Choreographic Process


Skinner Releasing Technique

Polly Hudson

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University



This research offers a paradigm shift in understanding of Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT) from that of a dance technique to one of choreographic methodology. The primary research question was: can SRT be not only a dance technique, but also a methodology for creating dance? Thematically the work examines notions of self portaits and questions the culture of 'selfies'.

The research shows how the principles and practice of SRT can be a way into making dance works. Joan Skinner talks about this in an interview, saying that ‘in Releasing, the imagination and the physical self are totally integrated in movement . . . thus technique and creative process are integrated in this technique’ (Skinner, cited in Neuhaus, 2010). The research aims to discover what that actually means in action and to ask questions about what the possibilities are for shifting the paradigm of SRT from one of a dance technique into a creative methodology and practice.



This exposition documents the latter part of a research practice developed over a sustained period. The research involved a detailed examination of a dance technique and its application to choreography. Central to the research is applying the findings to dance making.  

SRT is the dance technique that underpins many aspects of contemporary dance, and as such has considerable influence, but it has not previously been examined in this way. The underpinning principles of the dance technique were interrogated, along with specific exercises in the classes, and applied to choreographic processes in a number of settings, each activity leading to the next. These linked, in-depth studies in choreography provide evidence of the evolution and application of the methodology. In thematically questioning the culture of ‘selfies’, anxiety, and modern obsessions, the work utilised the researcher’s own (female) solo body on screen. It drew from images in historical art practices and replicated these on screen utilising current technology in a variety of ways including displaying a multiple screen version as ‘paintings’ in frames, and working with movement responsive technology to create soundscapes. In presenting a new methodological approach to choreography alongside thematic narratives the resulting research is a synthesis of artefacts (dance films) informed by research-led analysis, so offering new insights.


The research has been transmitted globally in over 30 settings, in galleries, festivals, and online.  Dissemination via academic papers and conferences include: Making Lemonade, SRT and screendance, Dance and Somatic Practice conference: Coventry, UK (2015), and SRT and the artist-scholar: shifting paradigms in contemporary dance, International Symposium on Practice as Research; Kong Hong Academy for Performance Arts (2017). The research received funding from public bodies, and awards in prestigious screendance festivals in USA, Chile, Italy and Sweden. It has been disseminated through public forums including Slow Dancing, The Embodiment podcast (2020). Referencing by scholars in the field includes Hetty Blades in Screendance Self/portraits, International Journal of Screendance (2018), and by artists who have utilised the research in their practice, including Emily Warner.



Vis-er-al (2016)

Director/choreographer/performer: Polly Hudson

Director of photography: Matthew Beckett

Lighting Design: John Constable

Music: Darren Pickles

Editing: Polly Hudson and Matthew Beckett


Making Lemonade (2015)

Director/choreographer/performer: Polly Hudson

Director of photography: Rebecca Pittam

Lighting Design: Catherine Cullinane

Music: Darren Pickles

Editing: Polly Hudson and Rebecca Pittam

Vis-er-al (2016), 60 second version


Making lemonade (2015) single screen version

About Skinner Releasing Technique

I encountered SRT, developed by Joan Skinner, in 1994. This would prove to be a turning point in my development as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. I took weekly classes and attended numerous retreats and intensives, immersing myself in learning this work. The combination of alignment techniques, movement, hands-on work, and use of poetic imagery made complete sense to me. SRT would come to underpin my teaching, my research, my artistic practice, and to influence me philosophically.

Joan Skinner

The Pedagogy and Terminology

Skinner Releasing Technique now

Skinner Releasing Technique and me

Still from Making Lemonade, single screen version, (Hudson, P. 2015) 

Making Lemonade, 3 screen installation, 9evenings Redux:Vivid Projects, Birmingham (2016)

Girl Holding Lemons (Bouguereau, W.A. 1899) and Making Lemonade (Hudson, P. 2015)

 Ophelia (Millais, J.E. 1851-52) and Vis-er-al (Hudson, P. 2016)

Dissemination of the Research


Vis-er-al; installation and single screen dance film

2016        9evenings Redux, Vivid Projects: Birmingham, UK (installation)

2016        Mexico City Videodance Festival: Mexico City, Mexico

2017        Hope Film Awards: Las Vegas, USA

2017        Global Short Film Awards: Cannes, France

2017        Screendance Festival: Stockholm, Sweden

2017        FIVC, International Videodance Festival of Chile: Santiago, Chile

2017        C.O.T.A. Festival Fort Worth, Texas, USA (60 secs version)

2018        San Mauro Film Festival: Turin, Italy

2018        FICCE:  Buenos Aires, Argentina

2019        Cinedans dance film festival: Amsterdam, Holland

2020        60 seconds International Film Festival, online (60 secs version)

2020        OtherMovie Lugano Film Festival: Lugano, Switzerland

2020        60 Second Intl Film Festival: Islamabad, Pakistan (60 secs version)

Making Lemonade; multiple screen dance film installation and single screen dance film

2015        Body, Space, Object symposium: Coventry

2016        Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices conference: Coventry, UK

2016        9evenings Redux: Vivid Projects, Birmingham, UK, installation

2016        Tran(s)mit International Screendance festival: Philadelphia, USA

2017        TechFest: Innovation in Technology + Film: online and USA

Selected conferences

2019        At what point does a practice become art?, public research seminar, Birmingham City University 

2018        Convener: Slowing and stilling: foregrounding process in performance practices, Birmingham City University, in association with International Dance Festival Birmingham

2017        Skinner Releasing Technique and the artist-scholar: shifting paradigms in contemporary dance practices. International Symposium on Practice as Research; Kong Hong Academy for  Performance Arts        2017        Slowing perceptions, an alternative to spectacle: interventional performance practices and site-specific dance works in city spaces. AHRA conference; Birmingham City University

2017        *as yet untitled* on process: Life in the Piazza, contemporary histories of Europe in artistic and creative practices symposium, BCU

2016        Convener: 9evenings Redux, Vivid Projects, Birmingham

2015        Making Lemonade, SRT and screendance, Dance and Somatic Practices conference, Coventry University

2015        Making Lemonade. Dialogues across and between dance and art symposium; Coventry University

Selected publications: text based

2020        We Reap What We Sow, embodiment and urban allotment gardening. Part 1: autumn - late winter.  October - January, Ruuku Journal

2020        Beyond Technique - Letting Go and the Art of Making Dances; in Skinner Releasing Technique Emerging Narratives, (Emslie et al) Triarchy Press (in press)

2019        Slowing and Stilling; gardening and Releasing, Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, Volume 11, Number 2, 1 December 2019, pp. 209-226(18)

2018        Slowing perceptions, an alternative to spectacle: interventional performance practices and site-specific dance works in city spaces, Architecture and Culture Journal, Taylor & Francis

Selected accolades and funding:

2020        Vis-er-al, finalist, 60 Second Intl Film Festival: Islamabad, Pakistan (60 secs version)

2018        Vis-er-al, finalist, San Mauro Film Festival, Turin, Italy

2017        Vis-er-al, finalist, Screendance Festival, Stockholm, Sweden

2016        Vis-er-al, semi-finalist in International Videodance Festival, Santiago, Chile.

2016        Making Lemonade, ‘Best of’ in Tran(s)mit International Screendance festival, Philadelphia: USA

2015        Arts Council England, for Vis-er-al

2015        Business Link, for Making Lemonade

2015        Advantage West Midlands, for Making Lemonade

2014        Arts Council England, for Making Lemonade