University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Pil Hansen, Assistant Professor


Dr. Pil Hansen is Assistant Professor and teaches dramaturgy, performing arts management, performance psychology, and research methods in the Drama, Dance (and sometimes Music) divisions of the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) at the University of Calgary.

She earned her PhD in 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, The Effect of Dual Task Improvisation Systems on Working memory and Learning Capacity, Scoring Performance Generating Systems and the SSHRC-funded Acts of Memory, examine layers of memory and perception in creative processes through interdisciplinary behavioral 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 Peripeti, TDR: The Drama Review, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Performance Research, Theater Topics, Canadian Theatre Review, and Koreografisk Journal and essay collections, including: Space and Composition; RE:SEARCHING; At the Intersection Between Art and Research; and Developing Nation.

Pil has also served on the selection and planning committees of several international conferences and symposia and as a project design consultant or advisor for funded research projects and industry organizations in Scandinavia, England, and Canada.

She recently co-edited two issues of Canadian Theatre Review on Memory and on Dance and Movement Dramaturgy and the international essay collection Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement.

Hansen is also 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. Current artistic collaborators are Kaeja d’Dance, Public Recordings, and Toronto Dance Theatre.


Research Statement

Research Fields

  • Cognitive performance studies (focus on memory, perception, learning, and dynamical systems within creative processes and performance situations)
  • Dramaturgical praxis (focus on dance, 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 and measures of evaluation)

Current and recent research projects

  1. “Scoring the Dynamics of Performance Generating Systems”: in development.
    I am the principal researcher. My collaborators are Freya Vass-Rhee (UofKent, UK) and Stephen Hill (Simon Fraser U). Other participating artists are Ame Henderson (Public Recordings, Toronto), Karen Kaeja (Kaeja d’Dance, Toronto), Christopher House (Toronto Dance Theatre), Bruce Barton (Vertical City, Calgary), James Long (Theatre Replacement).

  2. “The Effect of Dual Task Improvisation Systems on Working Memory and Learning Capacity”: current.
    I am the principal investigator. My collaborators on the WMC study are Vina Goghari (Psychology) and Rob Oxoby (Economics, Associate Dean of Research). Graduate UofC research assistants on the learning study are Kerrie Martens (MFA student, Drama) and Valentina Bertolani (PhD candidate, Music).

    With these connected and UofC-funded pilot studies we are testing whether or not active participation in performance generating systems have a significant effect on the subjects’ working memory capacity, executive functions, and learning ability. If our quantitative tests and qualitative analyses of the mediating processes reveal a significant effect then these pilots will lay the foundation for a more comprehensive study with an eye on creation, education, and/or health applications.

  3. “Consortium for developing an evaluative methodology for participatory arts practice in social contexts”: current.
    I serve at a member of the team’s Advisory Committee. Nicola Shaughnessy (UofKent, UK) is Primary Investigator.

    This UK project is a collaboration between the Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance (University of Kent) and the Imagining Autism team of researchers, Soundabout and the Sounds of Intent team, and a selection of participatory arts organizations to develop an empirical framework for the analysis and evaluation of participatory arts practice.

  4. “At the Intersection of Interpretation and Affect in Interdisciplinary Performance”: completed in 2015.
    I was a collaborator (researcher/dramaturg). Bruce Barton (UofCalgary) was principal investigator. Other participating artists were Eve Egoyan (pianist, Toronto), Sherri Hay (visual artist, New York), and Denise Clarke (dancer/performer One Yellow Rabbit, Calgary).

    This SSHRC-funded pilot study contributed towards a long-term objective of establishing an understanding of the affective experience of intimacy at the intersections of intermediality and interdisciplinarity in theatrical performance—one that is both theoretically robust and rich in creative utility.

  5. How The Doing is Done”: completed in 2014.
    I was a collaborator from July 1, 2013 alongside Steven Hill (Simon Fraser, CA), prior to this date I served as a consultant. Bruce Barton (UofC, CA) was principal investigator.

    This SSHRC-funded research project examines modes of exchange and collaboration in physically-based and devised theatre contexts.

  6. Acts of Memory”: completed in 2012
    I was the principal researcher.

    The main question of this SSHRC-funded, research-based practice project was whether devisors’ and dancers’ Selves are affected when they invest autobiographical memories in performance generating systems (forms of live, instant creation and composition). This question was answered affirmatively through a series of behavioral experiments with the choreographer Ame Henderson and the devisor James Long while working within two performance generating systems. New insights into the variables that respectively attract stable repetition or continued adaptation of memory within the systems were also discovered. These insights were then used strategically within a collaborative context of creation to further challenge the performers – with awareness of how their autobiographical Selves were affected.

Recent Artistic Work(s)


Taste. Intimate, sensory performance for blind-folded diners. Co-conceived and produced by Vertical City and Ghost River in collaboration with The River Cafe. Authored by Bruce Barton and directed by Eric Rose. Beakerhead Festival, Calgary. September 2015.

Taxi. Choreography for five dancers by Karen Kaeja. Kaeja d’Dance Production. Enwave Theatre, Toronto. April 2015. Is touring in Canada and the US.

I’ll Crane for You. Christopher House’s adaptation of a solo score by Deborah Hay. A Toronto Dance Theatre production. Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto. January 2015. (Dramaturgical feed-back).

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

Trace. Directed by Bruce Barton. Performed by the actors Michele Polak and Martin Julien. A Vertical City Production. Summerworks Theatre Festival. Toronto. August 2014.

Voyager. Choreographer Ame Henderson and song-writer Jennifer Castle. Commissioned by Toronto Dance Theatre. Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto. February 2014. (Dramaturgical feedback).

YouTopia. Co-created with director Bruce Barton, aerialist Lori Lemare, pole dancer Kiran Friesen, puppetier Marcus Jamin, sound artist Richard Windeyer, and visual artist Sherri Hay. A Vertical City Performance. Glen Morris Studio Theatre, Toronto. September 2013.

Crave.  Kaeja d’Dance production. Choreography by Karen Kaeja and musical composition by Sarah Shugarman. NextSteps Program, Harbourfront Performing Arts, Toronto. May 2013.

All Good Things. Written and directed by Bruce Barton. A Vertical City Performance. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto. February 2013.

Swimmer (68). Solo devising project co-created by the director Bruce Barton and devisor Ker Wells. Hopscotch Collective. Glen Morris Studio Theatre, Toronto. May 2011.

Arts Management

General Manager of Kaeja d’Dance, Toronto.  January 2012-June 2013.

Administrator of Puppetmongers Theatre, Toronto, August 2008-July 2009.

Publications and Presentations

Books and Journal Issues

1. Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre, and Music. With editorial contribution by Bettina Blaesing. London: Methuen, 2017.

2. Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement. Co-edited with Darcey Callison. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015.

3. Canadian Theatre Review (CTR) 155 on Dramaturgy of Dance and Movement. With editorial contributions by Darcey Callison and Bruce Barton (Summer 2013).

4. CTR 145 on Memory. Co-edited with Bruce Barton (Winter 2011).


5. “Introduction.” Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre, and Music. With editorial contribution by Bettina Blaesing. London: Methuen, 2017. Forthcoming.

6. “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. Performance As Research IFTR Group. Forthcoming.

7. “Risking Intimacy: Strategies of Vulnerability in Vertical City’s Trace.” Co-authored with Bruce Barton. Risky Aesthetics: Performance, Participation and Critical Vulnerabilities. Ed. Alice O”Grady. Forthcoming.

8. “The Perceptual Dramaturgy of Swimmer (68).” Ed. Ulla Kallenbach and Anna Lavaetz. Copenhagen: Multivers, forthcoming.

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

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

11. “Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.” Co-authored with Bruce Barton. 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, 2010. 87-124.

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

13. “Designet bag Re.Searching.” (The Design of Re:Searching). Re.Searching: om Praksisbaseret Forskning i Scenekunst. Ed. Lisbeth Elkjær. Copenhagen: NordScen, 2006. 11-19.

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


15. “Scoring the Generating Principles of Performance Systems.” With contributions by Christopher House. Performance Research on An/Notation 20.6 (Winter 2015): 65-73.

16. “Self-organization and Transition in performance Generating Systems.” With contributions by Karen Kaeja and Ame Henderson. Performance Research on Turbulence 19.5 (Fall 2014): 23-33.

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

18. “Dancing Performance Generating Systems.” Commissioned by KEDJA’s “Writing Dance” Project. Koreografisk Journal 2 (Spring 2014): 62-67.

19. “From Spectrum to Prism: Shifting Positions on Dance Dramaturgy – a conference response and summary.” CTR 155 (Summer 2013): 21-24.

20. “Processing Memory in 300 TAPES and relay.” With side bar responses by Ame Henderson of Public Recordings. CTR 145 (Winter 2011): 11-20.

21. “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 (Spring 2011): 107-124.

22. “PRIVATE ACTS: Devising Clark and I from Found Memories.” CTR 142 (Spring 2010): 25-29.

23. “Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.” Co-authored with Bruce Barton. TDR: The Drama Review 53.4 (2009): 120-136.

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

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

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

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

Selected Presentations

“Archiving the Dynamics of Performance Generating Systems: Deborah Hay through Christopher House.” Cognitive Futures in the Humanities annual conference, Oxford University, UK. April 2015.

 “The (Im)possibility of Intimacy Explored through Dance-Generating Systems.” Guest lecture for the Practice-based Research Network. University of Copenhagen. April 2015.

“Acts of Memory: Methodological Variables.” On the Panel “Why Stratify?: Inter/intradisciplinary Methodologies for Studying Cognitive Processes through Performance” with Nicola Shaughnessy and Freya Vass-Rhee. International Federation for Theatre Research (FIRT/IFTR)’s annual conference. Warwick, UK. July-August 2014.

“Memory, Skill, and Effort in Performance Generating Systems.” Cognitive Futures in the Humanities’ annual conference. Durham, UK. April 2014

“Acts of Memory in Performance Generating Systems.” Working group: State of the (inter)discipline: Cognitive Science in Theatre, Dance, and Performance. American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) annual conference, Dallas, Texas, USA. November 2013. 

 “Perspectives on Dance Dramaturgy” Plenary panel with Jacob Zimmer and DD Kugler. A discussion of perspectives on dance dramaturgy from and at the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) annual conference, Toronto, Canada. June 2011.

 “Embodying Mediated Memory.” Co-presented with Bruce Barton on the panel “Cognitive Studies and Embodiment in Theatre and Performance” featuring Rhonda Blair, John Lutterbie, and Amy Cook. The Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) annual conference, Los Angeles, USA. August 2010

“A Perceptual Approach to Dramaturgical Practice” on the plenary panel “Travelling Concepts/Combining Methodologies” with John Lutterbie, Amy Cook, and John Emigh. Theatre and Cognitive Studies Symposium, University of Pittsburgh, USA. January-February 2009.

“Creative Spaces.” Co-authored with Bruce Barton, on plenary panel with Don Kugler and Geoffrey Proehl. Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas Mini Symposium. Toronto, Canada. June 2009.

“Integration of scholarship and artistic research.”  Nordic Summer University, Winter Seminar on Practice-Based Research in the Performing Arts, Gothenburg, Sweden. February 2008.