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Contemporary Performance

Contemporary Performance
MA 1 year (full-time), 2 years (part-time)
MFA 2 years (full-time), 4 years (part-time)

MA/MFA Contemporary Performance is a taught, Masters programme that focuses on innovative contemporary performance practice. It is a practical course aimed at artists/graduates working within and across radical theatre and/or dance practices (experimental theatre, contemporary dance, performance art, dance theatre, physical theatre etc.). The course is designed and led by established practitioners, curators and academics, who are connected to, expert in, and passionate about the leading edge of theatre and dance practices in Europe and beyond.

The programme will enrich participants’ practice as contemporary performance makers whilst developing the professional sustainability of their work within the professional networks available to them, both in the region and across European and international contexts. The programme includes regular practical workshops, alongside intensive blocks of study, that offer practice-based ways into exploring both the making of performance, and the role of the performer as maker. It offers students the opportunity to work directly with current professionals working in the field, whilst developing their own practice, supported by expert mentors, within a major individual project.

Special Features

  • The teaching team, drawn from the prestigious Manchester School of Theatre and Manchester School of Art, are nationally recognised for their focus on practice-based research, and as such are perfectly placed to enhance the thinking and practices of new performance practitioners critically, professionally and artistically.
  • Alongside its European and international connections, the course is embedded in the working networks of Manchester’s arts infrastructure and maintains links to all of the key institutions within the field, from grass roots to premiere organisations.

Dr Anna Macdonald on the special features of the course.

Course Content

Year 1 (MA Full-Time)

The MA in Contemporary Performance is composed of seven core units, totalling 180 credits.

Performer as Maker

Performer as Maker explores key contemporary performance strategies, drawn from radical theatre and dance practice, that focus on the body as an innovative source for developing material. The teaching delivery takes the form of a series of weekly workshops, which focus on ideas such as authenticity, presence, autoethnography and identity.

Performance in Context 1

Performance in Context 1 introduces you to the artistic and theoretical contexts in which current contemporary performance practice operates. Working closely with the MA’s practice-based units, it explores key critical and theoretical perspectives, such as phenomenology, interculturalism, digital humanities and performance politics, that inform innovative contemporary performance.

Making Performance

Making performance explores current contemporary devising strategies in order to facilitate the generation of new and innovative live performance. The teaching delivery takes the form of a series of workshop blocks, which focuses on ideas and practices drawing on current contemporary work in the field, including an exploration of the relationship between digital practices and performance, as well as areas such as scoring, economy, duration and repetition.

Professional Practices

This unit reflects on the professional contexts that exist for contemporary performance, and engages with key strategies for self-producing and profiling performance work. Within the unit you select, directly engage with, and then reflect upon, a specific professional performance context, placing it into the broader contexts that exist, for example state support for the arts, arts marketing, ethics, local and regional arts provision, artist networks, and international frameworks.

Performance in Context 2

This unit continues to explore the current field of contemporary performance, building upon the work developed in Performance in Context 1. Here the focus shifts to inviting creative interplay between theoretical and artistic practice, as you are supported in the artistic and theoretical contextualisation of your own practice.

Artist-led Project

In this unit students work as an ensemble with a established contemporary performance practitioner to create a new performance piece. The work presented is the product of an intensive creative process (normally over two weeks).

Major Project

In this unit you pursue artistic and theoretical research questions through the generation of a significant new piece of contemporary performance practice. The work is developed through close collaboration with your staff mentor and involve several points of sharing with the wider staff and student team. You will produce an appropriate professional trajectory for the project, identifying appropriate strategies for public engagement and meeting the strategic priorities of relevant funding bodies and/or support structures and networks. This work is shown in a key performance event produced by the student body.

Year 2 (MFA Full-Time)

The MFA Contemporary Performance continues with the following two units totalling 120 credits.

Production Contexts

In this unit you will identify new professional contexts for your work that will enable you to sustain your professional practice. The unit has a particular emphasis on the potential for European and international networks, as well as interdisciplinary fine/digital art contexts, to support innovative contemporary performance practice. Here you will articulate, develop and actualize contemporary self-production strategies, such as setting up an artist’s network, exchange project or creative platform for your work. The unit will be assessed by portfolio submission, which can include a range of materials including project proposals, feasibility studies, and promotional material.


This unit offers you the opportunity to develop a major practice-based project that is specifically designed to operate within the professional context identified in the Production Contexts unit. You will create and self-produce an innovative piece of work, or platform, exhibition or exchange event, that promotes and sustains your work. You might choose to work individually or in a collaborative group and will be supported in the development of the work by a staff mentor.


Graduates will leave the programme able to operate as makers of informed and sophisticated contemporary performance, as well as to understand some of the key professional and critical contexts in which these practices exist. This will empower them to work professionally in the sector as artists, producers, programmers, facilitators, curators, pedagogues or to combine these identities based on their own interests and skill-sets.

Making an Application

Entry Requirements

You will normally have a minimum of a 2:2 UK honours degree (or international equivalent) in a related subject. Alternatively, you may be admitted if you have a professional qualification or can demonstrate relevant professional practice. All candidates will be required to attend an interview, where they will be asked to present their current practice and discuss their interest in the course. Overseas applicants will be seen via Skype/telephone.

Direct entry on the MFA normally requires successful completion of an MA in the same (or a closely related) field. 

Overseas applicants will require IELTS with an overall score of 6.5 with no less than 5.5 in any category, or an equivalent accepted English qualification. Accepted English qualifications can be viewed here.

How to Apply

Please apply online using the link below.

Apply Online

Tuition Fees 2020 Entry

UK and EU students

UK and EU students: Full-time fee: £9,250 per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

UK and EU students: Part-time fee: £1542 per 30 credits studied per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Non-EU and Channel Island students

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Full-time fee: £17,000 per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Part-time fee: £17,000 studied per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Additional Information

A Masters qualification typically comprises 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits, and an MFA 300 credits. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of study provided the course is completed in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Eligible alumni receive a 10% discount on their postgraduate tuition fees. Find out more about our Alumni Loyalty Discount.

Also see Postgraduate funding and financial support.

Additional Costs

Specialist Costs

Students may incur production costs, in the range of £1 - £500, depending entirely on their own creative decisions/individual practice, particularly within the Major Project unit. There may also be some travel costs involved in the Professional Practices unit should the student choose to focus on an arts-work context that requires travel.

Students will also be expected to attend a number of live performance events to support their studies during the programme, costing a maximum of £100 in total.

* All amounts shown are estimates.

Course Leader