The genesis of this project comes from my interest in the relationship between music and dance through my training in both fields. I trained to a tertiary entrance level in contemporary dance and the clarinet by the age of 18. As there were no tertiary courses available in Australia at the time that allowed for studying both music and dance, even as a double degree, I decided to continue my studies on the clarinet and my dance training was shelved. Over the years I have felt that my music training greatly helped my dance training and vice-versa. This mutually reinforcing relationship identified parallels in language between the two art forms. These parallels subsequently brought me to the questions; can a performer who specialises in dance and music to a professional standard perform both simultaneously to a professional standard? And if this is possible, how can this be achieved?

This project defines dancer-musicians as performers trained in contemporary dance and western classical music specifically, who are currently practicing dance or a musical instrument at a professional level and who have at least a tertiary level of training in the other art form. It explores the possibilities for these dancer-musicians to dance and create music simultaneously (within the individual performer) to a professional standard. A contemporaneous example is provided by Oren Lazovski whose work as a dancer-accordionist provides a template for my exploration in work as a choreographic clarinettist.

The project consists of a work which was created for dancer-musicians like Oren Lazovski using the Merce Cunningham-John Cage/choreographer-composer model. The work consists of a research and development period in July 2014, a creation period in December 2014 and the January performance of the work titled DIPTIK #1 in the Resolution! 2015 Festival at The Place. Observations were made based on video footage, surveys of three dancer-musicians involved plus audience feedback to determine how dancer-musicians dance and make music simultaneously and this is compared to work and methods of Oren Lazovski.

This project firstly places into context the historical timeline of cross-art performers to identify prior examples of dancer-musicians. It sets parameters for making sound and movement simultaneously by defining its place in history and questioning prior definitions of “sound is movement, movement is sound” or “mickey-mousing”. It then analyses the creation of DIPTIK #1 and compares findings with the methods used by Oren Lazovski, ascertained from his workshop “The Integrated Instrument” in April 2015.

Historical Context

Winston Stone writes about the musician as a theatre performer, providing a historical account of instrumentalists who performed on stage while participating in stage action.[1] One of the earliest examples of multi-talented performers is around 350BC, the Greek professional singer-dancer-musician Athenodorus of Teos. In 324BC he performed at Alexander the Great’s wedding.[2] This precludes ancient Greek theatre which, according to Stone:

… made no distinction among the many artistic elements … categorized as … dance, poetry, literature, … voices and instruments. These arts were unified into one art, so that in drama, the movement, words, and song coexisted with equal footing, and were manifested in the expressions of one performer. [3]

These performers were documented on ancient Greek pottery, including a vase that depicts a dancing flautist.[4]

During the renaissance we find more examples of dance and music performed by the same person in William Shakespeare’s plays, where actors played musical instruments. Also in Italy the street performers of the commedia dell’arte genre combined music and dance.[5]

In the baroque period the examples of music and dance combined are in early Opera. Stone also notes that:

It was during the Baroque period that the musician established a singular identity as an artist whose distinct talents could be used for theatrical purposes in specific locations. [6]

This idea continues through the classical operas and symphonies of Mozart and Haydn.[7] Again through the 19th Century onstage musicians became more and more prevalent in large-scale operas plus musical hall, minstrel shows, vaudeville, burlesque, and Broadway shows.[8]

Around the turn of the 20th century specialisation created a ‘division of labour’ between the performing arts. This was due to performers having increased expectations from directors and their desire to perfect their art forms. Stone in his dissertation identifies a cycle throughout history where performers fluctuate between being interdisciplinary artists and specialists.[9] 

On the contrary, Schechner considers music and dance to be types of theatre. This is due to the fact that in many cultures music, dance and theatre are intertwined - much like ancient Greek theatre. He identifies this interdisciplinary practice as ‘performance art’.[10] Within this practice lies the sub-genre of ‘instrumental theatre’, however, these stage musicians rarely left the primary role of musician.[11]

According to Stone, instrumental theatre came about from the works of Mauricio Kagel. In such works:

Performers comment (either verbally or in mime) on their playing and that of others, or create sounds in dramatic contexts, pointing to various aspects of difficulty, mockery or confusion.[12]

Other composers such as Viktor Alekseyevich Yekimovsky continued this kind of work. As reported by Stone, each work was considered experimental, consisting of entirely new ideas and not following previous compositional techniques or expressions.[13] Andy Pape continues this tradition of bringing theatre to classical music stage[14] and live musicians to the theatre stage.[15]


It was in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Der Harlekin, (The Harlequin) and Der Kleine Harlekin (The Little Harlequin) where a musician officially took on the additional role of a dancer for an entire work.[16]

These instrumental theatre works, along with dance and music collaborations by John Cage and Merce Cunningham, demonstrated the 20th century as containing the first occurrences of abstract theatrical performances, where dramatic narrative was not necessary.[17]


Today the age of specialisation has possibly passed its peak given that, for instance, some Broadway/West End theatre productions are calling for actor musicians.[18]

At this time collaborative companies are increasingly emerging. Some of these companies, such as Sounding Motion, put music and dance on ‘equal footing’ in the performance space.[19] As with instrumental theatre works, musicians may move and dancers may create sound, but their primary roles are still perceptible - it is still possible to discern the musicians from the dancers.

Indiscernible dancer-musicians, who specialise in performing both music and dance simultaneously, are beginning to emerge. Only in the last three years have there been examples of works that combine contemporary dance and western classical music within the one performer in such way.

One such example is Oren Lazovski. He is a Berlin based professional dancer and choreographer who also plays the accordion. In 2012 he developed a work called ‘Überich, Saudade’ for dancing accordion player which explores the relationship between performer and instrument and pushes the limits of both art forms simultaneously.[20] He is currently in the process of developing a method for combining music and dance within the one performer called ‘The Integrated Instrument’.[21] Some of Lazovski’s ideas have guided this study which attempts to gain more insight in this new kind of practice.


Defining Parameters 


A number of questions are raised here, firstly, how possible is it for a performer highly trained in classical music and contemporary dance to perform both at the same time to a professional standard? Secondly, by what process does one play an instrument and dance at the same time? Thirdly, how can one develop this kind of practice to a professional standard?


The Little Harlequin

As I am a dancing clarinettist, one might assume the first step for understanding these questions would be to study Stockhausen’s The Little Harlequin. While this piece, along with The Harlequin, is the sole example given by Stone as being written for a dancing musician, the reason I have not chosen this path is because this work still falls under his category of ‘onstage instrumental musician as theatre performer’.[22]

Stockhausen composed the score with a melodic line for the clarinet, a rhythmic line for the clarinettist’s footsteps and includes detailed movement instructions. Stockhausen mentions in his preface that:

The Little Harlequin is a roguish, exuberant dance musician and a bubbly performing artist, who could inspire a more versatile kind of musician for the future.[23]

Stockhausen himself considers the clarinet line most important due to the fact that he believes the subtle (or unsubtle) movements of simply playing the clarinet are part of the dance.[24] Therefore The Little Harlequin is written for a clarinettist primarily.

Stone too proposes that in the Harlequin the performer has not been stripped of their foremost role as musician.[25] Similarly Marczak suggests this work is of the commedia dell’arte genre.[26] Stockhausen consequentially has provided the dance instructions in a musical language. There is no instruction that a clarinettist would need dance training or have any movement language-base to successfully perform this work. Therefore the performer of The Little Harlequin would fall under the category of  ‘onstage instrumental musician as theatre performer’[27] rather than dancer-musician because no prior, in-depth, knowledge of human movement is required.


Sound = Movement

The parameters for this project can be found in Beth Shelton’s three representations of the relationships between music and dance. In his article Music, dance and the total art work: choreomusicology in theory and practice, Paul Mason quotes these metaphors as:[28]

1.     Sound is movement, movement is sound
2.   Music and dance as co-existing worlds
     (separately created),
3.   Music and dance as intertwining partners,
     related but separate (collaboration).[29]

However, I believe Mason has misunderstood the idea behind point 1 when he adds 'mickey-mousing'. This term is used earlier in McCombe’s paper (which also features Beth Shelton) when Helen Herbertson describes music that mimics the characteristics of dance.[30] Shelton actually spoke of point 1 in an interview regarding a piece called Sky Song for vibrating wire, wind chimes, cello, and ‘whirly’ instruments:

"...the body creates the dance and the body also creates the sound at a really basic level. Seeing them as emanations of the same.... the sound is a movement, the movement is a sound."[31]

Catherine Stevens supports this notion of the body creating sound by saying:

…contemporary dance often is not composed to fit or accompany a musical score. The choreographer and dancers work in silence with only breath and foot – or body – impacts producing the auditory soundscape.[32]

Similarly Fry also asks us to:

Consider being both musician and dancer simultaneously. There are many parallels between the two activities. Both require physical movement in relation to the acoustic environment.  Playing an instrument could be described as a carefully controlled finger dance with audio feedback.[33]

It is my opinion that Shelton does not imply a ‘mickey-mousing’ where sound is mimicking movement but is describing sound as the result of the movement. It could be argued that Mason’s term in describing this activity is a misrepresentation that has negative connotations.

Also I believe that there is another dimension to Shelton’s points - that a single performer can achieve both points 1 and 2 simultaneously. In The Little Harlequin a musician can move their legs and feet to create the percussive sounds of the ball and heel of the foot against the floor. Furthermore, the musician can indeed create both feet and clarinet lines in counterpoint. Rather than being the result of each other, the two lines are separate but combine to create polyphony. It is subsequently possible for music and dance to have the same function and on another level, completely contrasting functions within the same performer. A performer could in theory play a very fast and loud phrase while moving slowly and with small movements. The varying degrees and functions of contrasting ideas within the same performer in this way is an area that would benefit from further study. The above authors have deduced that performing artists in either field of music and dance have a level of both sound and movement naturally built into their practice. Perhaps one can hypothesise that having a high standard of skill in both practices could make it possible to achieve Shelton’s points 1 and 2 within the same performer, where both music and dance are refined to a high standard?

To answer these questions a fellow student and I founded the company DIPTIK dance music. The purpose of this company was to create a work for dancer-musicians by establishing a methodology and engaging in a dancer-musician practice to then reflect on. Feedback from the performers about the process was obtained as well as feedback from the audience. This company attempted to achieve this dancer-musician practice by breaking the specialisation mould - intertwining the highly developed practices of dance and music in performance. We chose to follow a Cunningham-Cage model of employing a choreographer and composer as co-directors.[34] We employed performers who could identify as dancer-musicians and conducted a 4 day R&D (research and development) in July 2014, a 4 day creation period in December and a performance in the Resolution! 2015 festival at The Place on 9th January.



[1] Winston Stone. ‘The Onstage Instrumental Musician as Theatre Performer’.

(DPhil diss.,The University of Texas, 2008)

[2] Stone. ‘The Onstage Instrumental Musician as Theatre Performer’, 48

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 27

[5] Ibid., 5

[6] Ibid., 6

[7] Ibid., 7

[8] Ibid.,

[9] Ibid., 9

[10] Ibid., 2

[11] Ibid., 8

[12] Ibid., 21

[13] Ibid, 22

[14] Andy Pape, ‘Trash Recycled’ <> (Accessed 2 Oct 2014)

[15] Andy Pape, ‘Instrumental Theatre’ <

hMeC3JpJWsk> (Accessed 2 Oct 2014)

[16] Stone. ‘The Onstage Instrumental Musician as Theatre Performer’, 8

[17] Ibid., 9

[18] Ibid., 10

[19] [Unsigned] ‘Sounding Motion; Live Music and Dance’, <http://www.sounding!__page-1/projects> (Accessed 23 April 2015)

[20] Oren Lazovski, ‘Überich, Saudade’, <

m5Aedd98> (Accessed 26 June 2014).

[21] Oren Lazovski, ‘The Integrated Instrument’, <

#!projects/cm8a> (accessed 26 June 2014)

[22] Stone. ‘The Onstage Instrumental Musician as Theatre Performer’

[23] Karlheinz Stockhausen, Der Kleine Harlekin for Clarinet (Kürten, Srockhausen-Verlag, 1978)

[24] Katarzyna Marczak,  ‘Theatrical elements and their relationship with music in Karlheinz Stockhausen's HARLEKIN for clarinet’. (DMA diss., The University of British Columbia, 2009)

[25] Stone. ‘The Onstage Instrumental Musician as Theatre Performer’, 22

[26] Marczak,  ‘Theatrical elements and their relationship with music in Karlheinz Stockhausen's HARLEKIN for clarinet’.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Paul H Mason. ‘Music, dance and the total art work: choreomusicology in theory and practice’, Research in Dance Education 13/1 (2012), <http://dx.doi.

org/10.1080/14647893.2011.651116> (accessed 26 June 2014)

[29] Ibid.

[30] Christina A McCombe, ‘Slave to the Dance? The role and function of music in the work of four contemporary Australian choreographers’ )PGDip diss., The Victorian College of the Arts University of Melbourne 1994)

[31] Ibid.

[32] Catherine J Stevens, et al. Moving with and Without Music: Scaling and Lapsing in Time in the Performance of Contemporary Dance Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 26/5 (2009) <
10.1525/mp.2009.26.5.451> (accessed 2 April 2015)

[33] Fry. ‘Dancing Musicians’ Perspectives of New Music 21/1-2 (1982-1983), <> (accessed 2 April 2015)

[34] Van Stiefel, ‘A Study of the Choreographer/Composer Collaboration’ Working Paper #22, (Princeton, Princeton University, 2002), <https://www.prin> (Accessed 26 June 2014), 4