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Lisa May Thomas

University of Bristol

Lisa May Thomas is a contemporary dance artist who has worked extensively with body-technology relations in performance-making practices

Lisa May Thomas

image credit Jon Aitken


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Playing in the Gaps

We have developed sophisticated perceptual abilities to integrate different sensory information from the world around us into a smooth and continuous experience of ‘reality’ in the physical world. Immersive technologies…
Soma (2019), image by Leticia Valverdes

The Soma Project

The Soma Project explores the concept of ‘somatic agency’ – our experience of and capacity to sense and feel our living and moving bodies, highlighting the perception gap between seeing and feeling through the use of VR…
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This project takes dance perspective and approach to explore ways in which digital and physical worlds collide and coalesce in collective virtual reality (VR) experiences.

Dances with Avatars

Through a series of projects and experiments Lisa May Thomas has been finding out about the ways in which we experience touch; from her ethnographic studies on everyday touch in a project called ‘The Touch Diaries’

The Touch Diaries

‘The Touch Diaries’, an ethnographic community dance project and award-winning short dance film with live gallery performance at The Edge Arts Centre, University of Bath (2015).

Worked on

Image: Shamphat Photography

RAM Workshop

In 2016 dancers, artists, circus performers and choreographers experimented with RAM developed by YCAM from Japan. RAM uses motion capture sensors to create real-time visual feedback through virtual environments.

danceroom Spectroscopy

An interactive visualisation fusing virtual reality, high-performance computing, and molecular physics. dS lets you see your energy avatar, and use it to interact with the atomic world.

Trained at Laban London, I am a performer, teacher, writer, researcher, and film-maker; my interests lie with the connected body and connecting bodies through somatic practice, dance technique and improvisation scores. I take my teaching and research work into educational and community settings and into professional development training for dancers. I work as an associate lecturer at Bath Spa University and as assistant teacher at University of Bristol. I am part of Gather Up, a Bristol  dance initiative with Laila Diallo and Katherine Hall and as as part of this teach regularly for weekly professional class in Bristol.

I am an award-winning choreographer and filmmaker, with work over the last 20 years exhibited worldwide at international galleries and festivals and broadcast on national television (BBC, Channel 4, ABC) I was a founding member of Janis Claxton Dance (2001) and since then have performed internationally with Chris Ho and Victor Ma, Angus Balbernie, and Angela Praed. I was dancer-choreographer for danceroom Spectroscopy (2013-14) at ZKM Germany; Barbican, London; Digital Mobilities Festival, Dance Digital University of Bedfordshire; Brighton Digital Festival, Stanford University, and Z-Space in California. 

I am currently in the final stages of a practice-as-research PhD at the University of Bristol, writing-up investigative material on a dance-somatic approach to multi-person VR technology. My most recent project ‘Soma’ – a participatory performance using VR was developed from this research and, supported with an arts council project grant, is due to be launched at the Bloomsbury Theatre in May in 2020.

I have a proven track record in the practice of creating dance for screen & making live performance using immersive technologies. I have led large teams of people from art/dance, technology & science disciplines & have experienced the complexities – which bring great rich-ness but can also yield difficulties – with inter-disciplinary ways of working/processes & practices. I also mentor and support young and emerging artists (e.g. as mentor for the BBC New Creatives scheme & work placement students for UWE’s MA in Creative Producing & dance courses at Bath Spa).

From a dancer’s standpoint, I have deeply investigated the somatic & sensory experience of using VR, unpacking the implications of the technology on the body, the senses & on perception, as well as on modes of connection between people & with the materials & environments which surround us. I have also explored the possibilities for how VR experiences can be shared with people not in VR, immersive technology as a tool for performance, the role of the dancer-performer in participatory performance, ethics of care, use & guidance around touch & somatic & improvisation practices into performance-scores. My work is not only about deepening my knowledge & understanding into aspects of body-technology-environment relations, but also about the use of this research toward performance-making practices. How can performance capture and move our attention, create embodied experiences, and expand the bounds of our imaginations? I am interested in creating practices and experiences which are inclusive and accessible, and which operate around the notion that we are all different, as well as developing an ethics of care specifically around the use of technology.

Studio themes