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Investigating the phenomenon of dance and music performance through the experience of the performer

Harman, G. (2018). Investigating the phenomenon of dance and music performance through the experience of the performer. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance)


This thesis examines the phenomenon of performance in dance and music as experienced by the performer. Previous research studies have generally been directed towards examining specific facets of dance and music performance, with a lack of understanding concerning the performer’s experiences of them. Although these studies have often focused on gaining insight into what constitutes a performance, their attention to isolated aspects of performance has precluded understanding of how these elements form the experience of the performer in a holistic sense. Inspired by a personal quest for insight into the subjective awareness of what underlies dance and music performance, the following thesis aims to better understand the phenomenon of performance from the perspective of the performing dancer and musician. In strengthening the originality of this research, the qualitative and quantitative research paradigms provided a framework that allowed in-depth exploration of the phenomenon under investigation. Two qualitative research studies, together with a questionnaire, were carried out to investigate the thoughts and perceptions of the performer in relation to what it means to be a performer and more generally on the phenomenon of performance. This thesis also includes two separate chapters on the concepts of performance enhancement and reflective practice with a view to establishing whether they might usefully be applied within the artistic disciplines of dance and music. Findings from the two research studies and questionnaire revealed that performers place high importance on the concept of the ‘self’, which they experience and perceive differently as an ‘individual’, a ‘person’ and a ‘performer’. Performers were also shown to view themselves as embodied entities, evincing a strong sense of individuality and a subjective awareness of being a performer, alongside conveying technical and expressive abilities. Findings illustrate the subjective nature of how participants experience and understand performance and performing, revealing the potential for application to other artistic disciplines. It is hoped that, through offering performers the opportunity to speak openly about what is of importance to them, researchers and educators might productively address the components that exist within the experience of the performer, in order to better and more widely understand the performer and the phenomenon of performance.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
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