Creating Site-Specific Dance and Performance Works

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Course Date: 29 September 2014 to 10 November 2014 (6 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

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.

Estimated Workload: 4-5 hours/week

Course Instructors

Stephan Koplowitz

Stephan Koplowitz is an award winning director/choreographer/media artist known for his work on stage, film and site. His site work aims to alter people’s perspectives of place, site, and scale, all infused with a sense of the human condition and is concerned with the intersection of natural, social and cultural ecologies within urban and natural environments. Since 1984 he has created 62 works and has been awarded 42 commissions. He is the recipient of a 2004 Alpert Award in the Arts (Dance), a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship in Choreography in addition to a 2000 New York Dance and Performance Award, “Bessie” for “Sustained Achievement” in Choreography. Koplowitz is also the recipient of six National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowships from (1988-97). His choreography and company, Stephan Koplowitz & Company (Kop Art, Inc.) have been produced repeatedly by internationally recognized performing arts venues domestically and abroad.  After living in New York City for 23 years, Koplowitz, in 2006, was appointed dean of The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts, Los Angeles) where he currently resides. In addition to his role as dean, Koplowitz is on faculty and teaches advanced choreography and MFA seminar classes. He was recently a contributor to the first book published on site-specific choreography, Site Dance, published by Florida University Press (2009 & in paperback since 2011). In 2013, Koplowitz site projects can be seen in the Los Angeles Metro (April) and in Milwaukee, Wis. (June). He will also be on faculty at the 2013 Bates Dance Festival, teaching choreography and site-specific creation. Past site projects can be seen at: www.koplowitzprojects & -

Course Description

This course will look into the process of creating 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. We will investigate site-based projects in both urban and non-urban locales, and ranging from large-scale to small (guerrilla) style productions. 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. Aspects of navigating technical issues (lighting, sound, media) and a primer on producing (budgeting, obtaining permissions, insurance, fundraising, audience/event design) will also be covered.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

What resources will I need for this class?

For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, the time to look at recommended links and the chance to investigate real sites and locations in response to assignments

What are some things I'll learn by taking this class?

The process of conceiving of site-specific work will alter your view of the environment around you, you'll find new inspiration to make art and you'll learn a specific methodology 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. 


Week 1: History and Context
What is site-specific performance and dance? Through a number of examples, 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
Dealing 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
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; strategies for fundraising and marketing; and an overview of documenting your work.


The class will consist of lecture videos of varying lengths, some contain 1-2 integrated quiz questions per video. There will also be 3 assignments and some required forum participation. 

Suggested Reading

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

Course Workload

4-5 hours/week

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