Dr Dani Abulhawa | داني ابوالهوى

Dr Dani Abulhawa | داني ابوالهوى


I joined the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds in September 2021. Prior to this I worked for 9 years at Sheffield Hallam University, and 4 years at the University of Chester.

I completed a Practice-as-Research PhD in 2015 in the Performance department at the University of Plymouth. My research explored the social conditions that inhibit women’s use of public urban space through the activity of public urban playing. This enquiry developed from my decades long skateboarding practice and the experiences I had as a woman playing on a skateboard in public urban spaces. Findings from my research have been used by companies and organisations working on play and urban space design, and those looking to encourage women’s and girls’ use of public play facilities.

Since completing my PhD my research interests have broadened and my approach has become more committed to interdisciplinarity. I see my role as a researcher to bring the tools of my field to respond to challenges as part of a diverse team. In my work this typically involves the use performance scores, movement and digital storytelling methods to discover better understandings of, and solutions to, current social and environmental justice issues, and the needs of communities. 

Research interests

Expressive Movement Practice: Accumulations

My performance experience and training is located across skateboarding, contemporary performance, somatic practice and community-centred facilitation. I have completed training programmes in: Creative Articulations Process (CAP), Ashtanga yoga, Laban Efforts, human-centred design for community working, Six Viewpoints, and Forum Theatre. 

I am one of four co-founders of Accumulations, a community of dance and movement artists based in the North of England. We support artist-researchers to test and develop somatic and choreographic practice through access to our shared studio space in Manchester, or through peer-to-peer professional development activity. The four of us who founded Accumulations also collaborate on curatorial and choreographic projects together.

Coastal communities and seaweed cultivation: PEBL CIC (Plant Ecology Beyond Land)

In response to biodiversity breakdown within the climate crisis, In 2019 I co-founded a community interest company called PEBL – Plant Ecology Beyond Land, in collaboration with Materials Scientist, Dr Christian Berger. PEBL is contributing to the development of a renewed aquaculture sector in Wales focused around the conservation and farming of seaweeds.

Increased attention is being paid to seaweed aquaculture to reduce land-use for the production of protein, to increase biodiversity, and to provide new jobs within coastal communities. So far we have received four grants from Innovate UK to develop a hatchery, water quality and seafarm monitoring equipment, and to complete the lifecycle of Laver and Dulse. We built a facility at Penmon Point in Anglesey, which is powered entirely by solar energy. The sector would benefit from greater public awareness of seaweed farming for food. Social licensing can be a barrier for seafarmers looking to create seafarms within coastal communities, and to gain licenses. The sector would also benefit from clearer pathways into seaweed farming that might encourage entry and democratise access for more diverse and local seafarmers. We are currently focusing on public engagement activities to develop increased understanding and support for seaweed aquaculture and marine conservation, particularly in Wales.

Play and spatial politics in Palestine: SkatePal

In 2015 I began working with SkatePal, a charity who build skateparks and support practitioners’ skateboarding practice in the Occupied West Bank. I helped to build SkatePal’s second skatepark in Asira Al-Shamalyia, in the north of the West Bank, and began conducting a research project in collaboration with the charity. This was initially about exploring how the charity operate in relation to conventional applied sports and performance initiatives. In the years that followed I have made annual return visits to the skatepark to conduct ongoing fieldwork, exploring how the practice and social forum of the skatepark has impacted local people as well as SkatePal volunteers.

Physical culture of skateboarding: Skate Manchester

I am the co-director of community interest company, Skate Manchester. Skateboarding is a physically demanding and highly creative activity, it is practised by a diverse range of participants, and it often engages children and adults who do not feel drawn to traditional or competitive sports. In this way, skateboarding can play an important role in helping to get as many people as possible to be more physically active. Skateboarding is also a form of accessible expressive practice – akin to dance – which raises its potential to function beyond the scope of exercise, as a form of community-based somatic practice.

Our aims are to:

  • Advance the practice, culture, and heritage of skateboarding in Manchester and Greater Manchester through building a supportive and inclusive skateboarding community; and campaigning for the creation, restoration and maintenance of new and old free and open-to-all skate spots in the city.
  • Educating the wider public of Manchester about the health, social and community benefits of skateboarding in and around Manchester.
  • Promoting the democratic planning of public space in Manchester through dialogues with the local authority.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Plymouth, 2015
  • PGCert Learning & Teaching in HE, University of Chester, 2007
  • MA, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2006
  • BA (Hons), University of Northampton, 2005

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Student education

I teach on the Applied Theatre and Intervention masters programme and the undergraduate Theatre and Performance programme.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>