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The Rules of the Dance: A New Front-of-House for Edinburgh's National Dance Theatre

Part 1 Project 2012
Jamie Henry
Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, UK
Regulations choreograph the movement of the body with the particular aim of limiting the risk of harm posed to the individual. By so limiting our perception of risk, the regulations codify an explicit and reductive understanding of that possibility. Exploring alternate choreographies as a way to understand those regulations, the project aims to re-engage with a perceived, tacit risk. An examination of a dance down a staircase by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers provides an opportunity to recognise the poise and control of the body necessary to negotiate the risk indexed in stair regulations. Exposure to risk makes one aware of one's body and surroundings; the deflection of a step above a drop, the smooth reassurance of a handrail.

Exploiting such hidden potentials in the regulations, a play is narrated over the circulation through the front of house for the Scottish National Dance Theatre. The project aims to manipulate the individual through generating senses of security and insecurity, generating a heightened sensitivity to the dramatic performance in question. An amplified awareness of the danger to the dancers and the unfamiliar movement displayed in the performance is provoked in juxtaposition to one's own choreographed movement through the building.

This narrative of risk operates in parallel with a further narrative of location and abstraction. The front of house functions as an optical device, conditioning views of the city at certain points. Mirroring the function of the theatre as a device tuned for the viewing of a stage, the front of house becomes tuned to view the world. A set of screens at facade and void level allow only views of the sky as you enter the auditorium; complementing the tension caused by the exposure to (perceived) risk; denying a visual orientation a broader environment and further magnifying one's transfixion.

The project is acting between the concrete world and the abstract codified one of the dramatic performance (which relies on the suspension of disbelief); and between the real perceived risk of the body and the codified risk of regulation.

Between the world and the performance, between risk and regulation.

Jamie Henry


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