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Dance Studies at Yale

Dance Studies

Building on the foundation of occasional dance courses offered at Yale since the early 1980s, Theater Studies currently supports 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 undertake independent research projects in dance studies. A small number of Theater Studies majors each year propose senior projects in dance.

The curriculum complements the activities of the Alliance for Dance at Yale and the extra-curricular dance groups it represents.

Cross-listed with a number of other departments, the dance studies curriculum promotes the interdisciplinary study of dance as an integral and vital element of human societies.

Dance Studies Courses Offered at Yale, Fall 2013

  • PHYS 115 / THST 115 Physics of Dance (Emily Coates & 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. Prerequisite: basic trigonometry and algebra. Prior dance experience is not 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 099/FILM 044 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. Limited to freshmen.

 Dance Studies Courses Offered at Yale, Spring 2014

 THST 380 / AMST 370 History of Dance (Emily Coates) 
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. Exercises are used to illuminate analysis of the body in motion. 

  • THST 387 Advanced Dance Composition (Susan Rethorst) 
    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 Performance and the Moving Image (Emily Coates, Joan MacIntosh, Johannes DeYoung) 
    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. 
  • THST 444 Theories of Embodiment (Jessica Berson) 
    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.

For information on meeting times and locations, visit the OCI:

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.

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 coordinators: Aren Vastola and Karlanna Lewis

For more information and to read the YDT Blog visit: