Rebekah Kowal

Rebekah Kowal
Department DEO, Chair; Associate Professor; Graduate Advisor
CMA, Laban/Bartenieff Institute; PhD, American Studies, New York University


Rebekah Kowal teaches dance history and theory at the University of Iowa and is Chair 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. Her articles and reviews appear in Dance Research Journal, Dance Research, TDR, Performance Research, Dance Selected Research, Vol. 6, The Returns of Alwin Nikolais: Bodies, Boundaries and the Dance Canon (ed. Randy Martin and Claudia Gitelman), and the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity (ed. Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young). She has won awards for her scholarly research including 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.

Active in the professional field, between 2002-2009, she served as Book Reviews Editor for Dance Research Journal and on the CORD Editorial Board. She currently serves as Vice President of SDHS.

She is co-editor with Gerald Siegmund and Randy Martin of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2017). Her current book-length project, Dancing the World Smaller: Importing Dance in Mid-Century America (forthcoming Oxford University Press), examines the impact of postwar world dance performance on the formation of American concert dance forms and in the context of U.S. foreign relations, immigration, and trade policies and with respect to issues of race, ethnicity, heritage, and citizenship.

Recent Publications:

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), 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

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