The grey area : the emergence of race performativity for the ‘black’ dancer in new millennial performance / Jessica Walker (2017)

The grey area : the emergence of race performativity for the 'black' dancer in new millennial performance

Author: Jessica Walker

Course: MA Dance Performance

Year: 2017

Keywords: Black dance, Dance--Psychological aspects, Performance analysis, Performance based research, Race and dance, Racial identity,


Whilst much has been written about the theories of performativity in the philosophy of language, psychoanalysis, gender and feminist analysis within dance academe, there is a significant absence of literature that maintains a focus on the performativity of race.

Through using my own Mixed Race identity as a point of discursive departure, this study aims to contribute to the underdeveloped theory of Race Performativity in the British dance industry.
In order to provide insight into how the performance of racialised dance artists manifest and are perceived in the 21st century dance arena, this autoethnographic study points to the ways in which the “Black” body is problematised through contemporary notions of “Blackness” in the everyday setting and the ways in which these permeate in the dance rehearsal and performance context whilst locating personal experiences within the Trinity Laban MA Dance Performance programme and Transitions Dance Company.

The methodological tool of research-activated performances were executed in order to collect qualitative data. From this, analyses allowed the formulation of conceptualisations on the perceptual practices of contemporary audiences and the ways in which they intersect and affect the performative choices of “Black” dancers. This triadic way of working as academic researcher, performer and choreographer permits different perspectives into the study of race in dance performance, highlighting multiple approaches in order to demonstrate the disciplinary depth of this area within the landscape of performance studies.

Its findings expose the more nuanced ways in which the “Black” body is racialised in contemporary dance performance, and how the challenges for these dancers are opening up the arena for changes in social conduct amongst audiences, institutions and educators. Whilst this work does not offer a single theory or framework with which to think about Race Performativity, it identifies the multitudinous ways in which one may approach the topic in the future in order to further the discourse not just under the paradigm of “Blackness” but within other ethnic demographics in the UK.

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Walker, Jessica. (2017). The grey area : the emergence of race performativity for the 'black' dancer in new millennial performance (Masters’ theses). Retrieved