Portrait of Dr Hilary Elliott Dr Hilary Elliott

h.elliott@hud.ac.uk | 01484 478467


Born in Adelaide, Australia, Hilary joined the University of Huddersfield in 2006 after a 12-year freelance career as a theatre and dance maker, performer, teacher and facilitator in both the UK and Australia. Hilary’s early training was in ballet and contemporary dance. She continued dancing whilst studying for her BA (Hons) in English and Drama which she received from the Australian National University, Canberra, in 1990. In 1992, Hilary was awarded Australia's highly-competitive Pilkington/Leeds University/Commonwealth Office Scholarship and she completed a Masters with Distinction at the Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds, in 1993. She then directed, choreographed and performed in dozens of productions in small-scale touring, educational and community contexts in England and Australia. This included dancing with the Schools Company of the West Yorkshire Playhouse (The Waltz, 1994); serving as Artistic Director of the Bradford Women's Performance Project (1995-6); creating and performing work co-commissioned by the Yorkshire Dance Centre and Bradford Theatre in the Mill (The 18:12 To Tashkent,1996); serving as co-Artistic Director of Student Theatre at Monash University, Melbourne (1998-2000); directing regularly as an artist in schools for the Victorian Arts Centre and as visiting director at La Trobe and Monash Universities (1997-2004) and co-creating and co-performing original pieces of dance theatre (Quiddity Theatre,1998-2004). Whilst living and working in Melbourne, Hilary encountered improvisation as a performance form. Her immediate fascination with instant composition, particularly the interplay of moving and speaking, led her to study with Al Wunder, Andrew Morrish and Peter Trotman, renowned experts in the field of improvised performance. Between 1998 and 2004, Hilary performed regularly as an improviser, alongside choreographing and performing with Quiddity Theatre. From 2005, Hilary's performance and research concentrated on questions of operational principles, notions of space and place and the interaction of the senses in improvised solo and duet performances. This exploration took place as a series of Spontaneous Combustion events at the Universities of Huddersfield, Northampton, Salford and the National University of Mexico and in dance venues in Melbourne (Cecil Street Studios), Berlin (ADA Studios) and Stockholm (National Ballet Academy of Stockholm). She received her practice-led Doctorate in solo improvisation from the University of Huddersfield in 2013 after studying for 4 years alongside her role as Senior Lecturer in Dance, Theatre and Performance in the Drama Department. Hilary has an on-going Iyengar Yoga practice and continues to improvise, publish and present in a range of contexts. She is currently writing a book on the unique pedagogical strategies, creative approaches, philosophical principles and significant educational and artistic impact on the field of improvised movement theatre of Australian-based, American master teacher Al Wunder.

Research and Scholarship

My current research explores interdisciplinary intersections of philosophy and improvisation and syntheses of movement and speech. In 2013 I achieved my practice-led doctorate, which investigated the role of vision in understanding solo performance improvisation as a form of composition and which instigated an innovative methodology in which I pragmatically engaged with the phenomenological discourse of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In 2014, I gave a moving/talking paper for the Galway Dance Days/ CORP_REAL symposium at NUI, Ireland and in 2015 a semi-improvised danced/spoken paper for the 40th Annual Meeting of the Merleau-Ponty Circle at WPI, Massachusetts. In 2015 I was the recipient of an Early Career Researcher Grant from the School of Music, Humanities and Media and in 2017 I received a grant from the University Research Fund. I have published articles in the peer-reviewed journals Theatre, Dance and Performance Training and Choreographic Practices and have contributed a book chapter to Improvisation In Dance, forthcoming by Oxford University Press. I am currently writing a book on improvisation master Al Wunder, to be published by Routledge.

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Elliott, H (2017) ‘Metronome and Melodic Lines: Confluences of the word and the move in solo studio-based movement improvisatory practiceChoreographic Practices , 8 (1), pp. 51-66. ISSN 2040-5669

Elliott, H (2017) ‘I CAN’. In: Labanarium Launch Symposium, University of Surrey, 6th January 2017, University of Surrey


Elliott, H (2016) ‘Book Review: Remaking Memory : Autoethnography, memoir and the ethics of self John Freeman With contributions by Rebekka Kill, Nazar Jabour, Kate Rice, Steph Brocken and Jamie CoullPerformance Research , 21 (6), pp. 138-139. ISSN 1469-9990

Elliott, H (2016) ‘The Sensational FactsTheatre, Dance and Performance Training Blog .

Elliott, H (2016) Transformation [Performance] In: Improvisation & transformative processes: A participatory research salon. TransDisciplinary Improvisation Network (TIN)., July 6 2016, Middlesex University, UK

Elliott, H (2016) ‘The Point of Contact’. In: Inspire Conference, 21st June 2016, University of Huddersfield


Elliott, H (2015) The Philosopher and The Dancer [Performance] In: The Twenty-first Century Body: Annual Gathering of the Merleau-Ponty Circle, 1st - 3rd October 2015, Massachusetts, USA

Baldwin, M., Chamberlain, F., Elliott, H. and Morris, E. (2015) ‘this is not natural [transfiguration]’. In: Performers Insights into this is not natural [transfiguration], 28th and 29th of July 2014, University of Huddersfield


Elliott, H (2014) ‘‘”The Fifth Appendage”: investigating the role of vision in solo improvisational dance training’.Theatre, Dance and Performance Training , 5 (1), pp. 31-44. ISSN 1944-3927

Elliott, H (2014) ‘Experienced Space’. In: Galway Dance Days/CORP_REAL symposium, 28/3/14 - 30/3/14, NUI Galway, Ireland


Elliott, H (2013) THE PLACE FROM WHICH I SEE: a practice-led investigation into the role of vision in understanding solo performance improvisation as a form of composition. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.


Elliott, H (2012) ‘"Composing Vision": A demonstration of practice-led research into solo performance improvisation.’. In: Studio Matejka: The Human/Body as a 'Cultural Actor' Research Symposium and Work Demonstration, 1 June 2012, University of Salford


Elliott, H (2011) ‘Spontaneous Combusion #42’. In: Work in Progress sharing PhD by PaR in Dance and Performance, June 14 2011, Centre for Practice-led Research in the Arts and the Choreographic Lab, The University of Northampton


Elliott, H (2010) ‘Playing with/in boundariesProximity , 13 (3), pp. 4-9. ISSN 1445-7830

Elliott, H (2010) ‘Improvisation as Performance and Immediate Writing’. In: TaPRA Conference 2010, Cardiff, ,

Elliott, H. and Britton, J. (2010) Spontaneous Combustion [Performance] In: Spontaneous Combustion, Ballettakademien, Stockholm, Sweden.


Elliott, H (2009) Spontaneous Combustion [Performance] In: Spontaneous Combustion, as part of 'Concoction', August 2009, Cecil Street Studio, Melbourne, Australia

Elliott, H. and Britton, J. (2009) Spontaneous Combustion [Performance] In: Spontaneous Combustion, as part of the research project 'The Week of Speakers', 22 June - 24 June 2009, University of Huddersfield


Britton, J., Elliott, H., Middleton, D. and Moss, T. (2008) ‘Writing the Body, Dancing The Mind’. In: 'Writing the Body, Dancing The Mind’ workshop, July 2008, National University of Mexico

Elliott, H. and Britton, J. (2008) Spontaneous Combustion [Performance] In: Spontaneous Combustion, as part of the research project 'Writing the Body and Dancing the Mind', March 2008, National University of Mexico


Elliott, H. and Britton, J. (2007) Spontaneous Combustion [Performance] In: Spontaneous Combustion, June 2007, Ada Studio und Bühne, Berlin, Germany.

Elliott, H (2007) ‘Tracking and Mapping Improvisation’. In: Improvisation Continuums: theorising practice across disciplines, April 2007, Cardiff

Elliott, H (2007) Spontaneous Combustion [Performance] In: Spontaneous Combustion, as part of the research project 'Enhancing Performance', February 2007, University of Canberra


Elliott, H. and Britton, J. (2006) Quiddity Nights [Performance] In: Quiddity Nights, Autumn 2006, University of Huddersfield


External Examiner, Foundation Degree in Physical Theatre, Craven College/University of Bradford, 2013-14 (course discontinued).
Member of the Watching Dance Project, 2011 - current.
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy; 2011 – current.
Membership of ‘Improvised Movement Practices Research Group’, supported by University of Northampton and The Choreographic Lab; 2011 – current.
Membership of C20th – C21st Performer Training Working Group, Theatre & Performance Research Association; 2010 – current.
Funding Advisor for Arts Council Victoria, Australia; 2004.
Recipient of Australia’s Pilkington/Leeds University/British Commonwealth Scholarship; 1992

Research Degree Supervision

Hilary has supervised and examined a number of Masters by Research and is currently supervising both MA and PhD candidates. She is interested in research projects that explore choreographic and/or dramaturgical strategies within dance/physical theatre practices. She is also happy to hear proposals from potential research degree students on the role of improvisation as a generative tool for the creation of material, as a mode of training and as a performance form within contemporary theatrical discourse.

Enterprise Activities

Member of the Labanarium International Resource and Network Centre for the movement community, 2017
Co-Artistic Director of Quiddity Theatre, 1997 - current.

Administrative Responsibilities

Year Two Tutor, BA Hons Drama

Teaching and Professional Activities

I cover a wide-range of teaching areas and methodologies, specialising in dance theatre/physical theatre; devising; improvisation in performance training; improvisation in and as a performance form and practice as a methodology for research.