Dance Studies at Yale

Building on the foundation of occasional dance courses offered at Yale since the early 1980s, since 2006 Theater and Performance  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 and Performance 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 and Performance Studies majors each year propose senior projects in dance.

The Yale Dance Lab is a major co-curricular initiative that supports cross-disciplinary research, experimentation, and advocacy through dance. The Dance Lab augments and extends the work of the dance studies courses and works in partnership with programs and departments across the university. 

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.

Contact Emily Coates, director of dance studies, with questions about the curriculum:

Dance Studies Courses 2021-2022


THST 092 / AFST 092 African Rhythm in Motion   Lacina Coulibaly

A studio seminar that traces the transnational migration of the polyrhythms in West African dance.  Based in movement practice, the course considers the transformation of rhythm through time and space, moving from traditional West African dances of the 20th century into the work of contemporary African artists and far-flung hybrid dance forms such as samba and tango. Part dance history, part introduction to the art of dance, the course is open to movers of all backgrounds and physical abilities. Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-year Seminar Program.   HU

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. Admission by audition during the first class meeting.  HU  

THST 380 / AMST 370 Choreographic Invention in 20th Century America 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.  WR, HU

THST 395 / ART 389 Postmodern Dance  Emily Coates

A studio-based inquiry into the epochal shift in choreographic aesthetics known as postmodern dance. Through reconstructions of dances from the 1960s and 70s, we will consider the social and historical context in which this work emerged, as well as the evolution of postmodern dance aesthetics into the present day. We will pay special attention to crossover influences between postmodern dance and the visual arts—especially generative connections with experimental music and sculpture, performance art and avant-garde film.

THST 417 / MUSI 401 Approaches to Dance and Music Relationships  Ming Wai Tai

The twentieth-century saw new and exciting ways for dance to relate to music. Some choreographers collaborated with composers in experimental ways, while others choreographed to existing non-dance music, and so on. These new artistic possibilities led to novel critical and philosophical questions concerning the relationship of music and dance. This course begins with a survey of dance-music relationships from the twentieth-century to the present, highlighting noteworthy collaborations between choreographers and composers. We then examine the perspectives of other dance writers, such as dancers, dance teachers, accompanists, critics, philosophers, and choreomusicologists, and discuss how they relate to, inform, or differ from one another and from choreographers and composers. We also discuss the broader social and intellectual environment in which these artworks and writings were produced (e.g. feminism, challenges to the work-concept in music, etc).


THST 097 Anatomy and Movement  Renee Robinson

The connection between advances in human anatomy and kinesiology—the science of human movement—and dance practices. 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. Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-year Seminar Program.   HU

THST 215 / ENGL 434 Writing Dance  Brian Seibert

The esteemed choreographer Merce Cunningham once compared writing about dance to trying to nail Jello-O to the wall. This seminar and workshop takes on the challenge. Taught by a dance critic for the New York Times, the course uses a close reading of exemplary dance writing to introduce approaches that students then try themselves, in response to filmed dance and live performances in New York City, in the widest possible variety of genres. No previous knowledge of dance is required.  WR, HU

TSTH 235 / ART 235 Dance Theater  Iréne Hultman-Monti

A studio-based introduction to movement vocabularies, physical techniques, and choreographic repertoire from post-1950 modern and postmodern dance theater to the present. Through a historical survey of major aesthetic shifts in dance, the course focuses on building the essential skills of a dance artist: the heightened awareness of time and space, the ability to read and translate diverse choreographic ideas, and the ability to question in motion. Open to students of all levels and majors.  

THST 319 / AFAM 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.  HU

THST 340 Ballet Now  Daniel Ulbricht

A practical investigation of seminal ballets in the repertory of New York City Ballet. Tracing a sweeping history of artistic innovation from the early twentieth century to the present, this course covers the technique and aesthetic details that constitute New York City Ballet’s style and follow the ways that these stylistic strengths are applied and transformed in the contemporary ballets of the 21st century. Repertory excerpts move through foundational works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins to ballets created in the past fifteen years by some of the most prominent ballet choreographers working today. Prior dance training required. Admission is by audition.  HU

THST 400 / ART 385 / FILM 348  Emily Coates and 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. Open to students of all levels and majors.

For more information on course meeting times and locations please visit the Yale Course Search.