Dr Ben Spatz
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Ben Spatz is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance. He moved to Huddersfield from New York City in 2013 to join the Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research. Ben holds a PhD in Theatre from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (2013) and a BA with Honors from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University in Connecticut (2001).
Ben is the author of WHAT A BODY CAN DO: TECHNIQUE AS KNOWLEDGE, PRACTICE AS RESEARCH (Routledge, 2015) and several essays and articles published in academic and artistic journals. His research focuses on the transmission and innovation of embodied knowledge across physical culture, performing arts, and everyday life. In New York City Ben has performed and shown work at New York Live Arts, Abrons Arts Center, Movement Research at Judson Church, and Lincoln Center’s Rubenstein Atrium. He is an experienced performer and teacher of physical and vocal training for actors, drawing on a wide range of cultural and pedagogical sources.
Ben lived in Poland from 2003 to 2005 as an apprentice performer at the Centre for Theatre Practices Gardzienice and a Fulbright Fellow at the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw. For more information about Ben’s artistic projects, visit <www.urbanresearchtheater.com>.
Research and Scholarship
Ben is a champion for embodied research, an emerging field that foregrounds the depth and breadth of embodied knowledge that structures our lives as embodied creatures at every level. Integrating insights from phenomenology, cognitive studies, dance theory and performance studies with a poststructuralist, queer, radically critical stance, the field of embodied research offers a profound shift in our understanding of technology, ecology, and human life.
Ben’s first monograph provides a basis for theorizing embodied knowledge and research by analyzing a series of case studies including postural yoga, actor training, and gender. It draws on social epistemology and the sociology of scientific knowledge to argue that embodied research and scientific laboratory research have more in common than is usually acknowledged. Drawing on Ben’s experiences with the European laboratory theatre tradition and the multiple legacies of Jerzy Grotowski, this book offers a starting point for anyone seeking to establish or expand embodied research projects within and beyond academia.
Ben is currently working on several new projects to further the interdisciplinary emergence of embodied research, including a second monograph, a co-edited volume on Performance as Research, a new international working group, and a video journal. He has been a member of the Performance as Research working groups of both IFTR and ASTR and has published a series of articles exploring the relationship between embodied knowledge and multimedia documentation. At Huddersfield Ben leads the JUDAICA song-action research group, an ongoing laboratory-based project that explores post-Grotowskian song-action through the practice of Jewish cultural materials including traditional folk and para-liturgical songs.
Publications and Other Research Outputs
Spatz, B (2017) ‘What do we document? Dense video and the epistemology of practice.’. In: Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving. London, UK: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. . ISBN 9781472588203
Spatz, B (2017) ‘Embodiment as First Affordance: Tinkering, Tuning, Tracking’ Performance Philosophy , 2 (2), pp. 257-271. ISSN 2057-7176
Spatz, B (2016) ‘Choreography as Research: Iteration, Object, Context’. In: Contemporary Choreography: A Critical Reader. London, UK: Routledge. .
Spatz, B (2016) Embodied Research: An Epistemic Context for Martial Arts Practice [Video]
Spatz, B (2016) ‘Epistemic Objects’ Theatre, Dance and Performance Training , 7 (2), pp. 274-277. ISSN 1944-3927
Spatz, B (2016) ‘Colors like Knives: Embodied Research and Phenomenotechnique in *Rite of the Butcher*’ Contemporary Theatre Review . ISSN 1048-6801
Spatz, B (2016) ‘Touching Landscape: Intersections of Embodied and Ecological Pedagogy’. In: Inspire Conference 2016, 21st June 2016, University of Huddersfield
Spatz, B (2016) ‘Singing Research: Judaica 1 at the British Library’ Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies , 1 (2), pp. 161-172. ISSN 2057-0341
Spatz, B (2015) ‘Out from the Egg of Silence: For a Topology of Song’. In: T H E D A R K P R E C U R S O R International Conference on Deleuze and Artistic Research, 9-11 November 2015, Ghent, Belgium
Spatz, B (2015) Sequence of Four Exercise-Actions (physical training led by Ben Spatz) [Video]
Spatz, B (2015) What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research . London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13-885410-9
Spatz, B (2014) ‘Stanislavsky's Threshold: Tracking a Historical Paradigm Shift in Acting’ Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism , 29 (1), pp. 81-95. ISSN 2165-2686
Spatz, B (2014) ‘Massimiliano Balduzzi: Research in Physical Training for Performers’ Theatre, Dance and Performance Training , 5 (3), pp. 270-290. ISSN 1944-3927
Spatz, B (2014) Massimiliano Balduzzi: Physical Training for Performers [Video]
Spatz, B (2013) ‘Book Review of Emergency INDEX 2011’ TDR: The Drama Review , 57 (2), pp. 185-186. ISSN 1054-2043
Spatz, B (2013) ‘Citing musicality: Performance knowledge in the Gardzienice archive’ Studies in Musical Theatre , 7 (2), pp. 221-235. ISSN 17503159
Spatz, B (2012) Tales of the Hasidim [Performance] In: Tales of the Hasidim, July 2012-2013,
Spatz, B (2011) ‘Practice as Research: Foundations for a Community of Knowledge’ Congress on Research in Dance , 2011, pp. 48-57. ISSN 2049-1255
Spatz, B (2011) Rite of the Butcher [Performance] In: Rite of the Butcher, 2010-2013,
Spatz, B (2010) ‘This Extraordinary Power: Authority, Submission, and Freedom in the Actor-Director Relationship’ Ecumenica , 3 (2), pp. 43-61.
Balduzzi, M. and Spatz, B. (2010) PLAYWAR [Performance] In: PLAYWAR, 2009-2012,
Spatz, B (2010) ‘Book Review: Practice-as-Research in Performance and Screen, and: Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies’ Theatre Journal , 62 (3), pp. 490-491. ISSN 0192-2882
Spatz, B (2009) ‘A Series of Openings: The Year of Grotowski in New York’ Slavic and Eastern European Performance , 29 (3), pp. 18-25.
Spatz, B. and Pianta, L. (2009) ‘Changing the Space: An Interview with Ben Spatz of Urban Research Theater by Lane Pianta’. In: New York Theater Review 2009. New York: Black Wave Press. pp. 45-64. ISBN 9780578022840
Spatz, B (2008) ‘To Open a Person: Song and Encounter at Gardzienice and the Workcenter’ Theatre Topics , 18 (2), pp. 205-222. ISSN 1054-8378
Spatz, B (2008) ‘Iphigenia in Aulis at La Mama: Microculture and Musicality in the Work of Gardzienice’ Slavic and Eastern European Performance , 28 (2), pp. 81-89. ISSN 1047-0019
Selected Invited Talks and Workshops:
• Martial Arts Studies Conference, University of Cardiff, 2016
• Artistic Research and Materiality, University of Leeds, 2016
• International Platform for Performer Training, Grotowski Institute, Poland, 2016
• European Theatre Research Network, University of Kent, 2015
• Laboratory Theatre Network, Centre for Performance Research, Falmouth 2015
• Archives Into the Future, The British Library, London, 2015
• TiLT Studio, Liverpool, 2014
• Réplika Teatro, Madrid, Spain, 2013
• City Theatre Workshop, Segovia, Spain, 2013
• Leimay/Cave, New York City, 2013
• Contemporary Performance, College of Staten Island, 2013
• Institute for Arts and Psychotherapy, 2011
• Philadelphia Society for Art, Literature and Music, 2009
Research Degree Supervision
I invite MA and PhD research proposals in the following areas:
• actor training and acting technique
• theatres of musicality and song
• epistemologies of embodiment and practice
• intersections of performing, martial, healing, and ritual arts
• ethics and politics of embodied training and discipline
• cultural and sexual identities as areas of embodied knowledge
I invite teachers and artists who have established competency in a particular area of specialized embodied practice to use the available MA and PhD pathways to enact a productive encounter between academic and non-academic knowledges.
In addition to phenomenology and cognitive science, I promote the informed application of feminist and queer theory, critical race theory, indigenous studies and the sociology of knowledge to the embodied know-how of actors, dancers, singers, yogis, martial artists, and other specialized practitioners. By the same token, I suggest that everyday processes of enculturation, socialization, and identity-formation may be investigated through embodied research methodologies.
Research projects may involve public showings but should not be primarily oriented towards the creation of theatrical works. Rather, they should produce new knowledge and understanding through a combination of embodied and scholarly methods. The question of how such knowledge is best disseminated and assessed will be an important part of your research design
For photo and video documentation of Ben’s theatrical projects and artistic work, please visit <www.urbanresearchtheater.com>.
Ben is Year 2 tutor for the Drama programme. He serves on several committees and is responsible for organizing events as part of the School’s Culture Programme
Teaching and Professional Activities
I teach theory and practice across all years of the undergraduate drama and theatre program at the University of Huddersfield. I am currently supervising an MA project that applies ensemble physical training to Greek choral work (Georgia Tenta) and am on the panel of a PhD that will analyse and articulate a contemporary theatre practice based on Meyerhold’s Biomechanics (Chloe Whitehead).