Jennifer Nikolai

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Head of Postgraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer

Phone: + 64 9 921 9999 ext. 7858



BA(Hons), MFA, PhD


Dr. Jennifer Nikolai is Head of Postgraduate Studies and a Senior Lecturer at AUT University. Her research as a contemporary dance practitioner, choreographer and teacher, ranges from early childhood development and dance, to dance performance and ageing. Her art practice spans mobile camera improvisation, motion capture screendance and Virtual Reality, as well as learning and teaching in a range of contexts.  She conducts research in Canada and New Zealand, her country of origin and her country of residency, respectfully. Jennifer lectures and supervises in the School of Sport and Recreation and in the School of Art and Design at AUT, Auckland, NZ. Jennifer lectures in the Bachelor of Sport and Recreation and supervises Masters and PhD students in a range of topics.    

Teaching Areas:

  • Leadership in sport and the outdoors
  • Contemporary issues (in sport)
  • Postgraduate supervision

Research Areas:

  • Motion capture and dance
  • Virtual reality and dance
  • Improvisation and choreography
  • Live and digital performance
  • Emergent art-practice
  • Dance and the ageing performer
  • Dance and risky play in early childhood
  • Learning and teaching

Research Summary:

My research is centred on the question of how 21st century digital technologies can support and inform the creation and presentation of dance, what I have come to call the ‘the camera-dancer dyad’. It is grounded in almost two decades’ experience as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, and is aimed towards expanding our understanding of how practitioners work collectively in the making of live and mediated performances. My approach is highly experimental and interdisciplinary, involving collaborations across institutions and companies in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada and Singapore.

My interest in working at the intersection between technology and performance was sparked during my MFA research at Simon Fraser University (Canada), where my choreographic project integrated improvisation, dramaturgy, text, dance and cameras. When I came to AUT in 2003, the availability of cutting edge technologies allowed me to deepen my investigations into what became my practice-based PhD thesis (2014) where I explored improvisational approaches to using the camera – in particular, hand-held and Go-Pro – as dramaturgical tools in interactive dance. I choreographed a live/digital performance ‘Girl with a Movie Camera’, a full-length live and digital media, staged piece.

Subsequently, my dance research has produced live and digital performances, chapters, screendance and key publications in prominent journals such as Screendance Int’l; Performance Enhancement and Health; and DANZ Aotearoa. Screen and VR works have been screened internationally at festivals in Canada, USA, Germany, Singapore, Australia and in New Zealand. A recent project, funded by the University of Alberta, involves a longitudinal practice-centred study of dance and ageing. Community-funded pilot studies on dance and risky play in early childhood settings are currently underway.  


Publications and performances
  • Nikolai, J., Bennett, G., Marks, S., & Maynard, G. (2018). Active learning and teaching through digital technology and live performance; ‘choreographic thinking’ as art practice in the tertiary sector. International Journal of Art and Design Education. doi:10.1111/jade.12181
  • Nikolai J, Bliss T, Vandekerkhove J, Metzger-Corriveau K, Balcetis A. Moving Cites as part of 'Stories in Motion' 2018 Feats Festival of Dance Dance Performance. Edmonton, Alberta. 29 Jun 2018 - 29 Jun 2018 (Performance)
  • Nikolai, J., Bliss, T., Gervais, W., Markula, P., Metzger-Corriveau, K., Rintoul, M., & Vandekerkhove, J. (2017, January 27). ChoreoCam: Dance Memories [Live and digital interactive dance performance]. Edmonton, Alberta Canada.
  • Nikolai, J. (2017). Dancing with Dolly: Linda Ashley’s enduring legacy. Dance Research Aotearoa, 5, 7-16. doi:10.15663/dra.v5i1.73
  • Denton, A., & Nikolai, J. (2017). 360 movement study 1.0. Singapore: onoff100101010 Gallery 2017. Retrieved from
  • Nikolai, J., Silva, P., & Walters, S. (2017). Student and lecturer perspectives informing an academic support strategy to assist students in a medium-sized tertiary institution. ATLAANZ Journal of the Association of Tertiary Learning Advisors Aotearoa New Zealand, 2(1), 1-18. doi:10.26473/ATLAANZ.2017.2.1/001
  • Walters, S. R., Silva, P., & Nikolai, J. (2017). Teaching, learning, and assessment: Insights into students’ motivation to learn. The Qualitative Report, 22(4), 1151-1168. Retrieved from
  • Nikolai, J. (2017). A critical, studio dialogue between the dance and camera dyad. In M. A. M. Nor (Ed.), Perspectives on Dance Education (pp. 167-177). Malaysia: Nusantara Performing Arts Research Centre.
  • Bennett, G., Denton, A., Marks, S., & Nikolai, J. (2017). "Choreographic thinking” through collaboration, hope and curiosity: A methodology for opening up the potential for discovery. In NODE 2017. Frankfurt. Retrieved from
  • Nikolai, J. (2016). The camera-dancer: A dyadic approach to improvisation. The International Journal of Screendance, 6(Spring), 131-150. doi:10.18061/ijsd.v6i0.4910
  • Nikolai, J., & Bennett, G. (2015). Study #1. New York, New York: Dance on Camera Festival. Retrieved from
  • Nikolai, J., & Bennett, G. (2015). Stillness, breath and the spine - Dance performance enhancement catalysed by the interplay between 3D motion capture technology in a collaborative improvisational choreographic process. Performance Enhancement and Health, 4(1-2), 58-66. doi:10.1016/j.peh.2015.11.003
  • Nikolai, J., Silva, P., & Walters, S. (2015). Structuring an appropriate academic support strategy to assist Bachelor of Sport and Recreation (BSR) students to meet the BSR graduate profile. In LTDF 2014 (pp. 113-115). AUT: Centre for Learning and Teaching (CFLAT), Auckland University of Technology. Retrieved from
  • Nikolai, J. (2014). Camera Dramaturgy: A critical, practical dialogue between dance and camera studio methodologies. Paper presented
    at the International Conference on Dance Education. University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13 – 17 August 2014.
  • Nikolai, J. (2014). Camera Dramaturgy: A critical, practical dialogue between dance and camera studio methodologies. Paper presented
    at Exchange 2014 School of Art & Design Postgraduate Conference. Auckland, New Zealand, 11 August 2014.
  • Nikolai, J. & Silva, P. (2014). Structuring an appropriate academic support strategy to assist Bachelor of Sport and Recreation (BSR)
    students to meet the BSR graduate profile. Paper presented at The Association of Tertiary Learning Advisors of Aotearoa New Zealand Conference, 2014. Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Nikolai, J. (2014). Choreographing work between live and digital platforms. Panel and paper presented at Motion Capture Symposium. Auckland, New Zealand, 27 November 2014.
  • Collaboration: Bennett, Castle, Connors, Denton, Nikolai, Randerson. (2014) Meditating Performance Systems: an invited workshop and round-table presentation. Action Delay Symposium. Auckland, New Zealand, 30 – 31 May 2014.
  • Nikolai, J. (2012) How might the inclusion of the camera positively augment the choreographic process by opening it out to the camera’s subversive, productive properties? Paper presented at Intuition and Expression a one-day symposium and workshop on Gilles Deleuze. Auckland, New Zealand, 31 March 2012.
  • Nikolai, J. (2010) Virtual and Live Studio Methodologies: a Critical, Practical Dialogue in What the body knows conference working group at CORD, Seattle, Washington, 18 November 2010.
  • Nikolai, J. (2010) Devising dance/theatre choreography with the video camera as a dramaturg Art and Design Festival 2010, Emerging Researchers Emerging Research Symposium. Auckland, New Zealand, 12 November 2010.
  • Nikolai, J. (2010) Writing digital dance film Intersections, AUT Dance Research Symposium. Auckland, New Zealand, 15 October, 2010.
  • Nikolai, J. (2010) The camera as dramaturg in the choreographic process AUT Postgraduate Symposium. Auckland, New Zealand, 24 September 2010.


  • AUT VC Excellence in Teaching Award: (Jennifer Nikolai and Linda Ashley) 2009
  • AUT VC Excellence in Teaching Award:Leadership in Sport and Recreation in the Outdoors (Gaye Bryham, Jennifer Nikolai, Katie Dee and Ray Hollingsworth) 2017