Dance and poetry
: from movement to word

  • Nadia Zulem Olguín Carrillo

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


Dance and poetry have always been intrinsically intertwined. Both are temporal arts and share the capacity of representing, symbolising, depicting, and generating fictional worlds. They are born from the necessity or delight of communicating worldviews that go beyond what it can be explained with functional human languages. Although the relationship between dance and literature has always been a subject of interest for writers, critics, philosophers, and artists, the number of research studies focused on poetry about dance is relatively low. This thesis aims to analyse the nuances of the relationship between these art forms. To explain how their languages are related, ten poems from the Hispanic, English, and American worlds in the twentieth century whose central topic is the dancer Isadora Duncan (San Francisco, 1877-Nice, 1927) were selected. The focus of this thesis is on the poems’ formal structure, their rhetorical resources, and on the images evoked through the symbolism of the art of dance, the choreographic work, and the figure of the dancer. To achieve this, the poetic works are analysed through the ancient Greek concept of ekphrasis. This is a rhetorical and discursive method whose objective is to verbalise an artistic, cultural, or sensorial entity, by describing it meticulously and interpreting it, adding depth of meaning. Additionally, through the review of the socio-historical context of each poem, this work provides an alternative dance history based on the elements that writers portrayed in their texts and on the social networks that connected the selected poems and Isadora Duncan. This thesis presents an approach to dance through the mental images and sounds that a poem can create in the reader’s mind. Moreover, it emphasises the literature’s capacity to preserve the essence of an otherwise ephemeral art.
Date of Award11 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorEmma K Cole (Supervisor) & Catherine E Hindson (Supervisor)

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