Aoife McGrath


  • Room 02.003 - 19 University Square

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of:
- Dance Studies
- Choreographic Practices and Processes
- Practice as Research
- Affect Studies in performance
- The Maternal in performance
- Movement practices and performance
- Interdisciplinary performance practices
- Collaborative performance practices


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Interests

Professor Aoife McGrath

Professor of Dance

BA(Hons) Trinity College Dublin, PhD Trinity College Dublin, FHEA, Staatlich Geprüfte Tänzerin (Bühnentanz), Univeristy of Performing Arts, Munich (Heinz Bosl Stiftung).

SWAN Co-Champion AEL

Research Interests and Projects

My research interests include dance, practice as research, interdisciplinary and collaborative creative processes, performance and philosophy, cultural policy, and affect studies. After a professional dance career in Germany and Ireland, I have worked as a choreographer, director, community dance and theatre facilitator, critic, and as Dance Advisor for the Irish Arts Council.

I am a PaR dance scholar and choreographer who engages in practice-based choreographic research, critical dance scholarship, and dance engagement, policy, and advocacy work. I am interested in finding out how embodied knowledge can be valued and included within policy-informing collaborative research processes, and am currently involved in a number of interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects with researchers in sociology, psychology, education, and the health sciences.

My Dance and the Maternal project encompasses performance projects that communicate experiences of maternal corporealities. Examples include my collaboration with psychologist Dr Jen Hanratty (QUB, CESI) on a dance performance project that communicates women's experiences of breastfeeding (Let Down), a project with choreographer and dancer Aisling McCormick exploring women's experience of time in pregnancy (Within), and a Future Screens/AHRC funded project with filmmaker, Dee Harvey, and mathematician, Dr Henry Segerman (Oklahoma State University), exploring the communication of women's experience of post-natal depression in 360 film (Impossible Worlds). I am currently PI for the AHRC funded project, Parenting and Dance Network (2023-2025) in collaboration with Co-I Professor Ali Duffy (Texas Tech Univerity) and in collaboration with academic partners Dr Madeline Harvey (Colorado State University), Professor Angela Pickard (Canterbury Christ Church University) and industry partners Dance Mama (UK), Balancing Act (Canada) and PiPA (UK).

I also work on projects experimenting with mixed-methods research combining dance and sociology. These projects explore how the integration of embodied knowledge and research methods and sociological research methods might provide insight into artists' lived experience and artistic practice and processes. The Dance Conversations (2021) project with Co-PI Dr Victoria Durrer (UCD) included the creation of a documentary film in collaboration with 6 dance artists from both sides of the Irish border co-directed by Mary Wycherley and myself, featuring an original score by Jürgen Simpson, and funded by an award from the Cooperation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme of the Department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. I was also the NI research partner for a Shared Island project, Buidling Capacity for the Cultural Industries: a Shared Island approach, led by Dr Victoria Durrer (UCD). This cross-border research project funded by Department of An Taoiseach, Shared Island Unit, in partnership with Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme involved collaboration with project partners Arts Council Northern Ireland; Irish Theatre Institute; Theatre and Dance NI; Cavan County Council Arts Office. I am currently Co-PI (with Co-PI Dr Victoria Durrer) on the HEA North South programme funded project, Youth Dance Matters, collaborating with 80 youth dancers and their dance educators/facilitators across the island of Ireland. I am also currently Co-PI (with Co-PI Dr Victoria Durrer) for the Sites of Significance project, investigating pathways to dance in rural border regions, funded by Cavan County Council/Creative Ireland, and working in collaboration with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and the UNESCO Global Geopark.

I have also completed a H2020 Marie Curie project with post-doctoral fellow, Dr Shonagh Hill, Generational Feminisms, which involved collaboration with a diverse range of female Northern Irish Theatre practitioners, and public engagement activities with the Linen Hall Library and Maiden Voyage Dance Company. I am currently Co-I/Mentor for a new AHRC Research, Development and Engagement fellowship for Dr Shonagh Hill, Generations and Feminist Temporalities.


My book publications include my monograph, Dance Theatre in Ireland: Revolutionary Moves (Palgrave, 2013) and the co-edited collection Dance Matters in Ireland: contemporary dance performance and practice (Palgrave, 2018). I have also published numerous book chapters and articles, and have been commissioned to write industry reports for the dance sector. 

Recent Choreographic / Directing Work:

Impossible Worlds (2022), a film exploring the experience of post-natal depression using 360 video. Directed by Dee Harvey, choreographed by Aoife McGrath, performed by Aisling McCormick and Michael McEvoy, tech support by Retinize. Funded by Future Screens Northern Ireland/AHRC.

Dance Conversations (2021), a cross-border film about dance artists' living and working conditions on the island of Ireland, co-created with Yumi Lee, Aisling McCormick, Maeve McGreevy, Kelly Quigley, Laurie Schneider, Maria Svensson, co-directed by Aoife McGrath and Mary Wycherley, edited by Mary Wycherley, original composition by Jürgen Simpson. In partnership with Dance Ireland and Theatre and Dance Northern Ireland and funded by the Cooperation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme of the Department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

Let Down, a dance theatre piece about women's experiences of breastfeeding incorporating sociological research on breastfeeding in Northern Ireland. Choreographed and performed by Aoife McGrath and Paula O'Reilly, original sound score by Sorca McGrath, dramaturgy by Emily DeDakis, commissioned by Dr Jennifer Hanratty (QUB) for Breastival 2018, and breastfeeding research by Dr Maria Herron (UU). Performances co-produced and funded by Being Human Festival (AHRC/British Academy), Breastival Belfast, and Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (performances August to December 2018).

Within: Body + Time, a dance solo exploring the experience of time in pregnancy (co-choreographed and performed by Aisling McCormick, videography by Richard Lavery, produced by Emily Dedakis), produced as part of the Rapid Response platform by Accidental Theatre Belfast, 2018.

Please, a dance theatre work about the experiences of women struggling with eating disorders (performed by Leonie McDonagh, original composition by Marty Byrne, text by Emily DeDakis, research by Dr Carolyn Blair (QUB)), Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, Brian Friel Theatre, Belfast, 2017.

Supervision and Mentoring:

I am interested in supervising research students working in the areas of dance studies, practice as research, dance and the maternal, movement practices, performance and education, and collaborative creative processes.

Current PhD students:

Chloe Hillyar, 'Including the Maternal Body: investigating the inclusion of maternal dancers into the UK professional dance sector' (1st Supervisor)

Aisling McCormick, 'Performing Arts and Maternal Health: an investigation into collaborations between artists and maternity health services' (1st supervisor)

Aideen Howard, 'Child Co-Creation in Professional Practice' (1st Supervisor)

Maggie Cronin, 'What are the lived experiences and unique challenges faced by women working within the theatre industry in Northern Ireland? A practice-as-research enquiry', (1st supervisor)

Graduated PhD students:

Dr Elien Hanselaer, 'A study of actor-actor performance connection' (1st supervisor)

Dr Argyro Tsampazi, 'The use of Terzopoulos' Method and Greek Rituals in Choreography' (1st supervisor)

Dr Paula Guzzanti, 'Embodied Consciousness and Affect in Movement-based Improvisation Practices' (1st supervisor)

Dr Caitriona Reilly, ‘Postfeminism and British and Irish Theatre’ (2nd supervisor)


Selected Awards

Being Human Individual Award (AHRC/BA) (2018)

Faculty Research Initiative Award (2018)

Faculty Research Initiative Award (2017)

Irish Society for Theatre Research New Scholar's Prize (2011)

TaPRA Essay Competition Prizewinner (2010)

Society of Dance History Scholars Travel Award (2009)

IRCHSS (Government of Ireland) Research Scholarship (2008, 2009)

Trinity College Dublin Gold Medal (2007)

Trinity College Dublin Scholar (2005-2010)

DAAD Research Scholarship (Freie Universtaet Berlin) (2004-2005)


DRA3060 Dance Theatre

DRA3025 Dissertation

DRA2005 Introduction to Devising

DRA1003 Introduction to Performing

DRA1004 Introduction to Contemporary Performing Practices

DRA3006 Advanced Theatre Practice (mentor for directors)


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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