Rebekah Kowal

Rebekah Kowal, 2022
Department Executive Officer; Professor; Graduate Advisor; IWP/MFA Concert Mentor
CMA, Laban/Bartenieff Institute; PhD, American Studies, New York University
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Rebekah Kowal teaches dance history and theory and serves as the DEO of the Department of Dance. Her research investigates how moving bodies are compelling agents of social, cultural, and political change. A dancer and scholar, Kowal seeks to forge interdisciplinary connections between dance theory and practice. After completing a BA in English at Barnard College/Columbia University, she danced in New York City with Heidi Henderson, Molly Rabinowitz, Bryan Hayes, and Pat Cremmins. She holds a CMA from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute and a PhD in American Studies from NYU. Prior to joining the faculty at Iowa, she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Performance Studies at Haverford College.

Kowal’s research program is deeply archive-based and interdisciplinary, and frames transnational issues as extending from U.S.-based contexts. Drawing from fields in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, her research contributes to advancing knowledge in the areas of dance, American, and performance studies. At its core, her work investigates how individual and collective bodies engage in social and political power relations at multiple levels simultaneously (individual, community, state, global). She has published widely in the fields of dance and performance studies including two monographs, How To Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America (Wesleyan University Press, 2010), winner of the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) Outstanding Publication Award in 2012; and Dancing the World Smaller: Staging Globalism in Mid-Century America (Oxford University Press, 2020), Finalist for the 2021 Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Outstanding Book Award, and The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics (with Gerald Siegmund and Randy Martin, Oxford University Press, 2017), which received an Honorable Mention for the 2018 Sally Banes Biennial Publication Prize given by the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR). Kowal’s research has been funded both by The University of Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2020, she was recognized as Collegiate Scholar by the UI College of Arts and Sciences (CLAS) for exceptional achievements in the areas of teaching, research and service, and, in 2021, as a CLAS DSHB Faculty Scholar. Additionally, upon promotion to Associate Professor she was recognized as a CLAS Dean’s Scholar, the top newly-tenured faculty member in the arts and humanities.

Kowal’s most recent monograph, Dancing the World Smaller: Staging Globalism in Mid-Century America, examines international dance performances in New York City in the 1940s as sites in which dance artists and audiences contested what it meant to practice globalism in mid-century America. Produced in non-traditional dance venues, such as the American Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Hall, The Ethnologic Dance Center, and the 1948 New York Golden Jubilee Celebration, these performances elevated dance as an intercultural bridge across human differences and dance artists as transcultural interlocutors. The book illuminates how debates within diverse dance contexts proxied larger cultural struggles over how to reconcile America’s new role in the world following World War II and how to become a heterogeneous and inclusive nation. She is currently working on a new monograph entitled War Theatre: Dancing American Citizenship and Empire during World War II.  

Active in the professional field, Kowal serves as Executive Co-Editor of Dance Research Journal and Co-Chairs the DRJ Editorial Board. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD). Other professional service includes: Book Reviews Editor for Dance Research Journal; Vice President of the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS); Acting Vice President of Awards and Prizes of the Dance Studies Association (DSA); and on the Editorial Board of Dance Research Journal.

Recent Publications:

Kowal, Rebekah J.
Dancing the World Smaller: Staging Globalism in Mid-Century America
Oxford University Press, 2020

Kowal, Rebekah J., Gerald Siegmund, and Randy Martin eds.
The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics
Oxford University Press, 2017

Kowal, Rebekah J.
“Choreographing Interculturalism: International Dance Performance at the American Museum of Natural History, 1943-1952”
The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity (2016) eds. Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young

Kowal, Rebekah J.
“Indian Ballerinas Toe-Up: Maria Tallchief and Making Ballet ‘American’ in the Tribal Termination Era”
Dance Research Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Summer 2014), pp. 73-96

Kowal, Rebekah J.
How to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America
Wesleyan University Press (2010)

Kowal, Rebekah J.
“Dance Travels: Walking with Pearl”
Performance Research, 12(2), June 2007, pp. 85-94

Kowal, Rebekah J.
"Alwin Nikolais' Queer Objectivity”
The Returns of Alwin Nikolais: Bodies, Boundaries and the Dance Canon, eds. Claudia Gitelman and Randy Martin, Wesleyan University Press (2007)

Kowal, Rebekah J.
"Staging the Greensboro Sit-Ins”
TDR: The Drama Review - Volume 48, Number 4 (T 184), Winter 2004, pp.135-154