Dance Studies at Yale

Dance Studies at Yale

Building on the foundation of occasional dance courses offered at Yale since the early 1980s, since 2006 Theater Studies has supported a wide-ranging program in dance studies. The curriculum consists of studio and seminar courses that cover the history, theory, and practice of dance forms spanning time and geography, from contemporary West African dance to The Twist.

The dance studies curriculum emphasizes the study of movement as a window into larger cultural processes and historical frameworks. In keeping with the mission of Theater Studies, the courses combine practical and theoretical approaches to deepening students’ understanding. In the studio courses, practical execution in the form of mastering diverse dance techniques, canonical repertory and choreographic methods is treated as an invaluable component of research and writing. The curriculum further investigates the fluid and fraught relationship between movement and language. Students develop a shared critical vocabulary for reading, interpreting and writing about dance, even as many of them learn to communicate their ideas through the creation of original dance compositions.

Courses vary in format and prerequisites, from sit-down seminars open to all interested students to studio courses designed to challenge those with prior dance training. Students who have enrolled in one or more dance courses may choose to do independent research projects in dance studies. A small number of Theater Studies majors each year propose senior projects in dance.

Yale Dance Theater (description below) is a major co-curricular initiative that augments and extends the work being done in the courses. Additional projects are undertaken in partnership with programs and departments across the university. 

The dance studies curriculum complements the activities of the Alliance for Dance at Yale and the extracurricular dance groups it represents.

Cross-listed with a number of other departments—including Art, African Studies, African American Studies, American Studies, Film Studies, and Physics–Dance Studies at Yale promotes the interdisciplinary study of dance as an integral and vital element of human societies.

Dance Studies Courses 2017-2018

Fall

THST 099/FILM 045     Dance on Film

Emily Coates

An examination of dance on film from c. 1920 to the present, including early Hollywood pictures, the rise of Bollywood, avant-garde films of the postwar period, translations of stage choreography to screen, music videos, and dance film festivals. The impact of industry, circulation and audience, aesthetic lineages, and craft in the union of the two mediums. Students develop an original short film for a final class project.

PHYS 115/THST 115     The Physics of Dance

Emily Coates and Sarah Demers

Critical investigation of introductory concepts in physics through the lens of dance. Topics in physics include the normal force, friction, Newton’s laws, projectile motion, potential and kinetic energy, and conservation of energy. Topics in dance include aspects of dance history, contemporary artists who engage with science, and the development of movement studies. Class meetings include movement exercises.

THST 319/AFST 313     Embodying Story

Renee Robinson

The intersection of storytelling and movement as seen through historical case studies, cross-disciplinary inquiry, and studio practice. Drawing on eclectic source materials from different artistic disciplines, ranging from the repertory of Alvin Ailey to journalism, architectural studies, cartoon animation, and creative processes, students develop the critical, creative, and technical skills through which to tell their own stories in movement. No prior dance experience necessary.

THST 406/AFST 428     Dance and Black Popular Culture

Brian Seibert

Examination of dance in black popular culture and of black dance in American popular culture, more generally, from 19th-century slave dances and blackface minstrelsy through MTV and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Course materials include primary source documents from the white and black press, theoretical and historical essays, and film.

THST 444     Theories of Embodiment

Gillian Lipton

Examination of theories about the body and its motion. The inscription of identity on and through the body; ways in which the body resists and rewrites identity through movement. The body as a physical, social, and phenomenological entity; institutional, normative, aesthetic, and virtual bodies. Practical workshops and exercises include movement experiences.

Spring

THST 097     Anatomy in Motion

Bronwen MacArthur

The connection between advances in human anatomy and kinesiology—the science of human movement—and dance practices from the early 1900s to the present. Study of seminal texts and practical exercises that drove the research of Frederick M. Alexander, Mabel Elsworth Todd, Barbara Clark, and Lulu Sweigard and the application of their ideas in contemporary movement practices today. Topics include the synthesis of dance and science; the reeducation of alignment, posture and balance; the use of imagery; and the unification of mind and body. No prior dance experience required.

THST 335/AFST 435     West African Dance: Traditional to Contemporary

Lacina Coulibaly

A practical and theoretical study of the traditional dances of Africa, focusing on those of Burkina Faso and their contemporary manifestations. Emphasis on rhythm, kinesthetic form, and gestural expression. The fusion of modern European dance and traditional African dance.

THST 370/AMST 380     The History of Dance

Brian Seibert

An examination of major movements in the history of concert and social dance from the late nineteenth century to the present, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern, musical theater, and different cultural forms. Topics include tradition versus innovation, the influence of the African diaspora, and interculturalism. Exercises are used to illuminate analysis of the body in motion.

THST 387     Choreography in Practice and Theory

Iréne Hultman

A seminar and workshop in dance-theater composition. Focus on the history of dance composition, tools for generating and interpreting movement, basic choreographic devices, and dance in dialogue with media, music, and other art forms. Choreographic projects developed over the course of the term are presented in a final performance.

THST 400/FILM 348/ART 385     Performance and the Moving Image

Emily Coates, Johannes DeYoung, Joan MacIntosh

The boundaries between live and mediated performance explored through the creation of an original work that draws on methods in experimental theater, dance, and video art. Questions concerning live versus mediated bodies, the multiplication of time, space, and perspective through technology, and the development of moving images. The final production includes both a live performance and an art video.

For information on course meeting times and locations visit OCIhttp://students.yale.edu/oci/search.jsp

YALE DANCE THEATER

Founded in 2011, Yale Dance Theater (YDT) is a faculty-led extracurricular initiative that enables Yale students to work with professional artists on the reconstruction of existing choreography and/or development of new work. YDT is conceived as a practice-based research initiative that allows students to investigate choreographic ideas and their historical context through a rigorous, semester-long rehearsal process, resulting in a final public performance. As part of the research, YDT dancers regularly post blog entries about their experience. YDT’s mission is to track and contribute to current discourses in dance through an inquiry distinctly grounded in physical experience.

To date we have undertaken projects in coordination with the companies of Twyla Tharp (2011), Merce Cunningham (2012), Reggie Wilson (2013), Akram Khan (2013),  Trisha Brown (2014), Matthew Rushing/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (2015), Gaga USA/LeeSaar The Company (2016) and Urban Bush Women (2017).   

Sponsored by the Arts Discretionary Fund in Yale College in cooperation with the Dance Studies curriculum, Theater Studies, and Alliance for Dance at Yale.

Faculty director: Emily Coates

Student Coordinator: Elayna Garner ‘20

Click here for more information and to read the YDT Blog.