Seeing and Hearing: Education In Dance and Its Music

Submitting Institution

Roehampton University

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

This case study details the enhanced public understanding of dance as both musical and movement experience. Stephanie Jordan's `choreomusical' research has had a significant impact on media editors, critics and producers, resulting in broadcasting and writing for non-academic outlets and media citations/reviews. This research has also underpinned materials that support the artistic outputs of professional dance companies and artists, while expanding upon current concepts of educational resources. Through this engagement with high-profile individuals and organisations, the research has reached national and international audiences, particularly those interested in ballet, contemporary dance, classical and popular music.

Underpinning research

Jordan is Research Professor in Dance; she was Director of the Centre for Dance Research at Roehampton 1993-2011. The following research and impact-related findings are all concerned with the analysis of choreomusical relationships and the identification of individual choreomusical styles and approaches within the larger context of dance analysis and history.

For centuries, people have understood dance as an activity that always happens to music. Jordan's research deals with fundamental questions about how music informs our understanding of dance and about how hearing and seeing interact. It reveals how radically music affects our vision of choreography. Her work covers internationally recognised choreographers, musicians and dance companies and a hitherto undiscovered range of choreographic approaches to music.

1. Project 1: music and ballet (1993-2000 primarily, ongoing) constitutes research into the use of music in twentieth-century ballet, beginning with research into choreomusical theory and practice—a history of developments across the century as background to work on key choreographers, e.g. Ashton and Balanchine. (Impact-related findings: innovative choreomusical practices stemming from Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; the different choreomusical styles of key choreographers.)

2. Project 2: Stravinsky and dance (2000-2007 primarily, ongoing) constitutes historical study of Stravinsky's association with, and changing perspectives on, dance; examination of the usage of Stravinsky's music over time (drawing from Jordan's 2003 database); analysis of the Stravinsky ballets of Ashton and Balanchine; comparative study of settings of The Rite of Spring and Les Noces. (Impact-related findings: the range of choreomusical approaches to Stravinsky's music, especially to his Rite, drawing upon the most extensive history of productions of any score.)

3. Project 3: Mark Morris and music (from 2009, ongoing) researches the choreomusical practice and creative processes of the American contemporary dance choreographer across his career since 1980 (for a forthcoming monograph output). (Impact-related findings: the exceptional range of Morris's choreomusical practices, sometimes as postmodern comment on previous practice, extending far beyond what is often labelled music visualisation; Morris's unique work as musician interpreter, involved in musical performance practice; his response to the music of text in Virgil Thomson's opera Four Saints in Three Acts).

4. A methodology for choreomusical analysis (from 1993, ongoing) has been developed and tested during projects 1-3. It is based on theories of dynamic interaction between media and structural analysis. The Morris research (especially into his setting of Bach's Italian Concerto) has also explored concepts from cognitive science that relate to hearing and seeing in a dance context.

5. Further research (2009-11): the above projects and methodological developments led to choreomusical studies of the work of Richard Alston (his Shimmer to Ravel).

References to the research

1. Moving Music: Dialogues with Music in 20th Century Ballet (London: Dance Books, 2000), 378 pp. Can be supplied by the HEI on request.
Grants: RadcliffeTrust (1992-3)--£10k over two years; British Academy Small Grant (1995)-- £2,450.
Positive academic reviews in Dance Research, Music & Letters, Research in Dance Education. Awarded Special Citation of Dance Perspectives Foundation (2001).


2. Stravinsky the Global Dancer (database project), with Larraine Nicholas, c.1,200 annotated dance entries, including analytical introduction, 2003 (
AHRC Small Grant (2001-2) £3,700.

3. Stravinsky Dances: Re-Visions across a Century (Alton, Hants: Dance Books, 2007), 605 pp. Can be supplied by the HEI on request.
Grants: AHRC Major Grant (2003-5) £107,661: final assessment Outstanding.
AHRC Research Leave Grant (2006-7)--£33,609, final assessment Good; British Academy Small Grant £2,725.
Other related awards towards research: John M. Ward Fellowship in Dance and Music for the Theatre, Harvard University (2001-2); Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel (stipend for 6 months of archive study).
Positive academic reviews in Dance Research, Dance Research Journal, Dance Chronicle, Die Musikforschung, Theaterforschung, Die Tönkunst.


4. "Mark Morris Marks Purcell: Dido and Aeneas as Danced Opera," Dance Research, 29/2 (winter 2011), pp. 167-213. REF item.
Grant: Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2010-11) £31,070.


5. "Mark Morris Marks Music, Or: What Did He Make of Bach's Italian Concerto?",
in Stephanie Schroedter, ed. Bewegungen zwischen Hören und Sehen. Denkbewegungen über Bewegungskünste (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012), pp. 219-36. REF item.

6. "Ravel Dances: `Choreomusical' Discoveries in Richard Alston's Shimmer", for Ravel Studies, ed. Deborah Mawer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 165-86. Peer-reviewed REF item.

Details of the impact

Through her impact upon selected publications, media outlets, dance groups and artists, Jordan has challenged preconceptions about how music and dance work together and consequently enhanced the knowledge and experience of audiences and critics. This impact is achieved through direct engagement with Jordan's research publications, as well as articles and public presentations drawing on that research and on her long career as a dance journalist/critic.

Promoting the Royal Opera House strategy of extending ways of engaging and educating audiences, Jordan has contributed ten Royal Ballet programme notes since 2008 (plus two reprints), applying her Ashton, Balanchine and Stravinsky research (distribution 28,490). Advocating the `particularly important symbiotic relationship with music', commissioning editor John Snelson welcomes Jordan's rare ability to negotiate a broad aesthetic and cultural context (a prime example, her piece on Rite, extending from ballet into conceptual choreography) and her unique discussions of choreomusical detail. Jordan supports the similar editorial strategy of Dancing Times (DT, readership 25,000), the UK's leading dance magazine, contributing four articles since 2010, while Stravinsky Dances, very unusually for an academic publication, was seen as warranting (positive) reviews in both DT and Dance Now magazines.

Regarding the education of critics, Alastair Macaulay, the New York Times Chief Dance Critic (arguably the most influential in the world), frequently consults both of Jordan's books, singling them out for radically shifting his thinking about music and dance. Citing four ballet reviews as examples (2008-12), he notes Jordan's ideas of mutual reinforcement and contradiction between media, referring to her work's impact as having one's `eyes and ears newly made keen... I continually recommend Moving Music to other writers and dance enthusiasts as a primer of great intelligence and acuity'. Spanish critic Maria Torija chose to interview Jordan for her Por la Danza article on Rite, because of the `unique information' she provides about Stravinsky's ballets. Jordan's Stravinsky research also informed discussions with Zachary Woolfe in preparation for his New York Times feature on Rite and Robert Craft.

Since 2008, the Mark Morris Dance Group have seized upon Jordan's research as the opportunity to address the grave under-representation, and misunderstanding, of the key, musical aspect of Morris's work. Executive Director Nancy Umanoff stresses that Jordan's ideas on the range and cognitive effect of Morris's musical approach play a crucial role in developing audiences outside the `dance ghetto', also in re-educating dance audiences and critics who reject his emphasis on music to appreciate multiple approaches and re-evaluate their prejudices. Jordan's contributions have driven the expansion of the MMDG's styles of educational material, demonstrating that academic depth should be made accessible to a broad readership. `This kind of work has opened a door and makes us re-think what we can offer', says Umanoff, recognising a wealth of expertise useful to audiences. Jordan has tailored her research ideas specifically for the MMDG website (articles on Italian Concerto and the revival of Four Saints—a link sent to all 6,000 ticket-holders), playing a key role in the website's conceptualisation for enhanced access prior to its autumn 2013 re-launch. She also did so in speaking about the breadth of Morris's musical approach to the Friends of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Furthermore, her original research writings on his Dido and Aeneas, Frisson and Four Saints since 2007 have contributed to press-publicity materials sent to promoters abroad, for instance, in Germany and Korea. In the US, this includes, significantly, the circuit of university-based presenters who answer to academic communities and their funding streams. Umanoff considers that Jordan's work `raises the bar...deepens the understanding of producers, press, and potential sponsors, and re-affirms the seriousness of Morris's work, which helps sell it'. Similar support relationships have been forged with Richard Alston's company, extracts from Jordan's Shimmer article included on (183 views to date, ranking 22 out of over 400 webpages, publicised in the programme note for the UK tour 2012-13).

Jordan's research has helped shape recent commemorations, within the media, for instance, the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russes (2009). Radio 3 invited her to speak on three occasions (2008-9) about their musical innovations (BBC RAJAR stats, based on quarterly averages for broadcast slot: 85k, 115k, 129k; iPlayer total: 2,496). One of these was a live public interview prior to a Promenade Concert, broadcast during the interval and also filmed as podcast. After her keynote at a public conference in Australia, ABC Classic FM interviewed her for a programme in their series `The Astonishing Ballets Russes' (2009).

Such impact escalated with the 2013 Rite centenary. The 45-minute BBC Radio 3 Rite documentary (May, 2013), presented by Jordan, enjoyed a range of beneficiaries: the producers (Just Radio (JR)—Susan Marling and Paul Smith), critics, promotional publications, as well as the listening public (RAJAR: 100k; iPlayer 3,531). The programme was listed as `choice of the week' in the Times and Radio Times, and highlighted in reviews in The Daily Telegraph and Stage. Unusually, an account of the score's legacy from the dance point of view, it drew extensively from the Rite chapter of Jordan's Stravinsky Dances, `the story of the programme'. It also featured her recent research and public outcomes derived from research publications (a Royal Ballet programme note and April 2013 DT article). Supporting JR practice of moulding academic ideas for a larger public, Jordan's research was used from the start, in preparing the initial proposal, identifying artist interviewees and framing questions, editorial planning, incorporating prose from research publications within the script, and checking script accuracy. JR rate Jordan `a natural presenter', able to translate her knowledge into an `accessible, enlightening and entertaining' programme. BBC commissioners are keen to run more programmes on dance. JR immediately invited Jordan to work with them again on ideas for 2013-14.

Meanwhile, Jordan's Stravinsky database and book have been widely consulted for figures and information on dances to Stravinsky, especially (in centenary year) on the 200 plus Rite entries: for articles, e.g. Le Figaro (Bavelier), Sunday Times (Jays), Por la Danza (Torija); for public talks and V & A seminars (Pritchard); for programme notes (Konaev, Bolshoi Theatre). The database is also valued within undergraduate and graduate teaching (e.g. Penn State, Indiana, Oregon, Temple and Kingston university music departments, the University of Michigan dance department and Royal Academy of Dancing). In Dance Now magazine, Jonathan Still recommends Jordan's book ` in music theory for anyone working in dance, whether they are an hour or a year long, should be geared to understanding her analytical approaches...' Choreographer Wayne McGregor used her Rite chapter: `a rich source of inspiration, seminal in preparations for my own Rite at the Bolshoi'.

The kinds of impact discussed are on-going: public Rite symposia in Madrid and Berlin (2013); programme notes and magazine articles; radio (Morris documentary, Radio 4, confirmed for 2014); as Jordan's book nears publication, a DT article and interview (Sadler's Wells, 2013) promoting Morris's work, and a website of clips (hosted by the MMDG) illustrating for a wide audience different choreomusical practices mentioned in her book; and engagement with dance audiences and professionals, as specialist in music and dance, speaker at the Royal Ballet's Ashton symposium (2013) and Visiting Scholar, San Francisco Ballet (2014). Jordan's research and Impact work continue to be highly mutually supportive.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Royal Opera House: Commissioning Editor (evidence re: Royal Ballet programme notes)
  2. Mark Morris Dance Group: Executive Director, MMDG (evidence re: MMDG)
  3. The New York Times: Chief Dance Critic (evidence re: use of Jordan's research in reviews, statement already provided and available from HEI)
  4. The New York Times: Music Critic (evidence re: use of Jordan's research in feature article, statement already provided and available from HEI)
  5. Just Radio: Producer (evidence re: Radio 3 Rite documentary)

Other evidence:

Dance Now review (2008) by Jonathan Still of Stravinsky Dances

Figaro article (2013)--evidence re: Stravinsky database

Radio Times (2013)—listing of Rite programme as Choice

Times (2013)—listing of Rite programme as Choice