Practice Research Exhibition at TaPRA,

University of Worcester

8th-10th September 2015


The Search for the Operatic: bridging the gap between the spectatorial and performer positions through sketch-making and embodiment techniques

This practice-research was comprised of observing opera singers in rehearsal and sketching them as they moved.  As well as records of body position, and to some degree dynamic flow, the exhibited sketches were regarded as kinaesthetic responses in and of themselves – responses to the environment of the rehearsal, in particular responding to the sounds of the orchestra.  These sketches were, in part, generated through an embodiment of the music, which was occurring in the same moment as the singer was engaged in embodying the music.  These sketches were then used as tools that therefore contained kinaesthetic information which could be unlocked through a process of Butoh derived embodiment techniques alongside reference to the sketched image.  This ultimately allowed me to move from a spectatorial position to a performance maker position, bringing a sense of the operatic into the non-singing body, whether that was my own or the bodies of other performers.  In this way, and combined with rigorous observation of the corporeal restrictions of singing operatically, choreographies were created that employed operatic ways of moving in non-singing bodies and the operatic was extracted from opera and employed in movement based practice.  The aspect of the practice-research exhibited is the correspondence between sketched documentation of the singers in rehearsal and photographic documentation of the dancer (researcher) in performance.

Dr Daniel Somerville


Daniel Somerville is a movement based practitioner and academic.  He has performed nationally and internationally and his work has been supported by Arts Council England.  His practice-research is an interrogation of the term ‘operatic’ with particular reference to movement.  He trained at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Theatre Practice: Alternative Theatre and New Performance Practice, 1st) and at Goldsmiths (MA Performance Making, distinction) and undertook his PhD at University of Wolverhampton (funded by Centre for Art and Design Research Experimentation). He lectures at University of Worcester and is a specialist tutor in Opera Studies at Rose Bruford.

Extract from Thesis - concerning the role of still images in the research:

The following pages are extracted from my thesis and show how the sketches, when compared retrospectively to the photographs, demonstrate how certain gestures were transmitted into the body, through a process of kinaesthetic empathy.