Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)


Faculty of Education And Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Maggi Phillips


The aim of this paper is to enter into the debate about meaning and movement and challenge the idea of dance as linguistic communication. Without words, and even with words according to some linguistic theorists, it's not possible to make sense unless we come to an agreement about a set of shared concepts. This is difficult in dance, an art form that has been silent, but undergoing evolutionary change for a large part of its history. I take the point of view that performance movement is even more arbitrary than text as a form of signification. We can read words prescriptively. We agree what a word means and what concepts a word might refer to. But even then in the combination of words we can interpret meaning differently. Even words can be confusing. We are forced at times in conversation in our first or 'natural' language to ask: "What do you mean?" So how can dance be read - when there is little semantic agreement about what a gesture, or a dance step might mean? Maybe we can't read dance. Perhaps what we read, and the only thing we can read, are the words, embedded, attached, contained, and generally surrounding the movement because we are verbal creatures. We can read words easily, after gaining an education, but reading nonverbal communication is fraught with difficulties and misunderstandings.

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Dance Commons