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Auto_Bio_Graphy as Performance

A field of dance historiography



A project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.


Location: Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Universität Bern, Switzerland.


Prof. Dr. Christina Thurner

Dr. Elizabeth Waterhouse

Dr. Julia Wehren

MA. Nadja Rothenburger

Claudio Richard


Autobiographies of dancers are unique sources of information for dance historiography. By autobiography, what is meant are 'personal testimonies' from dancers in written form (as books), as well as statements that are spoken (as oral history conversations with contemporary witnesses) and performed (as pieces, performances, and choreographies).

general info
content and aim




Auto_Bio_Graphies, i.e. individual’s (auto) descriptions (graphie) of their lives (bio), are records of knowledge and experience. In order to draw knowledge from autobiographical sources for the purpose of dance historiography, their specific status as sources must be further taken into account and reflected upon. The project, therefore, pursues a twofold objective: first, a broad spectrum of autobiographical sources elaborating upon dancers' lives that will be gathered, thematically examined and historiographically evaluated in context; second, to reflect on and (re) describe/rewrite the relationship between existing dance and historical discourse and the autobiographical testimonies. The following questions motivate this endeavor: How should dance scholars treat the self-testimonies of dancers with regard to their understanding of dance, the (dance) historical, phenomenal and media contexts? How are ‘dance experiences' presented? What new findings can be derived from these sources, with regard to writing dance historiography as well as autobiography research?






The booming genre of autobiography is here taken seriously as an object of dance studies and made historiographically productive. The project includes autobiographical forms that have so far been neglected and makes an important contribution to the collection of unknown materials. In particular, oral history discussions with contemporary witnesses (often in the elderly population) are deemed urgent data to 'rescue'—generating unique archival sources for dance research.

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