University of Calgary

Pil Hansen

  • Associate Professor

Research Interests



Dr. Pil Hansen is Associate Professor at the School and Graduate Program Director in Drama. 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.

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 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 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.

She recently co-edited two issues of Canadian Theatre Review on Memory and on Dance and Movement Dramaturgy and the two international essay collections Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement and Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre and Music. Currently, she is co-editing an issue of Frontiers in Psychology on Role Play in Theatre and Everyday Life and an issue of Performance Research on Perception.

Pil also chairs the Working Group on Dramaturgy and Performance at Performance Studies international and she has 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.

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, 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 and recent 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.

2. “The Effect of Dual Task Improvisation Systems on Working Memory and Learning Capacity”: current.
I am the principal investigator. My collaborators on a 2016 study were Vina Goghari (Psychology) and Robert Oxoby (Economics, Associate Dean of Research). Collaborators on a 2018 study are Robert Oxoby and Emma Climie.

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. “Scoring the Dynamics of Performance Generating Systems”: completed in 2017.
I was the principal researcher. My collaborators were Freya Vass-Rhee (UofKent, UK) and Stephen Hill (Simon Fraser U). Other participating artists were 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).

3. “Consortium for developing an evaluative methodology for participatory arts practice in social contexts” completed in 2016.
I served as a member of the team’s Advisory Committee. Nicola Shaughnessy (UofKent, UK) was Primary Investigator.

This UK project was 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.


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

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

Jola, Corinne and Pil Hansen, eds. Frontiers in Psychology special topic on Role Play in Theatre and Everyday Life (2019-20)


Books and Journal Issues 

  1. Hansen, Pil and Bettina Bläsing, eds. 2017. Performing the Remembered Present: The Cognition of Memory in Dance, Theatre and Music. London: Bloomsbury Methuen.
  2. Hansen, Pil and Darcey Callison, eds. 2015. Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness, and Engagement. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. Hansen, Pil with Darcey Callison and Bruce Barton, eds. 2013. Canadian Theatre Review (CTR) on Dance and Movement Dramaturgy 155.
  4. Hansen, Pil and Bruce Barton, eds. 2011. CTR on Memory 145.

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

5. Hansen, Pil. 2018. “Minding Implicit Constraints in Dance Improvisation.” Routledge Companion to Theatre, Performance and Cognition. Ed. Bruce McConachie and Rick Kemp. London: Routledge. In Press.

6. Hansen, Pil. 2017. “Dance Dramaturgical Agency.” Contemporary Choreography. 2nd Edition. Ed. Jo Butterworth and Liesbeth Wildschut. London: Routledge. 187-202.

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

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Hansen, Pil. 2017. “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.

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

12. 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. Publication with graduate students.

13 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.

14. Hansen, Pil. 2016. “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.

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

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

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

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

19. 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.

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

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

22. Hansen, Pil with Ame Henderson. 2011. “Processing Memory in 300 TAPES and relay.” CTR 145: 11-20.

23. 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.

24. Hansen, Pil and Bruce Barton. 2010. “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. 87-124.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapters and Articles (not peer reviewed) 

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

31. 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.

32. 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.

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

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

Book Review

35. 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.



Devising / Inter-arts Dramaturgy

1. Listening. Vertical City Performance and Theatre Junction. Directed by Bruce Barton with sound art by Richard Windeyer and Laurie Radford. Performance and dance by Emily Promise and Stephanie Tremblay. Summer 2016 and 2017 Residencies with two public work-in-progress performances at UCalgary and at Theatre Junction Grand, Calgary. In progress. May 2016 – August 2018.

            Sound-based inter-arts performance work. I contribute as dramaturgical collaborator.

2. Conduct. School of Creative and Performing Arts Production. Reeve Theatre, Calgary. In progress. 3 work-in-progress performances in 2017. Full production programmed for February 2018. February 2017-March 2018.

3. Tiny (working title). New play written by Bruce Barton and Directed by Alex McLain. Zupper Theatre, Halifax. In progress. March 2015-August 2017

            Devised writing. I provide developmental dramaturgy for the author.

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. 

1-2 week inter-arts residencies for emerging and risk-taking artists with public performances of work-in-progress. I provide dramaturgical feed-back and mentorship and facilitate the public performances and audience interaction.

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

Devised and improvised site specific and interactive performance. I dramaturged a two week process of remounting and adapting the work to a new site and a significantly larger audience.

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.

Community engaging, intermedial music and inter-arts work. I offered dramaturgical feed-back and facilitated involvement of schools.

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.

Site specific and interactive food theatre. I dramaturged the playwriting process and text. Nominated for Calgary Critic’s Theatre Award, Best Concept. 
Touring: One Trunk Theatre and Chef Ben Kramer, Winnipeg, Manitoba, October 2016.

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

Durational (12-hour) version of Vertical City’s 2013 new circus production, YouTopia, with pole-dancer Kiran Friesen and sound artist Richard Windeyer.

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

Highly physical, interactive, and accumulative process of telling ghost stories. Devised and improvised site specific performance.
Awarded Now Magazine’s Audience Choice Award and given the Reviewers Credits for Direction and Ensemble Performance.

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). October  2010, April 2011, May 2012, and April-September 2013.

New circus and puppetry performance – 3 developmental workshops and final production. Dora Award Nomination for Design.

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.

One-on-one and interactive theatre performance.
Touring: Boca Del Lupo’s Micro Performance Series, 16 perf. June 2014, Vancouver;
Nocturne Festival, Halifax, 5 perf. October 2014. Congress of the Humanities, Calgary May 2015.

16. Swimmer 1968. Performed by Ker Wells and directed by Bruce Barton, Toronto. May 2008 – May 2011.

            Intermedial and devised solo performance.

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

Contemporary Dance Dramaturgy 

18. Touch X (working title). Co-produced by Kaeja d’Dance and Vertical City Performance in partnership with Decidedly Jazz Dance, Choreographed by Karen Kaeja. Kaeja d’Dance, Theatre Centre, Toronto. May 2015-March 2019.

New dance work. I provide developmental dramaturgy for two creation phases in Toronto and will lead a third dramaturgy-driven creation phase in residency ar Decidedly Jazz Dance in Calgary (Feb 2018).

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

Remount and adaptation with live classical quartet. I dramaturged the original creation and am dramaturging the integration of live musicians. Nominated for 4 DORA awards and awarded one.

20. Taxi! Kaeja d’Dance, Choreography by Karen Kaeja, The Enwave at Harbourfront Theatre (March 2015). Toronto. January 2014-March 2015.

Deeply sourced task- and game-based dance creation. I facilitated the developmental process.

21. I’ll Crane For You. Solo Adaptation of Deborah Hay’s Score by Christopher House. Toronto Dance Theatre. Winchester Street Theatre (January 2015), Toronto. November-December 2014.

Performance Generating System. I provided dramaturgical feed-back as an outside eye.
Touring: University of Calgary, Alberta, 2 performances 2016. 

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

Performance generating system based on continuous movement. I gave dramaturgical feed-back as an outside eye.
Touring: Festival Trans-Amerique, Montreal, 2 perf. June 2015; Ontario Arts Gallery 2 perf. June 2015.

23. Crave. Kaeja d’Dance, Choreography by Karen Kaeja, The Enwave at Harbourfront Theatre (May 2013), Toronto. May and Oct-April 2012-2013.

Deeply sourced task-based creation, choreography incorporates 3 performance generating systems and set material.
Touring: Ottawa Dance Directive Festival, November 2016. An excerpt went on a six city Mexican tour, April 2016.

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

Community and audience engaging dance tour. Professional choreographers work with local families to create dances performed on the porches and court-yards of their homes alongside participatory dance installations. Won the “I Love Dance” award for Best Community Project. I produced the first iteration, offered dramaturgical advice on the concept, prepared it for implementation in other neighbourhoods, and secured ongoing festival funding.
Touring: PVD has been repeated in Toronto every year since 2012 and it has also been remounted in Ottawa in 2015 and 2016, and in Kitchener and Brampton in 2016. Each iteration offers 3-5 full neighbourhood tours of the performances.

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.

As a dramaturg I took part in the development of a concept of improvisation and game rules, I extracted and adapted artistic material during the process of the project, and I helped the Choreographer navigate complex exchanges between dancers and audiences from Scandinavia and the Middle East.

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

Politically driven dance creation with dancers from Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Poland, and the Middle East.
Touring: throughout Europe and the Middle East.

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

Creation through formal exploration. Won dansescenen’s prize for emerging choreographers and toured throughout Scandinavia. 


“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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