s multi-dimensionality. So I was hooked!

Qualitative research was a world I recognised, could identify with and was not afraid of! The other world of the Scientific Method: the quantitative, proof driven, hypothesis laden, statistically manipulated and artificially designed one, had consistently left me skeptical and unconvinced, certainly of it’s value to dance. So I breathed a big sigh of relief and embarked on a fascinating journey, gaining many skills along the way but also recognising innate abilities which would make me a good researcher.

Self as Instrument is a term in qualitative research which means that your experience and knowledge, in a given area, is welcomed into the research data, that your subjective opinions and views are a valuable part of the process. Alongside you have to be able to observe, listen, and sense; you have to be organised, to know the questions you are asking or the outcomes you hope to measure and demonstrate, and then you have to gather and analyse the data. Finally you are in a position to interpret and write up your findings.

Over the last 7 years I have been an evaluator for many educational and artistic projects across dance, theatre and science and I have found that the skills I learned from my initial academic experience were invaluable. I am forever grateful and thankful to have learned from, and then to work alongside, the quite brilliant Dr Kerry Chappell and subsequently Professor Anna Craft (deceased 2014) of the University of Exeter Graduate School of Education.

Please see the Info & links page which contains lots of information and examples of current and recent evaluation and research. And please contact me if you are looking for an evaluator – contact details are on the About page.

One thought on “Evaluating dance

  1. So looking forward to taking part in your forthcoming residency Debbie. The word ‘freedom’ keeps coming up for me. It was actually the first word to come into my mind. I feel so happy being in my fifties and that has a lot to do with the fact that I feel more free than I remember: free from being controlled in so many ways, free to wear what I want when I want, free to speak my mind if I feel like it. I feel free from being judged ( though obviously I cannot stop others from judging me). I feel free to be myself. There is much to say but I won’t write any more here. It’s just a wee starting-point which might or might not be of interest….

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