Department of Dance

Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies

Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies

The Program

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. To know more about specific faculty’s research interests, see HERE.

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. A list of alumni Ph.D. dissertations can be accessed HERE.

A list of current Ph.D. students can be accessed HERE.

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 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.

Oral Qualifying Examination

Students must prepare qualifying essay and be examined by a five-person oral qualifying examination committee. The committee, nominated by the department and appointed by the dean of the Graduate Division, consists of all four written examination committee members, plus a fifth member chosen so that the five-person committee would be comprised of no more than two "outside faculty members," and no fewer than one "outside faculty member." All members of the committee must be physically present for the exam. The committee examines the adequacy of the student's preparation to conduct the research proposed in the qualifying essay. Advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree depends on completing required course work, fulfilling language requirements, and passing the written examination, qualifying essay, and the oral examination.

The Dance department expects students to complete the entire examination process by the end of their tenth quarter in the program (end of the first quarter of their fourth year) to make satisfactory progress toward completing the degree.

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 is degree is 18 quarters.

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General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Department of Dance
121 Arts Building

Tel: (951) 827-3944
Fax: (951) 827-4651

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