The Department of Performance Studies is the first program in the world to focus on performance as the object of analysis. Our M.A./Ph.D. program explores the ways that performance creates meaning and shapes social life. "Performance" is at the center of the theoretical, historical, and methodological courses offered in the department. Courses train students to document, theorize, and analyze embodied practices and events. A provisional coalescence on the move, Performance Studies is more than the sum of its inclusions.
We study actual performances, from postmodern dance and Hip Hop to world's fairs and orature, from performance art and staged dramas to spirit possession, political rallies, and the law court, from Butoh and vaudeville to capoeira, Olympics and jazz.
Performance As Lens
We use performance as an organizing concept for studying a wide range of behaviors and situations, from museums and food to landscape and the aesthetics of everyday life. We use performance as a theoretical lens for thinking about how elections are organized or how gender, race, and sexuality are performative (and often performances).
We explore Latin/o-American, Caribbean, African and African-American, Asian and Asian-American, European, and American performance. Performance Studies challenges aesthetic hierarchies and analyzes how they are formed.
We start with a set of concerns and objects and range widely for what we need by way of theory and method. By theorizing embodiment, event, and agency in relation to live (and mediated) performance, Performance Studies can contribute to other new fields, such as Cultural Studies and Visual Culture. We draw on such fields as anthropology, theatre, and history. Our courses explore feminist, queer, postcolonial, Marxist, psychoanalytic, and critical race theory. Our methods of research and analysis include fieldwork, interviews, archival research, and movement analysis.
Theory and Practice
We integrate theory and practice in workshops and courses in performance composition, performance writing, dramaturgy, theories of directing, and performance and technology. Guests artists have included Yvonne Rainer, August Boal, Holly Hughes, Carmelita Tropicana, Ricardo Dominguez, and Deborah Margolis.
New York City
We are situated in New York City's legendary Greenwich Village and encourage students to take full advantage of the city's unparalleled resources for seeing performances of all kinds, conducting research, and professional development. Several of our courses require students to use the city - with its many neighborhoods and subcultures - as a "lab" for exploring theories of everyday practice. Some courses also provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with New York City artists. Dramaturgy students have worked with prominent artists including Mabou Mines, Anne Bogart, Vito Acconci Studio, The Kitchen, and Denis O'Connor.