What are you training for? On acting and performance techniques - Current directions for embodied research in the performing arts

Target group

All doctoral research students, especially from the Doctoral School of Arts Humanities and Law (UGent) conducting either theoretical or practice-based research on all forms of contemporary art with interest in relating to embodied artistic research. Students from the fields of sociology, anthropology and cultural studies might find the approach of the lecturers particularly relevant to their research. Also postdoctoral researchers are welcome.


All PhD students

Organising and scientific Committee

  • Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert, Full professor in Theatre and Performance Studies at Ghent University, Director of the research centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media) and PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance) - E-mail:
  • Prof. Dr. Jan Steen, Lecturer in acting and head of Drama Department, KASK-School of Arts - E-mail:
  • Prof. Dr. Luk Van Den Dries, Full Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Antwerp and head of the department of Literature - E-mail:
  • Prof. Dr. Bart Philipsen, Full Professor in the Faculty of Arts, coordinator of Literary Studies Research Unit KULeuven - E-mail:


-    UGent S:PAM- Studies in Performing Arts and Media; School of Arts Ghent (KASK);
-    PEPPER Research Group - Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and PERformance, UGent;
-    KU Leuven;
-    Research Center for Visual Poetics – UAntwerpen;
-    a.pass: advanced performance and scenography studies;
-    Embodied Research Working Group- International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR);
-    Nordisk Teater Laboratorium


This interuniversity specialist course intends to investigate acting and performing techniques as a field of knowledge separated from those of the representation and spectacle.
In which ways can performer’s technique (a range of codified skills one chooses to learn) and performer’s training processes (how you engage with techniques towards creation or, how you create a certain routine to deal/improve these techniques), dialogue with other fields of study, such as philosophy, sociology and politics? Can we look at technique as an aesthetic/poetic device on its own? What is performative about it?
The designed programme seeks to investigate and challenge what acting and performance technique is, and how it is disseminated through artistic, social and political agency.
We will tackle this frame in both theory and practice, with interactive workshops, work demonstrations, reading seminars and lectures, where acting and performance technique apprenticeship will dialogue with a philosophical context which unfolds the notion of epistemology: the study of the nature of knowledge itself and how it is sourced.
The course is open to all art scholars, both in an academic and a practice-based sense, working on artistic and everyday life techniques as embodied discourses. Participants are invited to elaborate on different training methods and art practices, as much as on theoretical models, and to experiment with their individual approach to artistic work from a technical and training-like perspective.

Lecturers will work out the above frame in two levels:
1)    on a theoretical level, with the reading seminar sessions and the lectures of Prof. Dr. Ben Spatz (Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at Huddersfield University), and Odin Teatret’s performer Iben Nagel Rasmussen. Still active, she is considered a living archive, carrier of a legacy that dates back from the beginning of a particular physical theatre culture started by Jerzy Grotowski and Eugenio Barba in the 60’s.
2)    a practice-based level: the participants will participate in training exercises with Ben Spatz, and will watch the work demonstrations of Esa Kirkkopelto (Senior Lecturer on artistic research at UNIARTS Helsinki) and Carlos Simioni (Performer at Grupo LUME, Sao Paulo), followed by an open talk. The first from Finland, the latter from Brazil, these are two performers that found a precious way of seeing technique as a poetic object on its own, which they use to create radical interactions with the communities they belong to. Throughout the two days of this course, we will investigate the notion of embodied technique - both in artistic and everyday life practices - as an epistemic field, i.e. as a resistant and potentially radical strategy for knowledge of and/or dialoguing with a broader social/political context.

Venue and Programme

KASK- Bartsoenzaal, Jozef Kluyskensstraat 2, 9000 Gent

  • Day 1: Wednesday 10 January 2018

09:30 to 10:00 Coffee and attendance listert and Dra. Adriana La Selva on the overall topic.
10:00 to 10:30 Introduction by Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpa
10:30 to 12:00 Dr. Ben Spatz, who will give an introductory lecture on embodied research and his current artistic outcomes.
12:00 to 13:00 Nicolas Galeazzi (a.pass): "Unfolding performance notions and the conditions of the making"
13:00 to 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 to 17:30 Workshop session 1. Presentation and discussion of material linked to participants‘ research projects and art works. Participants are asked to prepare small presentations approaching corporeality and technique in relation to their own researches. This work will then be further developed in the workshop sessions, led and feedbacked by Ben Spatz.
19:00 to 21:00 Evening event: Esa Kirkkopelto/ Other Spaces will bring a lecture/performance on embodied research and different modes of being, also other-than-human.

  • Day 2: Thursday 11 January 2018

10:00 to 13:00 Practice-based Workshop with Dr. Ben Spatz where theory and practice aggregated in the previous day with the students will be exposed through an epistemological practice-based work on the very notion of technique.
13:00 to 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 to 16:00 lecture / artist talk with Iben Nagel Rasmussen in which she will reflect on her life-long commitment to training and the unfolding of physicality in political and social spheres. The lecture will unfold as an interview, led by Prof. Ben Spatz.
16:00 to 17:00 Launch of Rasmussen’s book The Blind Horse. Round table with the author and Dr. Adriana La Selva.
17:00 to 17:30 Refreshments break
17:30 to 19:30 Carlos Simioni carries out a work demonstration on his long term collaboration with Iben Nagel Rasmussen.

Registration and information

Please follow this link to register: https://webapps.ugent.be/eventManager/events/whatareutrainingfor

Students from other universities can register by e-mail to

Registration is free of charge for all PhD students.


  • Ben Spatz is author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge 2015); Arts & Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow (2016-2018); and Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Huddersfield. They convene the Embodied Research Working Group within the International Federation for Theatre Research and edit the new videographic Journal of Embodied Research published by Open Library of Humanities. Recent talks and workshops include a series of performative research presentations with Nazlıhan Eda Erçin and Agnieszka Mendel at University of Leeds, University of Manchester, University of Kent, the Martin E. Segal Theatre Centre at CUNY, NYU Performance Studies, and the Central School of Speech and Drama in London; as well as solo invited talks and workshops at University of Cardiff, University of the Arts Helsinki, University of Aberdeen and elsewhere. Recent articles have been published in the journals Performance Philosophy, Contemporary Theatre Review, and Liminalities. For more information and audiovisual materials please visit www.urbanresearchtheater.com
  • Iben Nagel Rasmussen is an actor, director, teacher and writer. She was born in 1945 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was the first actor to join Odin Teatret after its arrival in Holstebro in 1966. In 1983, she founded, parallel with her work at Odin Teatret, the group Farfa with actors from various countries. Farfa created a personal training programme and several performances. Since 1989 she has led The Bridge of Winds (Vindenes Bro), a recurrent yearly project with actors from Latin America and Europe who share their artistic experience and create performances. New Winds (Nye Vinde), a group of younger actors, has existed since 1999 and is working under the same principles. In 1986 Iben Nagel Rasmussen was given an award as "Best Actress" at BITEF in Belgrade, Jugoslavia, and in 1991 "Håbets Pris" (the "Prize of Hope") in Denmark. Her professional experiences are presented in The Actor's Way edited by Erik Exe Christoffersen and in the video documentary The Transparent Body edited by Claudio Coloberti. She has published two books: Brev til en veninde and Den blinde hest (Italian transl. Il cavallo cieco, Bulzoni 2006) as well as several articles in journals such as Teatro e Storia and The Open Page. She is the author, director and actor of the performance Ester's Book and is the main actress of the film Dressed in White, directed by Torgeir Wethal. For more information about Rasmussen’s artistic projects, visit www.odinteatret.dk
  • Carlos Simioni is a Brazilian actor and researcher. He was the first disciple of Luis Otavio Burnier and founded with him the Grupo LUME Theatre in 1985. Throughout the years he has developed research in the areas of Theatre Anthropology and Brazilian culture and worked on the elaboration, codification and systematization of psychophysical and vocal techniques for performers. He currently takes part in eight performances in the LUME repertoire: Kelbilim, Cravo Lirio e Rosa, Shi-Zen-Sete Cuias, Parada de Rua, Sopro, Abre-Alas, Os Bem Intencionados, Prisão Para a Liberdade. From 1989 he is a member of The Bridge of Winds, where he develops techniques for actor training and he performs in several shows, concerts and barters- an artistic method for cultural exchange. He is the founder and director of the group PATUANÚ - an itinerant centre for research in actor’s dance, with performers from several regions of Brazil. For more information about Carlos Simoni’s artistic projects, visit http://www.lumeteatro.com.br
  • Esa Kirkkopelto is a Finnish philosopher, artist-researcher, performer, former theatre director and playwright, convenor of Other Spaces live art collective. Since 2007, he has been working at the Theatre Academy (University of Arts Helsinki) as a professor of artistic research. His research focuses on the deconstruction of the performing body both in theory and in practice. Since 2008, he has conducted a collective research project “Actor´s Art in Modern Times” on psychophysical actor training. He is the responsible leader of the “Doctoral Programme of Artistic Research” (Theatre Academy, Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy & Aalto University), as well as the “Asian Art and Performance Consortium” (Theatre Academy Helsinki & Academy of Fine Arts) 2012-2014. He conducted his PhD on philosophy in 2002 at the University of Strasbourg and is the author of Le théâtre de l´expérience. Contributions à la théorie de la scène (Presses de l´Université Paris-Sorbonne 2008). He is a core-convenor of Performance Philosophy Association, a member of the editorial board of the peer reviewed journal Theatre, Dance and Performance Training and the convenor of the “International Platform for Performer Training” which gathered for the first time in Helsinki in January 2014. For more information about Esa Krikkopelto’s artistic projects, visit https://toisissatiloissa.net/en/about-other-spaces/

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

Presence and active participation (min. 15 contact hours).