Signalling through the flames: A study in connection and communication / Rachel Birch-Lawson (2018)

Signalling through the flames: A study in connection and communication

Author: Rachel Birch-Lawson

Course: MFA Choreography

Year: 2018


This thesis examines the nature, means, and implications of communication in process and performance.

Taking a de-hierarchised, multi-sensory approach, I draw on learnings from the fields of dance, theatre, literature, philosophy, and science, excavating the possibilities found within combining these genres to facilitate a greater reciprocal intra- and interpersonal communication within performance.

Beginning with the inherent physicality of voice (breath, sound-making, and speech), the thesis examines the potential of spontaneous, dynamic utterance and the use of poetic text to inform a reciprocal dialogue between body and voice. It continues with a discussion of the inherent communicative potential of the body, considering how this can be heightened through responsive, task/challenge-based ways of working, and exploring the intersection of body, voice and emotions in reciprocal feedback loops. The discussion moves on to examine the transition of this work from process into performance, how structural choices of time and space inform the communicative process (seen through the lens of the performed work When the walls burn down), and the roles and responsibilities of audience (and artist) in this cycle of creation, imagination, and response.

This research is approached from a politicised perspective that critiques divisions of performance genres and communicative methods, and hierarchies of participation and perception; acknowledging the urgent need for performance to engage audiences, and its potentially revolutionary power. It imagines performance as a moment of very human connection, a dialogue between artist and audience, which, asking much of both parties, can yield great rewards.

These questions: how best to engage and connect, how best to evoke and activate the communicative cycle, are ones which find no conclusive, easy answers; this is an ongoing exploration, an ongoing search for the highest potential of the performance experience.

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Birch-Lawson, Rachel. (2018). Signalling through the flames: A study in connection and communication (Masters’ theses). Retrieved