The Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies (formerly the Ph.D. in Dance History and Theory) at UC Riverside supports the pursuit of innovative research in the field of cultural, political, and historical studies of dance. Inaugurated in 1993, the program is widely recognized as the preeminent site for intellectual inquiry into dance, corporeality, movement, choreography, and performance.

UC Riverside’s Department of Dance features an outstanding faculty of nationally and internationally recognized scholars and artists. The Ph.D. program’s explicit focus on dance studies and large concentration of Critical Dance Studies faculty distinguish it from doctoral programs in performance studies, theater studies, and cultural studies. At the same time, the program is committed to interdisciplinary models of dance scholarship that draw on a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches. Our Critical Dance Studies Ph.D. program is equally distinct for the close relationship it maintains with the students and faculty in the M.F.A. program in Experimental Choreography, inaugurated in 2001.

In their scholarship, Critical Dance Studies faculty engage with critical race theory, feminist studies, gender and sexuality studies, political economy, and performance studies. They employ methods including embodied research, choreographic analysis, oral history, dance ethnography, critical theory, and archival studies. Faculty research continually expands the field of Dance Studies while also contributing to fields such as American Studies, African American Studies, Latin American Studies, Hip Hop Studies, Indigenous and Decolonial Studies, as well as South Asian and South Asian Diaspora Studies.

Our Ph.D. students pursue an equally extraordinary diversity of research agendas. Some recent projects have critically analyzed Contemporary Dance at the U.S.-Mexican Borderland; Jewish-ness, Dance, and Humor; Raqs Sharqi in Cairo; Amateur Ballroom Dance in Mormon and Same Sex Communities; White Christian Dance in the U.S.; Ongoing Indigenous Dance Practices; Black Concert Dance in Montréal; Bharata Natyam in Sri Lanka; Concert Dance and/as Autobiography; Black Concert Dance and Masculinities; Second Lines in New Orleans; Female Lion Dancers in Chinatowns; Histories of Dance, Food, and Audience Engagement; Dance, War, and Repetition; Modern Dance and Yoga Histories; Tango and Neoliberalism; and Ballet and State Power in Ukraine.

Graduates have gone on to secure full-time academic positions nationally and internationally at schools such as UCLA, Florida State University, University of Florida, Davidson College, Colorado College, Bowdoin College, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, University of Nebraska, Rutgers University, University of Washington, California State University Long Beach, Elon University, University of Kansas, York University (Canada), Middlesex University (UK), University of Surrey (UK), University of Malaya (Malaysia), University of Malta (Malta), and Taipei National University of the Arts (Taiwan).

Course Work

The core curriculum, normally to be completed in the first two years of residency, includes the following:

Dance 239: Introduction to Graduate Study of Dance
Dance 254: Political Approaches to Dance Studies
Dance 255: Historical Approaches to Dance Studies
Dance 257: Rhetorical Approaches to Dance Studies
Dance 258: Cultural Approaches to Dance Studies

Students must also take “Dance 301: Seminar in Dance Studies Pedagogy and Professional Development” plus six additional graduate-level courses: two from other disciplines related to the student’s research interest, and four from Dance. A maximum of one Dance M.F.A. core course may be included as one of the four additional graduate-level dance courses required.

Language Requirement

All students must show competence in at least one language other than English. Further requirements in specific forms of dance or music notation or ancient or contemporary languages may be determined for each student in consultation with relevant faculty and the graduate advisor of the program.

Written Qualifying Examination

Students must prepare one field for examination with each of four members of the committee in whose courses the student has completed degree requirements. The committee is composed of two Dance faculty members, one of whom is chair, and two other members who may be Dance faculty or “outside members” (not a UCR Dance faculty member or cooperating faculty member). The written qualifying examination may be completed as a “take-home” format (seven-day, open-book) or a “sit-in” format (two-hour exam periods for each field, conducted on site in the department, and completed in one five-day work week).

Qualifying Essay

One quarter after successfully completing the written examination, students complete a rough draft of the qualifying essay, under the direction of the same group of faculty members who monitored the written examination. Students finalize the qualifying essay and sit for the oral examination before the end of the following quarter. The qualifying essay is generally 25 pages in length and demonstrates the student’s ability to articulate a viable dissertation research project. It must consist of written work but may include other forms of video or film productions with the approval of the relevant committee and the graduate advisor.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

A dissertation committee is composed of three members: a chair from Dance, a Dance faculty member, and either a Dance faculty member, or an outside faculty member. The committee directs and approves the research and writing of the dissertation. The dissertation must consist of written work but may include other forms of video or film productions with the approval of the relevant committee and the graduate advisor. It must present original scholarly work and be approved by the dissertation committee before the student takes the final oral examination. Students must have satisfactory performance on a final oral examination, conducted by the dissertation committee and open to all members of the faculty. The examination emphasizes the dissertation and related topics.

Normative Time to Degree

Normative time toward the completion of the Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies degree is 18 quarters.


Applicants to the PhD program in Critical Dance Studies must meet the general requirements for admission to the Graduate Division.  Please note: as of Fall 2020, GRE scores are no longer required for admission.  It is recommended that applicants take the GRE if their GPA is below a 3.0.

The UCR application for admission to our PhD program requires that applicants provide the following: 

I. Statement of Purpose (~ 1-2 single spaced pages)

Think of this as your research statement. Describe as clearly and cogently as possible your current research interests and your proposed focus for your doctoral work. Also, describe your background relevant to the project (e.g. prior research, familiarity with Dance Studies or adjacent fields, embodied knowledge, etc.), what you believe qualifies you to undertake this research, and what contribution your research might make and/or what gap it fills. Finally, address why you believe your research pursuits are well suited for UC Riverside’s Department of Dance.

II. Statement of Personal History (~ 1-2 single spaced pages)

Think of this as a statement that addresses how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a doctoral degree in Critical Dance Studies. 

This can include discussions of:

  • your personal and/or professional background as relevant to your application, including any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey;
  • any dance or movement practice in which you have a depth of experience or knowledge;
  • any relevant teaching experience or preparation for teaching movement practice and/or dance studies;
  • how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve educationally underrepresented segments of society with your degree.
  • any relevant information that illuminates your interest in UCR’s Ph.D. program.

Please note: Because the Graduate Division application portal limits Personal History and Purpose statements to 3000 characters if submitted via the text box, applicants are requested to follow the Department’s suggested page length guidelines and upload their statements as Word or PDF docs instead.

III. Writing sample (~ 8-25 double-spaced pages)

Submit a writing sample that best exemplifies your preparedness to undertake doctoral research in Critical Dance Studies. If you choose, you may submit more than one writing sample up to 25 pages, with at least one full length paper of 8-10 pages. 

IV. If you are a domestic student, be sure to complete the “Supplementary Fellowship Application” if you wish to be considered for full fellowship funding.

V. Three letters of recommendation and university transcripts. Letters that testify to your academic preparedness are preferred.  

Applications will be reviewed on the basis of clarity of ideas, creativity in thinking, preparedness for the project, strength of the letters of recommendation, and overall fit in the program.

Applicants are required to file an official application electronically to the Graduate Division. All completed applications that are received by January 5th will be considered for priority funding.

Financial Support
University of California, Riverside offers support in the form of Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships for the most highly qualified applicants. Financial aid for graduate study at UC Riverside is competitive, and is based on needs as well as merit. Students are encouraged to find alternative sources of financial support from grants and fellowships, from foundations, and in their respective countries. To be competitive for fellowships, application before January 5 for entrance for the following Fall Quarter is expected. Applications received after January 5 will be considered up to February 15.

Graduate Advisor
Anusha Kedhar
Associate Professor
ARTS 101

Graduate Coordinator
Hannah Braund, She/Her/Hers
ARTS 128
(951) 827-3944

Graduation Procedures and Deadlines
Petitions and Forms
Current Ph.D. Students
Alumni Ph.D. Dissertations
Dance GSA