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Critical Dance Studies (Cluster)

Program Type: Cluster

“Critical dance studies” is a term that appeared in the 21st century to highlight the robust interdisciplinary development of the field since the 1980s. Critical dance studies investigates the cultural, historical, political, and philosophical dimensions of embodied expression and bodies in motion—in the street and on the stage, in the studio and on the screen, in the archive and in the field. This cluster engages graduate students in a network of peers and faculty from several departments, who regularly convene on campus and attend events off-campus. 

All disciplinary perspectives are welcome—from anthropology and sociology, from musicology and visual culture, from history and literature, from theatre, performance, and media studies. Over the last twenty years we have had students with all these affiliations pursue dance research at Northwestern but without the support of a network. Hence the formation of this cluster in 2024 intends to amplify the energies of faculty and students by creating a forum for exchange. We come together to consider the role that dance, movement and bodies have in knowledge production.

See Critical Dance Studies Cluster Requirements for specific courses and procedures needed to complete this program.

Programs and events

Critical Dance Studies regularly hosts events on campus and takes advantage of partnerships with the Black Arts Consortium and the Slippage Lab. The cluster is also affiliated with the Chicago Dance Studies Working Group, a forum for artists, educators, researchers and writers that meets five times a year at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Outings to attend local dance workshops and concerts are also part of the yearly agenda.

How to Apply

Prospective PhD students interested in participating in this cluster should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs.

Current students interested in participating in this cluster should contact the cluster director.


Who to Contact

Please contact the cluster director, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the Critical Dance Studies website for more information.


The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

The cluster in Critical Dance Studies requires three graduate seminars: a foundational course in methods for dance studies (DANCE 465) and two additional courses at the graduate level that either incorporate significant dance content or allow the student to pursue independent research on a dance topic. Cluster students will confer with the cluster director to select the two additional courses and to plan a course of study that supports their research interests.

Consult with the Cluster Director about elective courses that may count.