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Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works

A production course geared to performers, choreographers, and other artists interested in producing site-specific work. Through three assignments, students will have the opportunity to plan and conceptualize a site-specific work.


Course at a Glance


About the Course

This course focuses on the creation of live site-specific choreography and performance works from conception to production to performance. Site-specific dance/performance is work created in response to a particular place or site, inspired by its architecture or design, its history, and/or its current use. Lectures and forum discussions will investigate site-based projects in both urban and non-urban locales, and ranging from large-scale to small (guerrilla) style productions. Furthermore, together we will delineate definitions of site-specificity, and look across the history of the field, focusing primarily on dance.

Specific techniques and approaches towards generating site-inspired choreography will be introduced here, but the primary focus is navigating technical issues (lighting, sound, media) and production challenges (budgeting, obtaining permissions, insurance, fundraising, audience/event design). This is a media-rich course that features examples of site-specific work by Stephan Koplowitz to illustrate key points in the lectures, and other work shared by students in the class.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: History and Context
What is site-specific performance and dance? We'll define the genre through four distinct categories, and survey the range of site work in dance, performance, and installation-based practices.

Week 2: Working from the Outside In
How to deal with pre-production decisions, such as selecting and assessing a site, and putting together a working budget.

Week 3: Research and Staging
How to begin developing an artistic proposal for a site through a variety of set research "filters."

Week 4: Production Elements
How to generate content as it applies to site and the concept for your work, and a survey of what you need to consider in terms of sound or music, lighting, costumes and media.

Week 5: Creative and Production Challenges, Part 1
Safety issues; considerations when working in urban and natural environments; working with different production staff (costume, lighting, and sound designers) and other collaborators, such as composers or other artists. 

Week 6: Creative and Production Challenges, Part 2
Strategies for fundraising and marketing; and an overview of documenting your work.

Recommended Background

This course is designed for anyone interested in learning about site-specific dance and performance. Prior site-specific experience in dance or theater is not required but some experience in creating dance, theater, performance or installation-based practices is recommended. 

Suggested Readings

Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces. Melanie Kloetzel and Carolyn Pavlik, eds. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2009.

Course Format

You are welcome to participate in this course as an observer or casual learner. You can watch the lecture videos, submit assignments or contribute to the discussion forums as you wish. A completion grade will be visible on your Course Records page.

If you are interested in earning a Verified Certificate through Signature Track, you must earn a minimum number of "points" which equates to a passing score. Points are awarded for completing peer-assessed assignments, completing peer evaluations, and posting in select forums. If you complete the course without verifying your work, you will still earn a completion grade on your Course Records page.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
No, this course no longer offers a Statement of Accomplishment and instead only offers a Verified Certificate signed by the instructor. To receive one, you must enroll in Signature Track and successfully earn a minimum number of "points" (through assignments, evaluations, and forum participation). Otherwise all students are welcome to engage with the course content, assignments, and discussion forum with no intention of earning a certificate. 

This course offers a Signature Track trial so that you can start verifying your work for free and pay anytime before the final week of the course. Coursera Financial Aid is also available for learners with limited economic means. If you complete the course without verifying your work, you will still earn a completion grade on your Course Records page. 

I took the previous session of this course. Can or should I take it again?
We would be thrilled to have repeat students in the class. Much of the lecture content is the same, but there will be some new material and content, including some live conversations with some very special guests (to be announced). And, you will have continued access to the community of artists and additional resources within the course platform.

I am not a dancer or choreographer. Can I still take this class?
Absolutely! This course is designed for anyone interested in learning about site-specific dance and performance and how to create performance works outside of the proscenium stage. Prior site-specific experience in dance or theater is not required but some experience in creating dance, theater or performance is recommended. There are many students who have taken this class and still learned a lot from the content and the community of learners.

What resources will I need for this class?
Besides a computer with an internet connection, to complete all of the assignments in this class you will need: 

  • Access to some sort of recording device for still images and/or video.
  • A notebook to record notes, sketches and/or diagrams of your selected site.

What are some things I'll learn by taking this class?
This course will teach you learn specific methodologies towards making performance works inspired by site. You'll also learn how to distinguish between different forms of site performance and make informed choices when working within this format. The process of conceiving of site-specific work will alter your view of the environment around you, and we hope this course will guide you to find new inspiration in the art you make.