Engaging Delight: A Case Study of Site-specific Dance in Public City Gardens

By Karen Nicole Barbour.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Drawing on the body of research in site-specific art (Hill & Paris, 2006; Kaye, 2000; Kwon, 2004; Suderberg, 2000), I discuss and reflect on the experience of creating site-specific performance in public spaces, with reference to on-going participation in the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival. Site-specific dance can be understood as a collaboration with, and response to, the elements of a particular place, including the physical features, the emotional and sensory nature of the site, and its cultural history and use. Underlying the decision to create site-specific dance was a commitment I shared with the Festival to enhance community well being and foster social and cultural cohesion through free and accessible performances. In particular, we shared an intention to delight and surprise, using choreography and performance to encourage audiences to experience the familiar public places of the gardens differently. Researching the aesthetic and poetic aspects of the gardens’ designs provided inspiration for performances that embodied reflective and meditative states, sensuality and vitality. Two works, ‘Fluid echoes dance’ performed in the Japanese Garden and ‘Dancing through paradise’ performed in the Indian Char Bagh Garden will be discussed.

Keywords: Site-specific, Contemporary dance, Performance, Public Gardens, Arts Festival

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.119-136. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.562MB).

Dr. Karen Nicole Barbour

Senior Lecturer, School of Education, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

I am a lecturer in contemporary dance and choreography at The University of Waikato with a focus on providing opportunities for students to express themselves through personal movement and contemporary dance. I am interested in fostering qualitative dance research, specifically in choreographic practice, contemporary dance, improvisation, site-specific and environmental dance and video dance. My own research focuses on embodied ways of knowing, and particular interests lie in collaborative artistic research, feminist choreographic practices and alternative writing practices to express lived experiences. I also dance and choreograph freelance.


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