Dr. Susan Leigh Foster

Print Article Click for more information on printing this article


Courtesy of Dr. Susan Leigh Foster.

Dr. Susan Leigh Foster is a choreographer, dancer, and scholar. Her book Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance (1986) was the first to consider the relevance of poststructuralist theory to dance research, and received the DeLaTorre Bueno Prize for scholarship in dance. Her second book, Choreography and Narrative: Ballet’s Staging of Story and Desire (1996), is a study of gender and politics in French ballet of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Her third book, Dances that Describe Themselves: The Improvised Choreography of Richard Bull (2003), provides a study of improvisational practices in New York City during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Her most recent book, Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance (2011), examines the connection that viewers make to performers, focusing on the kinesthetic sense of action that is conveyed through dancing. She is also the editor of three anthologies: Choreographing History (1995), Corporealities (1996), and Worlding Dance (2009). With Sue-Ellen Case and Philip Brett, she edited Cruising the Performative: Interventions into the Representation of Ethnicity, Nationality, and Sexuality (1995) and Decomposition: Post-Disciplinary Performance (2000).

Foster began presenting concerts of her own work in 1977. From 1979–88 she choreographed and directed Discordancers, a California-based company, and produced several evening-length group works in collaboration with composer Ron Kuivila. Foster began dancing at the age of seven; has studied extensively in the traditions of Graham, Humphrey, and Cunningham; and currently prepares for dancing through the practice of Iyengar yoga. She received a BA in anthropology from Swarthmore College, an MA in dance from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in history of consciousness from UC/Santa Cruz. From 1981–90 she taught as a member of the faculty of the department of dance at Wesleyan University. In 1990 she accepted a position as chair of the dance department at UC/Riverside and built the first doctoral-level program in critical dance studies in the United States. From 1996–2000 Foster held a joint appointment between the UC campuses of Riverside and Davis in order to develop the dance emphasis within the department of theater and dance at Davis. She joined the faculty at UCLA in 2001. In each of these institutions, Foster has taught courses in choreography and also dance scholarship.

Her work as a choreographer has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts with Choreographer’s Fellowships and by the Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations. Her work as a scholar has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is currently editor, with Ramsay Burt, of the journal Discourses in Dance, published by the Laban Centre in London, where she is also an honorary fellow. In 2007 she received an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University and the Award for Leadership in the Field from the Congress on Research in Dance.

Bibliography of Publications (newest to oldest)

This page is designed to print either using the 'Print Article' button or your browser's native print function. Certain elements of the page (the left-hand navigation, the video, etc.) will not be printed in order to provide the best printed reading experience.