Performance Studies

From Shakespearean theatre to modern-day orchestra, few perspectives on a society are more revealing than that of popular performance. Spanning dance, music and theatre, the field of Performance Studies is broad and constantly changing and evolving. Its importance to performers, audiences and to society, as well as to an understanding of our society and those of others, is clear and unequivocal.

UNSW Arts and Social Sciences carries out powerful and innovative work across the Performance Studies spectrum from creative artistic practice to scholarly research. We have produced internationally recognised outputs supported by competitive grant success by outstanding researchers. This area scored 5 in the 2012 Excellence for Research in Australia Report making UNSW one of the top universities in the country with this research strength.

Research in Performance Studies at UNSW has developed a distinctly international and interdisciplinary approach that comprises analysis of different cultural media including dance, music, drama, live art and video art in diverse social and institutional contexts such as visual arts, cinema, media installation, theatre, museum, concert, festival, religious and secular ceremony.

The Impact of our Work

Our experts investigate multiform modes of performance across:

  • performance art
  • interactive and participatory aesthetics
  • new media art and performance
  • contemporary post-dramatic theatre
  • Australian theatre
  • dance and film
  • modernist acting and rehearsal methods
  • musicology and psychoacoustics
  • ethnomusicology and ethnography
  • group and solo performance
  • composition and music theory

Seven large, ARC-funded projects have been completed by researchers within the Performance Studies specialisation, five in the area of music and two in Australian theatre.

Further projects are being carried out right now. These include:

  • A database of Australian plays as part of the AusStage Gateway to the Australian Performing Arts
  • A joint research project on contemporary Reality Theatres in Australia and Germany
  • New Media Dramaturgies, an ARC-funded project, with investigators from five international institutions, on digital technologies in performance
  • Durational Aesthetics. On Time and Performance – an ARC-funded study.
  • A DECRA project on Accidents in Modernist theatre
  • LIEF project on electronic archiving with partners in the Australia Council and other Arts institutions and with co investigators at Macquarie University and COFA
  • Commissioned compositions for the Sydney Omega Ensemble, and Ku-Ring‐Gai Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Commissioned compositions for the Brisbane Chamber Choir and the Australia Ensemble
  • A commissioned book on the Music of Peter Sculthorpe.
  • Asian music in Australia
  • Monograph on Rajasthani musicians
  • Australia Council funded project on intercultural performances with Taikoz, Riley Lee and the Ligalayam Dance Company
  • ARD-DP funded project, Redefining conceptions of child and adolescent emotional responses to music using time-series analysis

Evidence of Excellence

Our staff disseminate their research knowledge through many channels, including contributions to popular and specialist media formats such as The Monthly magazine, ABC radio and The Australian newspaper.

Our internationally respected scholars also publish in more traditional formats, including books published through respected imprints such as Oxford University Press, Palgrave, UNSW Press and Routledge.

Many refereed journal articles have been published in top ranked journals such as Modern Drama, Law Text Culture, Performance Paradigm, History & Memory and Performance Research, among others. Our specialists have also produced several book chapters and two edited volumes.

Of course, it would not be a Performance Studies specialisation without our multi-talented researchers creating their own works of music, performance and art. Numerous compositions, international performances and commercially released recordings have been produced. Performers of the works have included the Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras, Song Company, Chamber Made Opera, Wigmore Hall and Guildhall School of Music.