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phd proposal

In 1999 I applied to do a PhD at the University of Melbourne (through the Victorian College of the Arts). I was required to write a 100 word proposal that would be submitted along with references, an application form and academic records.

This is the proposal I wrote. It is pretty vague, but it does reveal a sense of my curiosity about memory and remembering in relation to choreography.

The research will investigate the relationship between memory and meaning in the making, presenting and viewing of dance works. These concepts will be examined in the process of creation in the studio, in the presentation of completed works, and by written thesis. The folio of choreographic work will be utilised to illuminate the nature and role of memory in the choreographic process. A further concern is to look at the dynamic relationship between personal and cultural aspects of memory and their influence on the choreographic process, the completed works, participating dancers and audiences. A qualitative methodology will be employed to collect and analyse data from multiple sources, including video documentation of choreographic work, interviews with participating artists, and written field notes.

Anyone who has been asked to write a PhD proposal in the last 10 or so years will be shocked at the brevity and simplicity of this writing. Potential students are now asked to jump through increasingly ludicrous hoops in order to determine the quality of their projects (projects that have not yet begun). It is as if we imagine there is some kind of direct line between a high quality proposal and a high quality project 1.

I would like to imagine that there is a way of stepping back from the absurd demands that are placed on students so that they are given the space to understand their work, for the research projects to emerge without constant monitoring, and for a proposal to be just that: a proposal, a beginning, an explanation or description of curiosity.


  1. I can tell you from experience that this is simply not the case.

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