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Matthias Sperling

Dance, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

A practice-based investigation of the event of choreographic performance as a site of embodiedknowledge-generation.

My thesis, titled ‘No-How Generator: a practice-based investigation of the event of choreographic performance as a site of embodied knowledge-generation’, is a project evolving from my 20 years of professional artistic practice and research as a choreographer and performer. Drawing on perspectives from cognitive science and philosophy, I am developing my articulation of what particular kinds of knowledge I consider to be generated in the making, performing and spectating of my choreographic work. Informed by the artistic practices of choreographers including Deborah Hay, Siobhan Davies and Jennifer Lacey, and the work of writers from diverse fields including Guy Claxton, Andy Clark, Georges Didi-Huberman, Donna Haraway and others, I approach knowing as an embodied process inclusive of a range of different modes, spanning the tacit (felt, intuitive) and explicit (languaged, rational), with particular emphasis on the necessary continuity and interdependence of these modes in the embodied process of knowledge-generation. On this basis, my research also draws on other types of embodied cultural practices that traverse tacit and explicit modes, including the scientific practice of hypnosis and ritual practices of shamanism. I will explore how these ideas and practices inform the development of new ways of practicing choreography, focusing on creating choreographic work that positions the relationship between choreography and knowledge-generation as its subject matter. As well as being supported by Midlands4Cities, my practice-based PhD is made possible through generous support from professional partner organisations Dance4 and Siobhan Davies Dance. My supervisors are Ramsay Burt (DMU), Sally Doughty (DMU) and Paul Russ (Dance4).


Research Area

  • Dance


The 'making-public', through live performance, of my choreographic works is a form of publication. My work has been presented at leading arts venues and dance festivals including Sadler's Wells, Tate Modern, Southbank Centre, Royal Opera House, Dance Umbrella, Nottdance in the UK, and in 15 other countries worldwide. For more information on my works and presentations of them, please visit www.matthias-sperling.com

My written publications include:

Jorina von Zimmermann, Staci Vicary, Matthias Sperling, Guido Orgs, Daniel C. Richardson (2018), "The Choreography of Group Affiliation", Topics in Cognitive Science, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 80-94.

Staci Vicary, Matthias Sperling, Jorina von Zimmermann, Daniel C. Richardson,Guido Orgs (2017) Joint action aesthetics. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0180101. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180101

Ben Duke, Matthias Sperling & Maria Kapsali (2016) Answer the Question. What are your/the tools of training?, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 7:1, 108-111.

Matthias Sperling, Sara Wookey (2015). Matthias Sperling. In S. Wookey, ed. Who Cares? Dance in the Gallery & Museum. London: Siobhan Davies Dance, p.106-111.

Siobhan Davies, Andrea Buckley, Helka Kaski, Rachel Krische, Charlie Morrissey, Matthias Sperling (2014) Introduction. In Table of Contents: Memory and Presence [Catalogue]. London: Siobhan Davies Dance.

Matthias Sperling (2013) Negotiating Time: Can the temporary leave a trace?, Theatrum Mundi: NEGOTIATING SPACES SALON SERIES, [Online]. Available from: http://theatrum-mundi.org/activities/the-sense-of-presence-can-the-temporary-leave-a-trace/

Matthias Sperling (2013) Matthias Sperling on The Movers. In Charming for the Revolution: A Congress on Gender Talents and Wildness [Catalogue]. London: Tate Film.

Matthias Sperling (2009) Dance UK Interview with Matthias Sperling from Siobhan Davies Dance new work, The Collection [Online]. Available at: https://www.danceuk.org/news/article/interview-with-matthias-sperling-from-siobhan-davies-new-work-the-collection/

Public Engagement & Impact

Please see my website: www.matthias-sperling.com