An investigation of the notion performativity / Sophie Tellings (2017)

An investigation of the notion performativity

Author: Sophie Tellings

Course: MA Dance Performance

Year: 2017

Keywords: Audiences, Dance--Psychological aspects, Performance analysis, Performance based research,


In An Investigation of the notion Performativity, Sophie Tellings reflects on three questions, namely, (1) how performativity is conceived of in the literature; (2) how a small group of contemporary dancers view performativity; and (3) how performativity relates to her experience and knowledge as a performer. She also discusses how the practical part of her project relates to the written part.

After the introduction, Chapter 2 discusses how the term performativity was originally developed in philosophy of language and was then transferred to sociology and political science. Performativity concerns making something, and this making influences other people. Literature about performativity in theatre and dance mainly discusses what a performance or a performer can bring about in an audience. Showing a creation to an audience either results in the establishment and confirmation of ideas, or in the disruption of conventions. In the latter case, the audience often has an active role.

Chapter 3 reports on the results of a questionnaire, filled-in by two dance teachers, ten dancers from Transitions Dance Company 2017, and its artistic leader. It turned out that most respondents view performativity mainly in terms of what makes a ‘good’ performance – whatever ‘good’ may mean.

Chapter 4 reflects on the first chapters, defines “a performative dancer”, and discusses mental, technical, and other skills of a performative dancer as the author views these skills based on the knowledge and experience she gained during her study.

Chapter 5 discusses the practical part of this project. In her seven minute solo the author plays with confirming expectations of an audience, raising expectations in an audience, and proving them wrong. This, she hopes, will trigger both non-professional and professional audiences as well as performers to think about the expectations they have about each other.

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Tellings, Sophie. (2017). An investigation of the notion performativity (Masters’ theses). Retrieved