What Are The Types of Contemporary Theatre & Performance

What is contemporary performance? The term contemporary theatre and performance can be defined as a hybrid type body of work that incorporates art, dance, music compositions and more to create a piece of art. There are many types of fields that come under contemporary performance as one is not limited to pushing the limits.

Contemporary theatre performance incorporates modern day techniques and embraces thinking outside the box, which allows a much different experience for the audience than just a normal classical piece. The history of this started at the beginning of the 1800’s through to the Avant Garde era and the postmodern world of today. Studying and diving into the world of contemporary theatre can open one’s mind up to vast collaborations and in-depth critical analysis of each technique and how it relates to the past and present.

Contemporary theatre performance explores a wide range of styles which incorporate different characteristics such as:

Musical theatre:
This style of art is a combination of singing, dancing, acting and dialogue theatrical performances. It explores a story being told through the emotions of love, anger, dramatics, pathos and humour. Musicals are usually performed on a stage for an audience. 

Documentary theatre:
This particular style of theatre takes real life events and stories of people’s lives from newspapers, interviews, government reports, visual images and footage, historical writings, journals and correspondences. In these performances, validity and authenticity is most important so actors will not alter any texts used.

Dance theatre:
Theatrical dance can be any type of dance that is performed in front of an audience, particularly on a stage. Some types of dance include: Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Tap, Lyrical and Expressionism, to name a few.  

This type of performance is when one solo person performs a monologue to an audience, reciting a piece of work from poetry, a soliloquy or work of literature. This expression of art is usually performed in a comedic or dramatized way.


The performance of puppetry involves the manipulation of puppets usually for comedic relief. The puppets typically resemble some type of animal or person that are animated and controlled by a puppeteer. Puppetry can be performed on a live stage, television or film. 

Improvisational theatre:
Improv theatre is a creative interpretation of unplanned skits by a group of collaborating performers. It is often comedic, taboo and touching, created off unscripted spontaneous thoughts. The plot, characters and dialogue of each scene throughout the act are completely made up and on the spot. Performers take suggestions from the audience usually or draw inspiration from their surroundings to kick off the first skit. 

Street theatre:
Street performances are held outdoors in a public space for any audience to stop and watch. They can be held in shopping centres, parks, car parks and on campus for students to name a few. It is a way for these performers to express themselves in a medium they choose.

Overall there are many different ways in which contemporary theatre and performance can be expressed and interpreted. If a career in contemporary theatre and performance is your passion, you may want to check out one of our Bachelor courses.