Opportunity: A funded PhD working with CDS’ archives

A funded PhD working with the Chisenhale Dance Space archive


Over the 40 years that dance artists have been working in the ex-warehouse we call Chisenhale Dance Space, an extensive archive has been amassed and stored in a little room off the Research Studio. It charts the history of the organisation and the artists involved, alongside its key role in the development of the independent and experimental dance sector in the UK.

Recognising the importance and impact of their work, at several points during our history there have been efforts made to sort the archive, but until recently it had remained largely unloved. In the last year, thanks to new partnerships with the Victoria & Albert Museum Theatre & Performance Dept. and Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University we have safeguarded its future as a vital resource, and today announce a funded PhD opportunity for someone to really get to grips with it: to research, explore and respond to this recent, influential, but under-documented artistic history.

Would you like to be ‘Dr Chisenhale Dance’? Applications are now open and further details are below.


Chisenhale Dance: recovering the origins of independent and experimental dance in the UK (project working title)

This is an opportunity for an emerging scholar to develop and complete a PhD working with Chisenhale Dance Space (CDS) and the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University. The PhD student will work with the CDS archive to create a detailed historical and cultural analysis of CDS’s contribution to the dance sector. The CDS archive offers a rich resource for understanding how the organisation has collaborated with artists, revealing how artists have worked, survived and been supported, and how this has shaped the current dance ecosystem. The PhD student will likely use archival and desk-based research, fieldwork, interviews and creative curation to produce a thesis, an online exhibition, public workshops, conference papers and other materials.

Although this brief description above is specific in its expectations, we encourage applicants to think broadly about how they might work with the CDS archive to develop their research proposal.

Staff from V&A Museum and CDS during the recent initial archive sorting.

The following are some potential research questions, but applicants should only use them as a guide while developing their proposals:

  • what influence has CDS had on the dance sector today?
  • who has worked at CDS and what artist journeys has the organisation supported?
  • how has the evolving dance sector shaped CDS and contributed to the organisation’s survival and what strategies of survival are modelled by CDS?
  • what is the relationship between the organisation and its archive? How does the archive reveal more about how CDS has evolved as an ‘artist-led’ organisation?

During the four-year PhD programme, the student will have opportunities to train in archival practices, cataloguing and online exhibition production. The Victoria & Albert Museum Theatre & Performance department, as a partner in supporting the future of the CDS archive, will provide this training. Training in other relevant research methods will be provided through C-DaRE’s postgraduate research training events, Coventry University’s doctoral college training programme and through the Midlands4Cities training events.

The project is a four-year Collaborative Doctoral Award, and the student will be part of the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership.

Please note that once the candidate has successfully completed their PhD within 4 years, they may be eligible for a one year post-doctoral fellowship.


  • 16 November 2019: Application Writing Workshop in Coventry
  • 20 December 2019: Deadline for student applications
  • 10 April 2020: successful applicant notified
  • 21 September 2020: applicant starts PhD

Supervision: Simon Ellis (C-DaRE), Rosemary Lee (C-DaRE) and Daniel Pitt (CDS)

Further application information, and other opportunities.

Further information about the money.

For further information or to express interest, please email Simon Ellis, simon.ellis@coventry.ac.uk, copying in Daniel Pitt, daniel@chisenhaledancespace.co.uk