University of Calgary

Pil Hansen

  • Associate Professor

Research Interests


Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Dr. Pil Hansen is Associate Professor at the School of Creative and Performing Arts where she teaches dramaturgy, performing arts management, Performance Generating Systems (improvisation), interdisciplinarity, and research methods in the three divisions of the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Hansen serves as President of the scholarly organization Performance Studies internal (PSi) and chairs a working group on Dramaturgy at PSi’s annual conferences.

She earned her PhD on Dramaturgy and Perception from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2007 and joined SCPA in 2015 from the University of Toronto, where she completed a SSHRC-postdoc and held a position at the rank of Assistant Professor.

Hansen’s current and recent research projects examine memory, perception, learning, and togetherness in creative processes through interdisciplinary experiments and Research-Based Practice. In the past, Hansen developed a compositional tool named “perceptual dramaturgy” and (with Dr. Bruce Barton) the cross-disciplinary methodology called Research-Based Practice. 

Her research results have been published in the journals Frontiers in Psychology, Connection Science, TDR: The Drama Review, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Performance Research, Peripeti, Theater Topics, Canadian Theatre Review, and Koreografisk Journal along with a series of essay collections and readers.

Hansen is the primary editor of two international essay collections Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement (2015) and Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre and Music (2017). Currently, she is writing a monograph for Routledge on the dramaturgy and psychology of performance generating systems and co-editing issues of the international journals Frontiers in Psychology on acting and Performance Research on perception.

Hansen is a founding member of Vertical City Performance and has worked as Dramaturg and General Manager of Scandinavian and Canadian dance, devising, and new circus companies since 2000.


Research Fields

Performing Arts Psychology (focus on memory, perception, learning, togetherness, and dynamical systems within creative processes and performance situations).

Dramaturgical praxis (focus on dance, theatrical devising, and new circus).

The dynamics of performance generating systems and instant composition.

Practice-as-Research, Research-based practice, and cross-disciplinary, empirical research methodology.

Performing arts management (focus on strategic development).

Current research projects

1. Aging Dancers: Interactions between Artistic, Material, Physical, and Mental Factors.

 I am in the early stage of building a research team and completing pilots for this study of the demands and strategies of professional dancers above 60 years in age with UCalgary pilot funding.

2. "Networked and neurodiverse strategies for teaching performance creation online": ongoing.

 In collaboration with my colleagues, Emma Climie (ADHD Clinique) and Laurie Radford (Sonic Arts Lab), and with funding from the Taylor Institute, I am developing pedagogical strategies and tools for teaching creation online. The team is taking point of departure in the strengths of individuals with ADHD and in networked creation approaches, both because such strengths may provide solutions for some of the challenges that experiential teaching models come up against online and because students with ADHD encounter barriers in neurotypical online learning environments that need to be addressed.

3. "Moving Connections Partnership: aging, loneliness, and dance": the first phase was completed in 2020, the second phase is ongoing.

In Partnership with Kaeja d'Dance, in collaboration with Candace Konnert (Healthy Aging Lab), and with Funding from SSHRC and Trillium, I support the development of autobiographically based dance creation interventions for older adults. The interventions are meant to generate embodied and meaningful social connections. The UCalgary team provided theoretically informed feedback during the development of a prototype intervention, empirical evidence, and analysis of the effect of the intervention, and evidence-based advice for the further development of dance offers for older adults. A second phase of the study around Covid-19 social isolation is in progress.

4. “The Effect of Dual Task Improvisation Systems on Working Memory and Learning Capacity”: first two phases were completed in 2019, final phase is ongoing.

In collaboration with first Vina Goghari (cognitive psychology) and Robert Oxoby (behavioral economics) and later Emma Clime (educational psychology) and Oxoby, a series of empirical experiments were completed in 2016 and 2018 (funded by UCalgary). We found that active participation in performance generating systems within dance, theatre, and music has a significant, positive effect on the performers’ executive functions and learning ability and are completing case studies looking at the impact on individuals with ADHD and Anxiety.

Selected Current Publication Projects

1. Hansen, Pil. Performance-generating Systems in Dance: Dramaturgy, Psychology, and Performativity (contracted with Routledge for 2021).

2. Hansen, Pil and Freya Vass-Rhee, eds. Performance Research special issue on Perception (2021).

3. Esling, Natalia, Megan Andrews, Bruce Barton, and Pil Hansen. GPS: Global Performance Studies on Elasticity (2020).


Books and Journal Issues 

4. Jola, Corinne and Pil Hansen, eds. 2020. Frontiers in Psychology research topic on Performance in Theatre and Everyday Life: Cognitive, Neuronal, and Applied Aspects of Acting.

5. Hansen, Pil and Bettina Bläsing, eds. 2017. Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre and Music. London: Bloomsbury Methuen.

6. Hansen, Pil and Darcey Callison, eds. 2015. Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

7. Hansen, Pil with Darcey Callison and Bruce Barton, eds. 2013. Canadian Theatre Review (CTR) on Dance and Movement Dramaturgy 155.

8. Hansen, Pil and Bruce Barton, eds. 2011. CTR on Memory 145.

Chapters and Articles (peer reviewed, 'blind' and transparent)

9. Hansen, Pil, Emma A. Climie, and Robert J. Oxoby. 2020. “The Demands of Performance Generating Systems on Executive Functions: Effects and Mediating Processes.” Frontiers in Psychology 11: article #1894, 1-12.

10. Hansen, Pil and Sarah Kenny. 2019. ”Physical and Mental Demands Experienced by Aging Dancers: Strategies and Values.” Performance Research 23.7 on Ageing: 24-31.

11. Hansen, Pil. 2018a. “Interdisciplinary Research Strategies: Working Across Artistic Research and Dance Scholarship, Dance    Psychology, or Dance Science.” Researching (in/as) Motion: A Resource Collection, Artistic Doctorates in Europe. Eds. Bacon, J., Hilton, R., Kramer, P., and Midgelow, V. Helsinki: Nivel, University of Helsinki. 6,000 words.

12. Hansen, Pil. 2018b. “Minding Implicit Constraints in Dance Improvisation.” Routledge Companion to Theatre, Performance and Cognition. Ed. Bruce McConachie and Rick Kemp. London: Routledge. 75-82.

13. Hansen, Pil. 2018c. “Dance Dramaturgical Agency.” Contemporary Choreography. 2nd Edition. Ed. Jo Butterworth and Liesbeth Wildschut. London: Routledge. 187-202.

14. Hansen Pil and Robert Oxoby. 2018. “An Earned Presence: Studying the Effect of Multi-task Improvisation Systems on Cognitive Learning Capacity.” Embodied Cognition, Acting and Performance. Eds. Experience Bryon, J. Mark Bishop, Deirdre McLaughlin, and Jess Kaufman. Routledge.

15. Bruce Barton with Pil Hansen. 2017. “Risking Intimacy: Strategies of Vulnerability in Vertical City’s All Good Things and Trace.Risk, Participation, and Performance Practice. Ed. Alice O’Grady. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 131-152.

16. Hansen, Pil with Christopher House. 2017. “Hay w wykonaniu House'a. Ocena zasad kreacji i wymagań kognitywnych systemów performatywnych.” (The Notation and Cognition of Performance Generating Systems: Hay through House.) Strategie Choreograficzne. (Choreographic Strategies.) Transl. Anna Lewoc., ed. Tomasz Ciesielski and Mariusz Bartosiak. Lodz: Lodz University Press. 75-90.

17. Hansen Pil and Bettina Blaesing. 2017. “Introduction: Studying the Cognition of Memory in the Performing Arts.” Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre and Music. Ed. Pil Hansen and Bettina Blaesing. London: Methuen. 1-35. 

18. Hansen, Pil. 2017b. “Research-Based Practice: Facilitating Transfer across Artistic, Scholarly, and Scientific Inquiries.” Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact. Ed. Annette Arlander, Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude, and Ben Spatz. London: Routledge. 32-49.

19. Hansen, Pil. 2017a. “Connective Tissue: Practice as Research in Cross-disciplinary Research Collaborations.” Canadian Theatre Review on Artistic Research 172 (Winter): 18-22.

20. Roxane Fallah, Gabriele Kuzabaviciute, Bianca Guimarães de Manuel, Abdullah Safa Soydan, Vera Parlac, and Pil Hansen. 2017. “When Constraints of Embodied Cognition Become Porous: Performances of Sensory Interactivity in Design.” Repertoire 20.28: 108-133.

21. Hansen Pil and Robert Oxoby. 2017. “An Earned Presence: Studying the Effect of Multi-task Improvisation Systems on Cognitive Learning Capacity.” Connection Science 29.1: 77-93.

22. Hansen, Pil. 2016a. “The Perceptual Dramaturgy of Swimmer (68).” Stage/Page/Play: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Theatre and Theatricality. Ed. Ulla Kallenbach and Anna Lavaetz. Copenhagen: Multivers. 124-140.

23. Hansen, Pil. 2016b. “The Adaptability of Language-Motor Connections in Dance and Acting: A Coordination Dynamics Experiment.” MAPA D2 Danca Digital 3.1: 82-92.

24. Hansen, Pil. 2015a. “The Dramaturgy of Performance Generating Systems.” Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement. Ed. Pil Hansen and Darcey Callison. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 124-142.

25. Hansen, Pil. 2015b. “Introduction.” Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement. Ed. Pil Hansen and Darcey Callison. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 1-27.

26. Hansen, Pil with Christopher House. 2015. “Scoring the Generating Principles of Performance Systems.” Performance Research on An/Notation 20.6: 65-73.

27. Hansen, Pil with Karen Kaeja and Ame Henderson. 2014. Self-organization and Transition in Systems of Dance Generation.” Performance Research: On Turbulence 19.5: 23-33.

28. Hansen, Pil. 2014a. “Dancing Performance Generating Systems.” Commissioned by KEDJA’s “Writing Dance” Project. Koreografisk Journal 2: 62-67.

29. Hansen, Pil. 2013. “From Spectrum to Prism: Shifting Positions on Dance Dramaturgy – a conference response and summary.” CTR 155: 21-24.

30. Hansen, Pil with Ame Henderson. 2011. “Processing Memory in 300 TAPES and relay.CTR 145: 11-20. Contribution as primary author: 60%.

31. Hansen, Pil. 2011. “Perceptual Dramaturgy: Swimmer (68).” In the section “Cognitive Science, Theatre, and Performance:  The State of the Field” of Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism XXV.2: 107-124.

32. Hansen, Pil and Bruce Barton. 2010. “Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.” At the Intersection Between Art and Research. Practice-Based Research in the Performing Arts. Eds. Carsten Friberg and Rose Parekh-Gaihede. Aarhus, Denmark: NSU Press. 87-124.

33. Hansen, Pil. 2010. “PRIVATE ACTS: Devising Clark and I from Found Memories.” CTR 142: 25-29.

34. Hansen, Pil and Bruce Barton. 2009. “Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.” TDR: The Drama Review 53.4: 120-136. Contribution as co-author: 50%

35. Hansen, Pil. 2009. “(P)re-viewing Project Putz: direct from Berlin, 1986.CTR 137: 55-60. 

36. Hansen, Pil. 2008a. ”Dramaturgisk Navigation med Danske og Canadiske Redskaber.” (Dramaturgical Navigation with Danish and Canadian Tools). Dramaturger og Dramaturgier. Peripeti 10: 61-74.

37. Hansen, Pil. “The Reflection Forums of Moving Stage Lab.” CTR 135 (Summer 2008): 58-60.

Chapters and Articles (not peer reviewed) 

38. Hansen, Pil. 2014. “Dancing Performance Generating Systems.” (Significantly expanded version). Theatre Topics: On Dramaturgy 24.3: 255-260.

39. Hansen, Pil. 2008. “Dramaturgical Strategies: Articulations from Five Toronto-Based Theatre Artists.” Developing Nation: New Play Creation in Canada. Ed. Bruce Barton. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press. 169-84.

40. Hansen, Pil. 2006. “Designet bag Re.Searching.” (The Design of Re:Searching). Re:Searching: om Praksisbaseret Forskning i Scenekunst. (Re: Searching: on Practice-based Research in the Performing Arts). Ed. Lisbeth Elkjær. Copenhagen: NordScen. 11-19.

41. Hansen, Pil. 2005. ”Dance Dramaturgy: possible work relations and tools.” Space and Composition. Eds. M. Frandsen and J. Schou-Knudsen. Copenhagen: Nordscen. 124-142. 

42. Hansen, Pil. 2003. “Dramaturgi og (Tids-)Perception.” (Dramaturgy and (Time-)Perception). BUNT: Bulletin of Nordic Theatre Studies.

Book Review

43. Hansen, Pil. 2017. “Theatre, Performance and Cognition: Languages, Bodies and Ecologies. Edited by Rhonda Blair and Amy Cook. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2016”. Theatre Research International 42.3. In Press.

Artistic Works Dramaturged

Devising / Inter-arts Dramaturgy

1. Tiny. New play written by Bruce Barton and Directed by Alex McLain. Zupper Theatre, Estern Front Theatre. Halifax. November 2019.

2. Did you Mean Rocket? Vertical City Performance. Directed by Bruce Barton with sound art by Richard Windeyer and Laurie Radford. Performance and dance by Emily Promise and Stephanie Tremblay. New Works Calgary Festival, November 2018.

3. Conduct. School of Creative and Performing Arts Production. Reeve Theatre, Calgary. February 2018.

4-8. TJLABS #3-7. Artists in residence #3 Col Sceke and Elaine Lee, #4 Mike Czuba and Melissa Tuplin, #5 Kara Nolte, #5 Julie Ferguson, #6 Geoffrey Simon Brown and Michaela Cochrane. Theatre Junction Grand, Calgary. October 2016- April 2017. 

9. Trace. Directed by Bruce Barton. A Vertical City Production. High Performance Rodeo, Calgary. Winter 2017.

10. Playing Our City. Concept by Bruce Barton, musical composition by Alan Bell and Laurie Radford, transmission by Eric Bumstead, site animation by Adam Johnson, Bib Fenske, and Kyle Eustace. Commissioned by JUNO. Two public locations, Calgary. March 2016.

11. Taste. Co-directed by Eric Rose and Bruce Barton, written by Bruce Barton. Co-produced by Ghost River Theatre, Vertical City Performance, and The River Café. Beakerhead Festival at the River Café, Calgary. September 2015.

12. 2YouTopia. Directed by Bruce Barton. Vertical City Performance, commissioned by Nuit Blanche’s Curated Program. City Hall,Toronto. October 2014.

13. Trace. Directed by Bruce Barton. A Vertical City Production. SummerWorks Theatre Festival, Toronto. Summer 2014.

14. YouTopia. Vertical City Performance. Performed by Kiran Friesen and Adam Paolozza with sound art by Richard Windeyer and directed by Bruce Barton, The Glen Morris Studio Theatre, Toronto. September 2013.

15. All Good Things. Vertical City Performance. Written and directed by Bruce Barton, performed by Martin Julien. The Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto. February 2013.

16. Swimmer 1968. Performed by Ker Wells and directed by Bruce Barton, Toronto. May 2011.

17. Vertical City. With the director Bruce Barton and 4 physical devising and aerial performers. Co-produced with Harbourfront Theatre and HATCH, Toronto. May 2008.

Dance Dramaturgy

18. L.O.V.E deconstructed. Choregraphed by Barbara England, danced by Heather Ware and Nicole Charlton Goodbrand. Fluid Fest, Calgary Central Library. October 2019.

19. Crave. Kaeja d’Dance, Choreography by Karen Kaeja, The Theatre Centre, Toronto. May 2017.

20. Taxi! Kaeja d’Dance, Choreography by Karen Kaeja, The Enwave at Harbourfront Theatre, Toronto. March 2015.

21. I’ll Crane For You. Solo Adaptation of Deborah Hay’s Score by Christopher House. Toronto Dance Theatre. Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto. January 2015.

22. Henderson/Castle. By choreographer Ame Henderson and composer Jennifer Castle with the Toronto Dance Theatre Ensemble. Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto. February 2014.

23. Crave. Kaeja d’Dance, Choreography by Karen Kaeja, The Enwave at Harbourfront Theatre, Toronto. May 2013.

24. Porch View Dances. Kaeja d’Dance. Seaton Village Neighbourhood, Toronto. Summer 2012.

25. ”EX:changing memories of movement.”  Collaboration with Public Eye and the choreographer Sara Gebran. Residence at Dramatiska Instituttet in Stockholm, Sweden. January – February 2007.

26. Six dance creations, including Frontiers. Public Eye / Choreographer Sara Gebran, Copenhagen, Denmark. October 2003 – 2007.

27. ÆTYDE. Choreographer Ari Rosenzweig, Copenhagen, Denmark. August 2002.


“Dance and Cognitive Science.” Interviewed by Isis Caramba and Maaike Bleeker. Performing Arts and Science Encounters, hosted by the University of Utrecht and funded by the Dance Engages Science network. www.performing 53 minute broadcast on the subject of research methods. January 2016.

 Broadcast during launch of the Beacon institute, announcing partnership and research initiatives in performance and cognition at the SCPA. UofKent, Canterbury, UK. 5 minute broadcast. September 2015.

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