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 provides an advanced interdisciplinary base for innovative research in the field of cultural, political, and historical studies of dance. Inaugurated in 1993, the program has achieved world-class status as the preeminent site for intellectual inquiry into dance, corporeality, movement, choreography, and performance. The specificity of the program's focus on dance studies distinguishes it in the fields of performance studies, theater studies, and cultural studies.  At the same time, the program is committed to interdisciplinary models of dance scholarship and accordingly pursues a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches.  The critical dance studies approach of our Ph.D. program is equally distinct for the close relationship it maintains with the department's M.F.A. in Experimental Choreography, inaugurated in 2001.  Depending on the nature of individual projects, the work of Ph.D. students is informed by their exposure to specific, intersecting curricula that bring Ph.D. and M.F.A students together.  This environment of close cooperation between our graduate programs contributes to the department's embrace of both dance making and written scholarship – dancing and writing about dancing – as complementary, intertwined modes of theorizing corporeality.  The education offered in the Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies program at UC Riverside prepares students to become the next generation of dance scholars.

UC Riverside's Dance Department is unique for its outstanding faculty of nationally and internationally recognized scholars and artists.  In addition to three faculty in Experimental Choreography, the sheer number of Critical Dance Studies faculty - currently five - sets it apart from other dance departments in the U.S.  The faculty draw from a wide range of academic and creative backgrounds, including history, critical race theory, feminist studies, gender and sexuality studies, choreography, improvisation, theater and performance studies, and ethnography, as well as specific areas of study such as American Studies, African American Studies, Indigenous Studies, Latin American Studies, and Eighteenth-Century Studies.   UC Riverside faculty continuously strive to expand the boundaries of the disciplines of dance making and dance studies.

Our Ph.D. students pursue an extraordinary diversity of research agendas.  Recent projects include: “Danzas Fronterizas: Contemporary Dance at the U.S.-Mexican Borderland,” “Forbidden Bodies: Dancing Christian from Ruth St. Denis to Pole Dancing for Jesus,” “White Nose, (Post) Bawdy Bodies, and the Un/dancing Sexy Jewess,”  “Women on the Move: Mapping the Transnational Labor of British Indian Female Dancers in the Age of Globalization,” “Expanding Nations, Moving Bodies: Bharata Natyam Dance Practice in Sri Lanka,” and “Black Male Dancers and the Performance of Masculinity On- and Off-Stage: Bill T. Jones, Desmond Richardson, Dwight Rhoden, and Ronald K. Brown.”  The program also has an impressive placement record. Graduates have gone on to secure full-time academic positions nationally and internationally at such schools as UCLA, Florida State University, Davidson College, Colorado College, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, Rutgers University, University of Washington, California State University, Long Beach, University of Kansas, York University, Middlesex University, University of Surrey, and Taipei National University of the Arts.

During the first two years of doctoral work, students will take a total of eleven required and elective courses. Required courses introduce students to rhetorical, cultural, historical, and political approaches to dance studies. The curriculum will also require students to conceptualize dance as a cultural endeavor and to confront issues involved in writing about movement-based performances. Students are strongly encouraged to pursue several of their graduate courses outside of the Department of Dance; these will be selected under the guidance of a faculty advisor and should help students create an interdisciplinary approach to their research.  Ph.D. students must also demonstrate competence in at least one foreign language.

In the third year, students prepare for and take the Written Qualifying Exams. These are followed by preparation for a Qualifying Essay, and then completion of an Oral Qualifying Exam, by the winter quarter of their fourth year. In the following years, students will complete the research and writing of the doctoral dissertation.

List of Completed Dissertations (PDF format)

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

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Department of Dance
121 Arts Building

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

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