Throughout her parallel work as an educator and researcher at the University of Brighton, Professor Liz Aggiss was a performer, choreographer and film-maker. Key areas of research within her work are; screen dance, live performance and inter disciplinary performance practices. Her work is eclectic, borrowing from a range of performance styles and is inherently cross-genre, unclassifiable, dodging categorization. Existing on both stage and screen, it blurs the boundaries between high art and popular culture.

Performer Liz Aggiss, still from Motion Control with red dress apparently stuck to the floor.

Liz Aggiss, Motion Control

She studied at the Louis/Nikolais Dance Theatre Lab. New York, and with Hanya Holm in Colorado, and Hilde Holger in London. She collaborated from 1980 to 2006 with Billy Cowie creating over thirty live works commissioned by The Zap, Gardner Arts Centre Brighton, University of Surrey and The South Bank, and toured nationally and internationally as a solo artist and with her company Divas Dance Theatre. Additionally Aggiss and Cowie have created single screen dance films, multiple screen dance installations, and live performance installations alongside dance theatre, cabaret and Live Art.

Liz Aggiss’ work has been driven by content and explored; body politics, commentaries on language and wordplay, age, death, power, post feminist aesthetics and the artifice of performance. It has been described as; expressionistic, uncompromising, funny, challenging, absurd Dadaist dance, entertaining, provocative and characterized by a trademark grotesque, stylized performance vocabulary. Aggiss has been described as the Vivienne Westwood of the dance film world, fearless, satirical, funny, powerfully disturbing, dominant and yet vulnerable.

Liz Aggiss dancing on white rock with sea and distant city in background with a green bathing hat and waving yellow and red semaphore flags

Liz Aggiss, The English Channell

She guested with British experimental company Lumiere & Son in a reconstruction of The Blue Duck(1985), in Performing Clothes 1984 (Gale, Morris, Bergese) and Off The Rails 1985 (Tarascas, Rubin), created commissioned work for Extemporary (1988), Intoto (1999) and Transitions Dance Companies (1995), worked with special needs dance groups High Spin (2000 and 2001) and Carousel (1989 and 1990), sat on national, regional, local committees and advisory panels, been Artist in Residence at the Duncan Centre Prague and L’Opera Montpellier France, spoken at conferences and debates, written for magazines including Dance Theatre Journal and Animated, appeared on Children’s TV, corporate videos and Radio 4, performed on the alternative cabaret circuit, and toured rock stadiums supporting The Stranglers in 1986 with her dance trio The Wild Wigglers.

In 1986, together with Cowie, she choreographed and performed Grotesque Dancer. This visually arresting solo work raised the debate on feminist work, polarised critics and became their successful signature piece, written about as an important contribution to UK contemporary dance history in the publications Dancers, Sylphs and Sirens (pub MacMillan) by Christy Adair and Dance Space and Subjectivity (pub Palgrave) by Valerie Briginshaw.

She has created many successful solo and group works which toured and exhibited throughout the UK and worldwide at major art galleries, theatres, dance, film and performance festivals including: Brighton, National Review of Live Art Glasgow, New Moves Nottingham, Woking Dance Umbrella, New Art Gallery Walsall, Baltic Gallery Gateshead, ICA and was supported internationally by The British Council at Bagnolet Paris, Eurodanse, Budapest, Zurich, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Canada, Holland, Sweden, Russia.

Liz Aggiss dancing on pebble beach with a green winged costume and bathing hat

Liz Aggiss, The English Channell

Her commissioned screen dance work includes for the BBC Dance for Camera Awards Motion Control (2000) and Beethoven in Love (1994), for the Arts Council of England and Capture Award, Anarchic Variations (2002) and for Channel 4 Dance4 season Break (2005). Her screen dance installations for the Arts Council of England and Capture Award includes: Men in the Wall (2003) and Doppelganger (2004). The screen dance work has received numerous international awards including: for Motion Control the Czech Crystal Prague Golden Film Festival (2002), Honourable Mention Paula Citron Award Toronto 2002, Special Jury Golden Award Houston (2003) and Best Woman Film Media Waves Hungary (2003): and for Anarchic Variations The Romanian National Office of Cinematography Award (2003) and the Special Jury Mention “Il Coreografo Elettronico-2004” at Napolidanza 2004. Dance Camera West Award 2007 Los Angeles for Men in the Wall: Innovation in the Field of Dance Media. Aggiss and Cowie’s book Anarchic Dance published 2006 by Routledge for Taylor and Francis, comprises a book and three hour DVD-Rom that is a visual and textual record of the live and screen dance work.

In 1994 she received the Bonnie Bird Choreography Award and in 2002 an Arts Council Dance Fellowship to develop her practice in screen dance, writing, installation and performance. As one of only six artists in the UK to receive this Fellowship, this important award supported continued artistic development, new departures and recognized Aggiss’ creativity and achievement in the development of the art form of dance.