Dr Tamara Ashley

Senior Lecturer in Dance

Tamara Asley working in the dance studio

Moving inside and outside, within and without, I am interested in how we can partner with one another and with the earth to create moving dance works and empowered relationships.

Principles of Contact Improvisation have been important to the development of my research in durational and environmental performance and in several duet collaborations with other dance artists, such as Simone Kenyon, Tim Rubidge, Lilly Picts, and Nala Walla. With Simone Kenyon, I undertook the entire Pennine Way as a 300 mile choreography. My work continues to be inspired by studies with teachers such as Nancy Stark Smith, KJ Holmes, Ray Chung, Mark Taylor, Janis Claxton, Beverley Nolan and Nina Martin.

At the University, I co-ordinate the MA Dance Performance and Choreography programme, and I am the artistic director of The Ensemble, the MA performing group, through which I work with professional choreographers each year to create new works for touring. I also teach technique and choreography across the undergraduate dance and performing arts programmes and mentor post-graduate research students at the University of Bedfordshire and at other universities.

My work focuses on climate grief, and health and well being as core aspects of cultivating sustainable cultures and livable futures. Recently this work has led me to the publishing of a book with colleague Alexis Weedon, 'Developing a Sense of Place', which looked at artistic leadership models in placemaking. I have also undertaken consultancy for local government on arts, culture, well being and sustainable placemaking. I completed a PhD on Dance and Ecology in which I investigated the somatic aspects of sustainable farming and the ways in which climate change intersects the work of dance artists. I regularly lead sessions on climate grief, artistic placemaking for sustainability and community development. 

As an MFA and PhD student at Texas Woman's University in the United States, I initiated a lifelong interest in the application of critical pedagogy, feminist practice and somatics to dance education. More recently, my continued studies in yoga, mindfulness practices and somatics encourages me to pursue education as a practice of freedom and liberation for all. I was able to apply this knowledge in a recent project to develop a choreographic app for the iPad, for both disabled and non-disabled users.


  • BA (Hons) Dance – Roehampton Institute, London
  • MFA Choreography, Texas Woman's University
  • PhD Dance, Texas Woman's University
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Camyoga Yoga Teaching Diploma (RYT200)

Teaching Expertise

  • Choreography; site-sensitive, durational and environmental performance
  • Improvisation; contact improvisation and improvisation in performance
  • Somatics, Yoga and Mindfulness applied to technique, choreography and performance
  • Inclusive Practice, Critical Pedagogy and Engaged Practices in Dance

Research Interests

  • Improvisation and Ecological Perception in Performance
  • Dance and Environmental Change
  • Somatics and Yoga applied to dance
  • Dance and Technology


  • Mapping Lineage Artist Book, lineage maps of practice by dance improvisation artists, due for publication 2017.
  • Scores for Eco-Sensitive Dancing in The Oxford Handbook of Improvisation published by Oxford University Press due for publication in 2017.
  • 'Towards Post-Human Somatic Practices', Editorial in a special issue of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices on Interactivity and Embodiment, Issue 8.1, 2016
  • Inclusive Practice Perspectives on Developing an iPad Application for Choreography, Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, Issue 8.1, 2016
  • July 2015, An Ethics of Care in Environmental Dance Practices, Dance and Somatics Practices Conference, Coventry University.
  • December 2014, Invited speaker to Collider Conversation on dance and technology, hosted by Dance 4, Nottingham
  • July 2014, Witnessing and Moving with Nature, World Dance Alliance Global Summit, Angers, France
  • September 2013, Invited Speaker to South East Dance talk hosted by Brighton Digital Festival
  • April 2013, Invited and Included? Teaching Contact Improvisation in the University Setting, Contact Festival Dartington Conference, Falmouth, Cornwall
  • January 2013, The Bartenieff Fundamentals Thigh Lift and Contact Improvisation, The Laban Guild Magazine.
  • April 2013, Invited Speaker to the IT4 Arts Symposium at the Wigmore Hall, London
  • December 2012, Ecologies of Choreography in Choreographic Practices journal published by Intellect.
  • April 2012, segment contributor to The Art of Listening: Intuition and Improvisation in Choreography, by Darla Johnson published by Tstc Publishing, USA
  • November 2011, Invited Speaker to Candoco Dance Company Turning 20, Royal Festival Hall, London
  • March 2011, book review on Jonathan Burrow’s A Choreographer’s Handbook in Journal of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, published by Routledge
  • November 2010, Digital Shift, paper presentation to the British Computer Society on the development of a post-graduate e-journal in the arts. Co-presented with Carla Cesare.
  • July 2010, Spectacular Disruptions: Durational Site-Sensitive Dance Performance and the Disruption of Representation, paper presentation on my work in site-sensitive improvised performance to the Society of Dance History Scholars, The Place, London
  • July 2010, Tensions in Time: Endure, paper presentation to the World Dance Alliance on my work in site-sensitive improvised performance, New York University, New York, USA
  • April 2010, The Legs that Made Us: A Return Journey, co-authored article with Simone Kenyon on our performance practice in Journal of Visual Studies published by Routledge.
  • November 2009, Curating Performance Now and Then, published by Northumbria University Press. Co-authored with Helen Baker-Alder and Ginny Reed.
  • November 2009, Partnering Pedagogy and Research, presentation to the World Arts Alliance for Education Summit, Newcastle Upon Tyne
  • October 2009, The Garden, an exhibition of site-specific performance, hosted by Dance City, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
  • July 2008, Transcultural Perspectives on Digital Dance in Education, World Dance Alliance Conference, Brisbane Australia. Paper selected for refereed proceedings.
  • December 2007, Performing the Pennine Way: The Legs that Make Us, 100 page artist book co-authored with Simone Kenyon.
  • June 2007, Encounters, photographic collaboration in book by Manuel Vason, published by the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, UK.
  • December 2006, Exchanging Stone for Coal, Contact Quarterly, Fall/Winter 2006 Article co-authored with Simone Kenyon on our performance practice.
  • November 2006, Partnership Based Delivery, Entrepreneurship and Professional Practice in Dance HE, Lancaster University. Presentation given with Janet Archer on BA(Hons) Dance Choreography and the relationship between Dance City and Northumbria University
  • December 2004, Ethics of Experiential Performance Practice, Making a Difference Conference, Theatre Academy, Helsinki, Finland

External Roles

  • External Examiner Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, De Montfort University and the University of Malta
  • Visiting Tutor, PhD Arts Practice, University of Limerick

Contact Details

E: tamara.ashley@beds.ac.uk


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