Author: Liesbeth Wildschut
Language: English
Made available by: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek
Themes: Political & Social Issues Research and Application
Media: article

The first issue of Danswetenschap in Nederland was published in 2000, the last volume, no 9, in 2017. In 2018 the board of the Dutch Society for Dance Research decided to cease their activities, including the publication of Danswetenschap in Nederland. It was a difficult and sad decision, but happily enough, the Festival the Dutch Dance Days and the National Centre Performing Arts (NCPA) realized  the importance of continuing of a platform for dance research in the Netherlands. It was decided to mark this step with a celebration of the research compiled in the nine volumes of Danswetenschap in Nederland by publishing an online anthology in order to expose the variety of topics and methods of dance research executed by MA students, PhD students and researchers during this period.

Peter Eversmann, Guido Jansen, Hanneke Koolen, Mirjam van der Linden, Ruth Naber and Liesbeth Wildschut went through all the articles to select those which are still relevant concerning the topic, the method or the questions they raise. We made the choice to publish the original articles and offered the authors the possibility to add a post script. Students may be inspired going through the articles and from a research point of view the now digital availability of the articles will make it easier to find relevant ones when browsing the internet.

The start of Danswetenschap in Nederland was an alternative for and an ambitious continuation of the Bulletin that the Dutch Society for Dance Research presented twice a year and which was a combination of a newsletter, some articles and discussions. Ger van Leeuwen (1926-1999) and Mirjam van der Linden took the initiative for this new step. At that time, dance research at universities in the Netherlands was very limited. As Van der Linden (2000, p.5) pointed out in her editorial preface, Danswetenschap in Nederland aimed to give dance related research a floor in order to elicit positive effects, resulting from bringing together various contributions in a single volume. It was important to make the research more visible and accessible and by presenting a volume each two years, the hope was to encourage potential fellow professionals to publish. The editorial board (Peter Eversmann, Anja Krans and Mirjam van der Linden), supported by the Dutch Society for Dance Research, decided to invite all sorts of research and divided the volumes in the sections: Recent Research, Dissertations in progress and Master Research. In addition an expert was asked to write a more comprehensive article: the State of the Dutch Dance (de Stand van zaken in de Nederlandse dans). The volumes were introduced by one of the editors, elaborating on an actual topic, and an updated bibliography of dance books completed each volume.

With changing editors over the years, we compiled nine volumes. Every two years after a call for abstracts, the editors made a selection based on quality, without judging the topic. The result is an archive to be proud of, consisting of 195 articles: 13 Editorial Articles, nine State of the Dutch Dance, 46 Recent Research, 26 Dissertation in progress and 101 about Master Research.

The character of dance research
In 1993 and 1994 the Dutch Society for Dance Research organized discussion meetings about the question ‘What is dance research?’ The conclusion was that all kinds of subjects can be seen as dance research as long as the research question somehow focuses on dance in the broadest sense. These subjects include not only perspectives from a theatre or dance studies point of view, but also from medicine, psychology, history, policy, anthropology, etcetera. This is what we see reflected in all volumes of Danswetenschap in Nederland.

Rereading all the volumes, the most striking themes represented in the actual topics in the Editorial Articles are the closer relations between theory and practice; between universities and dance academies; and research initiated by dance companies and choreographers. An institutionalized interaction between theory and practice, common in the United States and Great Britain, was not yet the case in the early nineties in the Netherlands.

A radical change in the system of higher education was the implementation of the Bachelor and Master structure in 2002. At Utrecht University, a first course in dance history had started already in 1973 and from 1983 on dance history and theory received structural attention. However, in the Bachelor programme Theater-, Film- and Televisiewetenschap, which combines the study of theatre, dance, film, television and new media, dance became more and more visible. Although the title of the Master programme at Utrecht University was Theatre Studies, it is important to note that Contemporary Theatre and Dance Studies was chosen as subtitle. Within this Master, students made a choice for a theatre or dance track. With the appointment, in 2006, of Maaike Bleeker, the dance education and dance research at Utrecht University was safeguarded. The 0,5 fte for a lecturer/researcher dance had already been changed into a fulltime position in 2003.

After some initial resistance against academic research, due to the traditional misconception that the art of dance(making) and academic knowledge do not match, the dance academies initiated and executed dance research as well, with focus areas like alternative training methods inspired by knowledge from sports, injury prevention, nutrition and development of educational material such as dance analysis methods. At the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) theorising is part of their philosophy. Already in 1994 a symposium was organized about the interdisciplinary approach of the body, which resulted in the publication The Connected Body?.

In Danswetenschap in Nederland Vol. 4 (2006) we included for the first time master research from students who graduated at dance academies. The changing structure in BA and MA at dance academies had resulted in the MA Choreography in Tilburg and Dance Unlimited in Amsterdam, Arnhem and Rotterdam. Their research originated mostly from practice. Since then, dance academies as well as universities gave financial support to enable the continuation of Danswetenschap in Nederland. Lectureships started at several dance academies in order to develop and strengthen their research profile. These lectureships enabled teachers at dance academies to write a PhD, like Jeroen Fabius at the Amsterdam School of the Arts and Thérèse Boshoven at ArtEZ. At the same time, at universities the number of PhD students increased, as we can see in the section Dissertation in progress.

Several collaborations between universities and dance academies are described in the editorial articles in Danswetenschap in Nederland. To mention a few: applying dance historical knowledge in dance practice at the SNDO, also accessible for students from the University of Amsterdam; collaborations between choreography students (Codarts, SNDO) and dance dramaturgy students (UU); The Erasmus/Socrates programme Dance as Integrated in Humanities and Society: Reflection in Dance (organized by UU, AHK and Fontys for dance students and teachers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and the United States); Students at the Professional School of the Arts (PSAU) working on research questions from external partners. In the meantime reflection at dance academies became more and more essential.

The dance field joins in
Results from the closer connection between theory and practice were not only achieved between universities and dance academies, but also the dance field itself embraced academic knowledge and research. Every year the Dutch Society for Dance Research organized a seminar where theory and practice met and discussions took place. From 2009 on I gathered many straightforward as well as complex questions and assignments from choreographers, dance companies, festivals and dance academies to offer students of the Utrecht University the opportunity to expand their dance dramaturgical experience, connecting their knowledge to the practice and vice versa. The development of dance dramaturgy at Utrecht University was successful: BIT Dansdramaturgen Overleg Utrecht was established, existing of young dance dramaturges who aimed to sharpen the profession of dance dramaturgy from the perspective of the dance practice by means of study, discussion, talks and publications.

In Danswetenschap in Nederland Vol 6 (2010) Bianca Nieuwboer gave examples of choreographers and dance companies who opened their doors for research. Among others: Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten extended their company EC|PC to the Internationaal Choreografisch Kunstencentrum Amsterdam (ICKamsterdam) with two of their seven pillars focusing on research, namely Double Points and Accademia Mobile. They developed a network of transmission, exchange and dissemination in order to embed education and research activities. CLOUD/Danslab was a knowledge centre in The Hague where experienced choreographers were invited to reflect on their artistic development by doing research and to open up their acquired knowledge concerning the choreographical practice to other choreographers. Dansmakers Amsterdam, Dansateliers, Station Zuid and Korso were places where young dancemakers are offered the opportunity to explore and develop their own artistic practice. Already for some time, these institutes work with a resident dramaturge. Interest in dance dramaturgy was growing, apparent from two well-attended symposia about this topic. The first was organized by Dansmakers Amsterdam (2009), followed by the publication Perspectives on potential dramaturgies. The second (2010) was a seminar of the Dutch Society for Dance Research where BIT Dansdramaturgen Overleg Utrecht presented themselves in a playful and interactive way to the audience. Finally, Nieuwboer gave examples of how knowledge from other scientific areas can play a role in the dance practice, like neuro- and cognitive sciences (Nieuwboer 2010, pp. 9-15). Nowadays, collaborations between artists and scientists are widespread and fruitful.

Reflections and positions of choreographers as well as researchers concerning separation and approximation of art and science can be found in Danswetenschap in Nederland Vol 7 (2012). In Danswetenschap in Nederland Vol 8 (2015) Hanneke Koolen notes that “The recognition of artistic research as a valid form of research is gradually shifting the discourse on dance studies in the Netherlands. Researching dance is not just a matter of looking back in analysis and reflection, with the choreographer as the object of study. Through practice-as-research, makers have the opportunity to methodically explore different propositions to the audience, manipulating the parameters of performance. … But let’s not forget that in order to make valid claims about the activity and experience of the audience, their inner process should not just be implied, but studied methodically as well.” (Koolen 2015, p. 15)

In retrospect: Recent Research
Rereading  the articles in the several categories of the nine volumes, I was pleasantly surprised by the richness of topics, approaches and research methods. Obviously, the body is an actual theme in dance research and we can bring many of the Recent Research articles under this umbrella: papers about the physical development of young dancers bodies and the workload of dancers and dance teachers (Van Rossum); about the experience and expressiveness of the dancing body (Fabius, Brown); and about experiences of spectators (Bleeker, Wildschut, Fisher). In the anthology the reader will also find overviews: about dance therapy (Van Wieringen); dance in the Netherlands (Aalten and Van der Linden); dance education at the SNDO (Fabius); and dance medicine (Van Loon-Felter). Furthermore, the editors selected articles about the use of technology (Körtvélyessy); documentation (Bermúdez); and education (Solleveld, Houtgast, Gerritsen and Goedhart, Körtvélyessy).

Dissertation in progress
Each time the editors prepared a new volume, they asked all researchers working on a dissertation to write an article about their PhD study. This could be about the theoretical frame, the methodology or the findings. Because writing a PhD is a long-term project, some researchers have written several articles, which gives an insight in how their work evolved. In those cases we selected for this anthology only one of their papers, but you can visit the website of the Dutch Society for Dance Research to see if more articles have been published about a specific research ( We selected work of Maaike Bleeker (2002), Liesbeth Wildschut (2002), Mia Vaerman (2006), Thérèse Boshoven (2008), Zeynep Gündüz (2010), Guy Cools (2015) and João da Silva (2015), which present a variety of topics.

Academic and Professional Masters
Spread over the nine volumes, over a hundred articles were published in this category. The number of master theses about dance is even larger, because not all graduates contributed. The selection we made shows a variety of topics, related to the current dance practice, dance and new media, improvisation, health and the ever returning question ‘what is dance?’. We asked all authors to send us an updated biography. This gives the reader relevant information about the further development of the graduated

For the second volume as well as for the last one, Francine van der Wiel wrote the State of the Dance. In 2002 she observed some movement in the crucial flow-through of talented young choreographers but concluded that nevertheless a platform for the works of choreographers is needed. In 2017 she made connections between the identity of the Dutch dance, the identity of the human subject in the digital society and themes that interest choreographers. She concluded that the art of dance, in the past often qualified as unworldly escapism, definitely was involved in the public debate.

Isabella Lanz (2004) wondered what stayed with her of the performances she watched in this period. She mentioned, for example, performances with film integrated in the stage design, performances with music played on stage, intriguing cross-overs between dance and text and four thought-provoking Sacre interpretations.

In 2006, Sander Hiskemullers essay was dominated by the clear-cutting of funding as proposed by the new Arts Plan. Many prominent choreographers, like Truus Bronkhorst, Hans Tuerlings and Piet Rogie, were swept away. Furthermore, he discussed several dance festivals and their different visions. Mirjam van der Linden addressed in her State of the Dance (2012) the concerns and anger of the art world in response to the cultural policy of Halbe Zijlstra. The disappearance of nearly all the production houses caused unrest, but also gave rise to more creative content-based as well as business alliances.

Annette Embrechts (2008), Moos van den Broek (2010) and Marcelle Schots (2015) discussed in their essays what draw their attention on the stages. For Embrechts, a growing historical awareness was striking. She mentions the Hans van Manen Festival and the Cover Project initiated by the Dutch Dance Days. In this project, experienced choreographers were invited to select an existing dance work from the past as inspiration for a new work. She also noticed that the relation between spectator and performer is challenged. Van den Broek posed the question how to deal with heritage, documentation and knowledge transfer. She noticed a new generation of urban dancemakers. Finally, Schots emphasised the interaction with other disciplines like games and film and identified an increase of an active collaboration with composers.

To conclude
Looking back, we may conclude that the aim of the Dutch Society for Dance Research to make research more visible and accessible by presenting a volume every two years has been successful. We hoped to encourage potential fellow professionals to publish. I am convinced that the anthology reflects the richness of dance research in the Netherlands.

If you are interested to read more: some volumes are still available in print. Please contact

The State of the Dance
The editors decided to include in the anthology all nine States of the Dance, to give the readers a valuable overview of what the various authors deemed relevant in each period of two years.

Onno Stokvis was the first who was asked to write this essay, which he gave the title: Nederlandse dans op de grens van de 21e eeuw. Veel bereikt maar ook nog veel te doen. He noticed a flowering dance culture in the Netherlands, but a limited presence on international stages except for works of Kylián and Van Manen. He called for collaboration between dance companies and institutions and between independent choreographers (triple bills), because for them it is hard to develop and grow.


Linden, M. van der, P. Eversmann and A. Krans (eds). (2000). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 1, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Linden, M. van der, P. Eversmann and A. Krans (eds). (2002). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 2, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Linden, M. van der, L. Wildschut and J. Zeijlemaker (eds). (2004). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 3, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Linden, M. van der, L. Wildschut and J. Zeijlemaker (eds). (2006). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 4, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Linden, M. van der, L. Wildschut and J. Zeijlemaker (eds). (2008). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 5, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Naber, R., B. Nieuwboer and L. Wildschut (eds). (2010). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 6, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Nieuwboer, B., L. Wildschut and W. Zoet (eds). (2012). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 7, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Koolen, H., J. Naafs, R. Naber and L. Wildschut (eds). (2015). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 8, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.
Delft, M. van, Z. Gündüz, H. Koolen, J. Voets and L. Wijers (eds). (2017). Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 9, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek.

Koolen, H. (2015). Invitation to the Dance. Performance as Proposition. In: H. Koolen, J. Naafs, R. Naber and L. Wildschut (eds) Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 8, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek, p.15

Linden, M. van der (2000). Redactioneel. In: M. van der Linden, P. Eversmann and A. Krans (eds) Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 1, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek, p.5

Nieuwboer, B. (2010). Danspraktijk zet deur naar onderzoek wijd open. Hoe het dansveld haar blik verbreedt. In: R. Naber, B. Nieuwboer and L. Wildschut (eds) Danswetenschap in Nederland – deel 6, Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek, pp. 9-15

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