I studied French and German at Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated with First Class Honours in 1980. From 1980-81 I was an étudiante étrangère at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Jeunes Filles (Sèvres). During that year I attended courses taught by Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Tzvetan Todorov, Gérard Genette, Jean-Pierre Richard and Louis Marin, and developed a keen interest in comparative semiotics and aesthetics. I graduated from the Sorbonne Nouvelle with a Maîtrise ès Lettres Modernes. My mémoire de maîtrise was on the poetry and theory of Stéphane Mallarmé. The topic of my PhD (supervised by Prof. Clive Scott), which I obtained from the University of East Anglia in 1987, was "Imagination and the Aesthetic Function of Signification in the Poetry and Painting of Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Kandinsky and Mondrian". From 1986-87 I was a lectrice at the Université de Paris IV, Sorbonne. I subsequently took up posts at several British universities (Lancaster, Warwick, Keele and Bristol), before coming to Manchester in 1998. From the mid 1990s the main topic of my research was modern and contemporary dance, which led to my involvement with body-based practices such as Alexander Technique, Pilates and massage therapy. From 2004-2010 I was a member of the Board of Trustees of Contact Theatre, when I spearheaded the initiative to launch the Palaver Festival, a collaboration between Contact and the University of Manchester which has been running since 2005. Since 2008 I have carried out research on dance audiences and collaborated with choreographers. From 2008-2011 I directed the AHRC-funded project, Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy and in 2011 I was a co-founder of Manchester Dance Consortium, which has received funding from Arts Council England. From 2015-2018 I am Lead Partner on the International Leverhulme Network, Evaluating Methods of Aesthetic Enquiry across Disciplines, and my current research is on the sea and multisensory aesthetics.
Advisory panel of Dance Research Journal (2011 - )
Advisory panel of Romance Studies (1998 - )
Associate board of Dance Research (2006 - )
April 2008 – March 2011
PI for AHRC-funded project (£526,493):
‘Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy’.
A major collaborative, multidisciplinary research project with the Universities of York St John, Glasgow, and Imperial College, London. The team consisted of 5 investigators (PI and 4 co-PIs), a postdoctoral Research Associate, a Ph.D. student funded by the project, and a half-time administrator.
The research crosses the fields of audience research, dance studies and neuroscience.
In 2008 we held a Watching Dance Consultative Forum in Manchester.The profile of guests included academic researchers in the fields of dance studies, audience research, and neuroscience; dancers and choreographers; audience developers; dance teachers and representatives of agencies interested in arts-science collaborations. As well as delegates from major UK institutions such as the Wellcome Institute and the Arts Council and a number of high-profile universities we had international delegates from Amsterdam School of Arts and The University of Western Sydney presenting their work.
A major international conference was held in April 2010, entitled Kinesthetic Empathy; Concepts and Contexts. There were 200 registered delegates from 12 countries outside the UK (Malta, Israel, Canada, Australia, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland), of whom c.15% were independent artists or from non-academic organisations.
For details of the project, see http://watchingdance.org/
and also our interactive site, http://www.watchingdance.ning/
May 2015 - June 2018: Lead Partner on Leverhulme International Network, Evaluating Methods of Aesthetic Enquiry Across Disciplines’, (£122.941).
The Network is structured as a series of workshops over three years, creating opportunities for the members to come together and discuss methodology in intensive workshop settings. The partners are from the universities of Concordia, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Manchester, Oxford, Paris and Vienna. Working across Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Cognitive Sciences, we seek to generate productive strategies for transdisciplinary enquiries into aesthetics.