The notion of performance is present in many diverse fields today, from economics to engineering and information technologies, to social media, sports and culture. We may indeed live in the ‘age of performance’ where the value of human and nonhuman action is largely determined by how successfully and effectively someone or something performs. Richard Schechner has famously approached performance as the ‘showing doing’ to others in theatre and in society. This does not mean that the performing subject fakes a character, but instead that she bears awareness of being seen by specific audiences and in particular contexts. Performance is thus entangled with processes of doing, valuing, sensing, situating and modifying, in today’s complex experience- and attention economy. In times of increased obsession with the performance of one’s own self, studying the mechanisms of performance-making and -seeing can help you develop knowledge, criticality and imagination of yourselves as acting agents in the world.

A time might be coming when the most radical politicization of art will be its detachment from any kind of economic value in order to reveal new affective and aesthetic articulations of the community
Bojana Kunst, Artist at Work, 2015
The errant carnality of a materiality making life and world away from neoliberal ideals of creativity and creative labor, is what I call the political potential of 'imagination'
André Lepecki, Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance, 2016

At UCU, performance is explored as a practice that can help you not only make sense of the world, but also think of how we can implement change. It is specifically proposed as a lens for analyzing and experiencing movement, language, image and sound, which enables you to develop a critical and perceptive attitude towards the ‘making of’ performance in and outside of theatre. The courses will provide you the tools for understanding both the forms, techniques and strategies of artistic performance, and how this knowledge can help you intervene in the diverse settings of meaning- and experience-making today. While acquiring experience in performance making, performing and spectating, you will be introduced to an international contemporary performance landscape and visit a range of artistic events. At UCU we are selective in what and how we teach, aiming to incorporate contextually relevant theories, authors and methods, that can support the practical and theoretical learning. All courses will guide you towards a well-informed selection, framing and problematizing of a research concern, while applying your Liberal Arts and Sciences mindset to examine it in an open, critical and sharp manner.

When we understand performance as the making of something to be seen and experienced in particular ways, as well as a set of skills in organizing attention, the Performance track can contribute criticality and depth to virtually any other discipline within the Humanities, and can be especially well combined with Media Studies, Art History and Museum Studies, and Literature & Classics. It can also add a performative dimension to tracks in Social Sciences (especially Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology) and even to Sciences (e.g. Cognitive Neuroscience and Earth & Environment).

If you are unsure about how performance studies could possibly intersect with your other curricular interests, do not hesitate to contact the track coordinator.

Performance has recently become a separate track at UCU (2018) and will be expanding in the future. Currently, three courses are taught at UCU:

  • ‘Introduction to Performance’ (level 1)
  •  ‘Composition and Dramaturgy in Performance’ (level 2)
  • ‘Engaging the Public through Performance’ (level 3)

The introductory course is mandatory for students who wish to take one of the advanced courses. If you are interested in taking an off-campus-course (e.g. at the University of Utrecht), you are best advised to contact the track coordinator.

MA in Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies

Although the track does not entirely cover the history and theory in theatre and dance studies, it offers a rigorous theoretical and practical understanding of performance, which is often considered sufficient for pursuing MA programmes in Dutch Universities as well as abroad.

MA in Arts & Society

All courses of the track propose an understanding of performance within and outside the frame of the theatre/stage, focusing on the intersections and crossings between arts and society. It is thus mostly considered sufficient for pursuing MA studies in this field in the Netherlands and abroad.

MA in Gender Studies

The notions of performativity, performance, affect and the body are studied rigorously in the Performance Track, offering a rather sufficient theoretical preparation for pursuing a Master in Gender Studies.

If you would like to consider pursuing a practice-based MA in the performing arts, you are advised to contact the Track Fellow (Konstantina Georgelou).

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