The Dancer, The Philosopher and The Tramp

Hilary Elliott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter discusses the pragmatics and philosophy of a model of practice and discourse for the field of solo movement/dance improvisation that the author calls withness. This approach to unaccompanied, studio (or otherwise indoor)-based improvisation is introduced through a set of intertwined organizational anchors: reading space, reading the words of space, and inhabiting an imaginative landscape. Grounding improvisation in a relational, dialogic interplay between the improviser and the material aspects and affective reverberations of the built environment that the dancer is occupying, withness enables spontaneous material to emerge as a result of a dynamic participatory attitude and a particular attention to vision within the interplay of multiple perceptual systems. This model of spontaneous composition is articulated and situated in relation to, and through, ongoing studio practice and performance experience, the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and a charming parable on improvisation, featuring Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp and a lemon meringue pie.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Improvisation In Dance
EditorsVida L. Midgelow
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)0199396981, 9780199396986
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2019

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks
PublisherOxford University Press


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