Call for papers

Dance Research: Call for Papers

Special Issue: Dance and the Archive

Guest Editors: Jane Pritchard and Sarah Whatley


Dance has long been regarded as an art form that is challenging to archive because the “time-based phenomenology of dance is a challenge for dance archivists” (Oke 2017, 197), but this has not prevented the creation of numerous important archives of dance, worldwide. Historically, dance has left many traces in iconography, drawings, and in various inscriptions depicting dancing bodies; in notations, descriptions in texts and in other material remains such as costumes, masks and scenography. But until the advent of photography and then film, the corporeal dancing body was mostly absent from these records, or required considerable detective work akin to an archaeological investigation to recover a sense of the dancing itself. The recent uncovering and sharing of some of these early films has renewed interest in the importance of historical artefacts, and their influence on contemporary practices. For example, the New York Public Library’s growing collection of thousands of hours of digitized footage in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division Moving Image Archive now includes some of the earliest films of dance, dating back to the 1890s, and is viewable online.

As a social, relational and expressive practice, often created and performed in close connection with sound, music, design, as well as its audiences, dance is not only a significant contributor to our cultural history, but provides a valuable lens to understanding more about society in a wider sense. Dance archives have grown in recognition of the importance of collecting and conserving what are often vulnerable, partial, or rare traces. Archives may have grown to safeguard a wide range of dance styles, histories, companies, organizations or people (choreographers, producers, dancers, and so on). Some archives reside in our major cultural institutions, curated by expert archivists, whilst other collections may have grown gradually to recognize a particular dance community, often through the efforts of a single committed aficionado. Some are highly specialized archives, focusing on a specific dance activity, company or single dance artist whilst larger archives may be home to an extensive collection including all kinds of media, material objects and ephemera. The recognition that our dance histories are important and need to be collected, preserved and made available for wider scrutiny has also led to several well-funded archival projects, continuing a tradition whereby major donors have supported the creation and upkeep of dance archives. The death in the last two decades of several significant dance pioneers, including Martha Graham (1894-1991), Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009), Pina Bausch (1940 -2009), Trisha Brown (1936 – 2017) and Paul Taylor (1930-2018) has also generated interest in the legal dimensions of the archive, as well as the role and purpose of the dance archive, raising questions about ‘what’ to archive, and what should be made publicly available. 

Since the millennium, and perhaps because of the significance of the turn of a new century, focus has also turned to addressing the absence of the body in the archives of dance, and how archives can be ‘performed’, ‘embodied’ or ‘re-embodied’. Conversations about the ‘body as archive’ (Lepecki, 2010) are now alive in the discourse on dance’s relationship to the archive and are influencing thinking about what is important to archive, generating considerable interest in collecting and making available the many stages of the dance making process. The arrival of the internet has also gradually expanded the concept of ‘archive,’ and online collections have emerged over the last two decades that have added to the general corpus of dance archives whilst recognizing the inevitable paradox of online archives (that the physical documents that are digitized are likely to outlive the software and digital platforms on which they are stored). In this new environment, YouTube has become a valuable reference point and is beginning to provide an accessible store of dance films, whilst also emphasizing the importance of expertly curated dance archives. At the same time, dance practitioners are themselves getting more directly involved in building their own archival collections, or “artist-driven archival projects” (Candelario, 2018), in an effort to take more control over their representation and legacy, even if disregarding more traditional archive methods. Our archives of dance are thus valuable resources, organized and managed by experts (whether from inside or outside the archive community), that provide access to the past, to how dance legacies are created, and to uncover hidden stories and unmapped connections. 


As dance archives reflect developments in dance on a global level, and evolve to respond to the impact of new technologies on how dance is made, documented and accessed, this special issue is an opportunity to explore some of the themes that are most pressing for how dance archives impact on research in dance. Several themes recur in discussions about the archive, including power, authenticity, ephemerality, fixity, legacy, loss, and so on. The aim is to bring together original scholarly writing that addresses ‘dance archives’ from different perspectives, acknowledging the richness and diversity of the field, alongside a number of shorter articles that feature particular archives, to draw attention to achievements, developments and new initiatives that are valuable for the wider dance research community. We welcome contributions on a wide-range of topics that may explore, but are not limited to, the following:

To what extent do dance archives contribute to our understanding of dance from the past?

How might archival practices be influenced or challenged by particular dance practices?

Why archive dance?

Who or what is missing from our archives?

What is the future for dance archives?

What does it mean to ‘perform the archive’?

How do historical and contemporary modes of documenting dance impact on the concept of the ‘archive’?

What new research enquiries might emerge from a critical focus on archival residue, or from rethinking the dance archive?

What role do new technologies and online platforms have in the design and development of dance archives?

Who is responsible for the creation and management of dance archives?

What strategies are there for promoting the value of dance archives as important sources for study?


Prospective contributors are invited to send a 500-word outline by email to the Editor, Richard Ralph, by July 1 2019. Abstract submissions will be subject to blind refereeing procedures. Articles will be chosen for further consideration by the editorial team; Richard Ralph, Margaret McGowan, Jane Pritchard and Sarah Whatley. Authors will be notified by mid-September and articles must be submitted as the definitive version by March 31 2020. Texts should normally not exceed 7,000 words, including endnotes. However, while concision improves chances of publication, serious consideration will be given to submissions where the nature and quality of the content justify greater length.  Shorter pieces focusing on specific archives will be encouraged.  Please see the Dance Research website for Guidance for Contributors. Dance Research welcomes use made by authors of illustrations providing the author has secured permission to reproduce these materials from the copyright holder. All necessary copyright permissions must be arranged by individual authors in advance of publication. 

Enquiries are most welcome, and should be addressed by email to Richard Ralph:   

Publication: Provisional publication date subject to variation. 

Selected references:

BLEEKER, M. (ed) 2016. Transmission in Motion. Abingdon. Routledge.

CANDELARIO, R. 2018. ‘Choreographing American Dance Archives: Artist-Driven Archival Projects by Eiko & Koma, Bebe Miller Company, and Jennifer Monson’. Dance Research Journal, 50: 1, 80-101. 

FRANKO, M. (ed), 2018. The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Reenactment, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

GADE, R. & BORGGREEN, G. (eds) 2013. Performing Archives/Archives of Performance. Museum Tusculanum Press: University of Copenhagen.

HECHT T. 2013. Dancing Archives – Archive Dances. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript. 

LEPECKI, A. 2010. ‘The Body as Archive: Will to Re-Enact and the Afterlives of Dances. Dance Research Journal, 42:2, 28-48.

MATLUCK BROOKS, L. & MEGLIN, J. A. (eds) 2013. Preserving Dance Across Time and Space. Abingdon: Routledge.

OKE, A. 2017. ‘Keeping time in dance archives: moving towards the phenomenological archive space’. Archives and Records, 38: 2, 197-211.

PRITCHARD, J. 2008. ‘The Great Hansen’: An Introduction to the Work of Joseph Hansen, a Forgotten European Choreographer of the Late Nineteenth Century, with a Chronology of His Ballets’ Dance Research, 26: 2, 73-139. 

PRITCHARD, J. 2014. ‘The Alhambra Moul Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum’ The Great Hansen’ Dance Research, 32: 2, 233-257. 

SANT, T. (ed), 2017. Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving, London: Bloomsbury.

WHATLEY, S. 2013. ‘Recovering and reanimating ‘lost’ traces; the digital archiving of the rehearsal process in Siobhan Davies RePlay’ Dance Research, 31: 2, 144-156.

WHATLEY, S. (2013) ‘Siobhan Davies RePlay; (re)visiting the digital archive’ International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, 9:1.  83-98.