Rebekah Kowal

Rebekah Kowal
Department Executive Officer; Professor; Graduate Advisor; IWP/MFA Concert Mentor
Education: 
CMA, Laban/Bartenieff Institute; PhD, American Studies, New York University
Office: 
E114 C
Phone: 
319-335-2180

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 has published widely in the fields of dance and performance studies. She published her first monograph, How To Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America in 2010 (Wesleyan University Press). Her articles and reviews appear in Dance Research JournalDance ResearchTDRPerformance Research, Dance Selected Research, Vol. 6The Returns of Alwin Nikolais: Bodies, Boundaries and the Dance Canon (eds. Randy Martin and Claudia Gitelman), The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity (eds. Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young), and The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics (eds. Rebekah Kowal, Gerald Siegmund, and Randy Martin). She is co-editor with Gerald Siegmund and Randy Martin of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Kowal’s new monograph, Dancing the World Smaller: Staging Globalism in Mid-Century America (Oxford University Press, 2020), 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.     

Kowal has won awards for her scholarly research including: honorable mention for the Biennial Sally Banes Publication Prize given by the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) (2018 shared with G. Siegmund and R. Martin for The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics); the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) Outstanding Publication Award (2012 for How to Do Things with Dance); the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) Gertrude Lippincott Award (2008 for “Dance Travels: Walking with Pearl”); and a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Stipend Award in 2012. In 2009, she received the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's Scholar Award, recognizing her as the top newly tenured scholar in the arts and humanities. In 2020, she received the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Collegiate Scholar Award, recognizing “exceptional achievement” at that time of promotion to Professor.

Active in the professional field Kowal is serving as Associate Editor of Dance Research Journal, since January 2020, and will become Executive Editor of the journal beginning in January 2021. She will join the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) Board of Directors in Fall 2020. 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); 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