Kate Elswit is an academic and dancer whose research on performing bodies combines dance history, performance studies theory, cultural studies, experimental practice, and technology. In 2009, she received her doctorate from the University of Cambridge and joined the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities at Stanford University, where she taught in the Departments of Drama and German Studies and in the Division of Dance. She now holds a Lectureship in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Bristol.

Elswit is the author of Watching Weimar Dance (Oxford University Press, 2014). She has won two major awards for scholarly publications: the Gertrude Lippincott Award from the Society of Dance History Scholars and the Biennial Sally Banes Publication Prize from the American Society for Theatre Research, and her articles appear in TDR: The Drama Review, Modern Drama, Performance Research, Art Journal, Theatre Journal, and Dance Research Journal, as well as the edited collection New German Dance Studies. She is at work on a new project about the infrastructures and economies of transnational dance touring over the past 150 years, as well as a little book on the ampersand between Theatre & Dance.

Her research has been supported by many sources, including a Marshall Scholarship from the British government, the 2013 Lilian Karina Research Grant in Dance and Politics, and a University Research Fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Studies at Bristol. Among recent collaborative projects, she is dramaturg and historian with Swedish choreographer Rani Nair on Future Memory; artist with the San Francisco-based medical technology startup Spire and in the Respiratory Unit of Southmead Hospital; advisor for Good Form and Spectacle, a design shop in service of cultural heritage; and curator for Dansbyrån and The Garage. She is on the editorial boards for Performance Matters and ASAP/Journal. Having taught at CalArts and Laban, she was on the commission for Germany's first practice-based masters degree in dance, MA Solo/Dance/Authorship at Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz Berlin.

2009 Ph.D. German, University of Cambridge
2005 M.A. European Dance Theatre Practice, Laban
2002 B.S. Dance, Northwestern University
also B.A. Comparative Literary Studies
Selected Awards and Grants:
2015-16 University Research Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bristol
2015 Green Apple Award, Education for Sustainable Development, University of Bristol
2015 Community Arts Grant, Zellerbach Family Foundation, with Megan Nicely for Breath Catalogue
2015 Digital Humanities Summer Grant, University of Bristol
2014 Higher Education Academy Fellowship (FHEA)
2013 Lilian Karina Foundation, 2013 Research Grant in Dance and Politics
2012-13 Kings College London, Research Initiative Fund, with Ben Schofield on “Staging German Culture: Representations of Germany in the Cultural Olympiad”
2009-12 Stanford University, Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities
2010 Society of Dance History Scholars, Gertrude Lippincott Award
2009 American Society for Theatre Research, Sally Banes Publication Prize
2009 St. Catharine's College Cambridge, Graduate Prize for Distinction in Research
2008 Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, Research Grant
2007-08 University of Cambridge: Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme, Tiarks German Scholarship, Cambridge Overseas Bursary
2007 German Historical Research Institute London, Research Grant
2007 Society of Dance History Scholars, Graduate Student Travel Grant
2004-07 Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, Marshall Scholarship
2001 Northwestern University, Undergraduate Summer Research Grant
2000 Northwestern University, Lynn Ann Blom Award
Academic Positions:
2012- Lectureship in Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Bristol
2012 Visiting Faculty in Critical Studies, MA Aesthetics and Politics, CalArts
2009-12 Lecturer/Mellon Fellow in Drama/Dance and German Studies, Stanford University
2006-09 Lecturer, MA Dance Theatre: The Body in Performance, MA Choreography, and MA Performance, Laban
  • Watching Weimar Dance
    New York: Oxford University Press (2014)
  • Theatre & Dance
    London: Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming 2017, Theatre& series)
Peer-Reviewed Articles and Essays:
Online Writing: Book Reviews: Other Writing:
  • The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism [digital] (2016) ed. Stephen Ross
    Entries on Kurt Jooss and Valeska Gert

I am a choreographer, dramaturg, and curator, and work with a variety of collaborators to make multimedia dance theater performances.

I currently collaborate with Swedish choreographer Rani Nair as dramaturg and historian on Future Memory, based on her inheritance of the German choreographer Kurt Jooss’s last dance, which was given to Swedish-based Indian dancer Lilavati Häger. Future Memory has been shown at ImPulsTanz Festival in Vienna, the IGNITE! Festival in New Delhi, the Singapore International Festival of Arts, Dansens Hus in Stockholm, the Scenkonst Biennialen in Jönköpng, and SEAD in Salzburg. Check out an interview with us about the project, selected reviews, and an essay I wrote. For a full list of performances and other related events, see Upcoming.

My other current choreography project is Breath Catalogue, which combines choreographic methods with medical technology to create a cabinet of breath curiosities in performance. The first performance phase of the project was in collaboration with artist/scholar Megan Nicely, digital interaction designer Ben Gimpert, and composer Daniel Thomas Davis, using breath sensors from the medical technology startup Spire. I am currently developing the second phase of this work in connection with the Wellcome Trust-funded Life of Breath project, and the Respiratory Unit at Southmead Hospital. From 2011-2012, Nicely and I also collaborated on the Animation Project, with workshops, installations, and performances in Ann Arbor, San Francisco, London, Chicago, and Leeds.

Recently, I curated a series of international lectures and workshops at Dansbyrån, funded by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, was on the committee for a practice-based research symposium on Movement, Somatics, and Writing, organized by Petra Kuppers at the University of Michigan, and curated the first annual Bay Area Dance Camp, as part of VERGE Fest. From 2009 to 2013, I was on the editorial board for the wonderful and now gone Dance Theatre Journal.

Long ago, I performed with companies including Hedwig Dances, Lucky Plush Productions, Compagnie Felix Ruckert, Chicago Moving Company, Light Opera Works, and Striding Lion Interarts Workshop. More recently, I also worked with Big Art Group on The People - SF. I have also danced in pieces by Molly Shanahan, Charles Weidman (reconstruction by Deborah Carr), Lisa Wymore, Rebecca Rossen, Melissa Thodos, and Brian Jeffery.

Other choreography includes Open Letter, which I developed under a RAW residency at the Garage in San Francisco in 2010, as well as Places Don't Place Us Until We've Left, London (2009); So Here We Go, Berlin and Gothenburg (2007 - 08); Estranged Animals and Valeska, London (both 2005); Words of Clay, Chicago (2004); Erotopaegnie, Chicago (2001); and Down Into, Chicago (2000).

Watching Weimar Dance

“Groundbreaking ... Kate Elswit's writing is lucid, and her scholarship impeccable ... she cares passionately for the origins of the traces which she analyses (that is the dance themselves).”

—Julian Preece, The Times Literary Supplement

“Watching Weimar Dance is a stellar work of scholarship. Elswit tackles some of the central issues in how dance history is researched and narrated, and her points are all the more convincing because they are supported by meticulous research. ... Watching Weimar Dance should be a welcome addition to dance studies, German studies, and as a model for interdisciplinary scholarship on the body.”

—Susan Funkenstein, Dance Research Journal

“Kate Elswit thinks across history, theory, reception and corporeality and in so doing rethinks Weimar dance for the 21st century.”

—Susan Manning, Professor of English, Theatre, and Performance Studies, Northwestern University

“In Watching Weimar Dance, Kate Elswit takes the traditional ‘obstacles’ of dance history — the fragmentary archive, ephemeral performances, and unstable objects — and transforms them into its very strengths. Approaching Weimar dance as a series of eventful and relational encounters, in which spectators contributed as much to the generation of meaning as the performers themselves, the book rediscovers modern dance both as a specific medium and as a forum shot through with broader issues of visual and corporeal culture.”

—Michael Cowan, author of Technology's Pulse: Essays on Rhythm in German Modernism (2011) and Walter Ruttmann and the Cinema of Multiplicity: Avant-Garde–Advertising–Modernity (2014)

“Elswit provides an interdisciplinary framework that reveals new insights about topics of longstanding interest to scholars of Weimar culture, including expressivity and representation, the mechanization of bodies, and the commodification of art ... a valuable new resource on modernist performance culture.”

—Hester Baer, CHOICE

Breath Catalogue

“Marrying intelligence and art together seamlessly.”

—Jim Tobin, Bay Area Dance Watch

“Throughout, it was clear that the content emerged from a deep conversation between choreographic thinking and technology ... What stayed with me most after the work was how, through subtle means, Nicely and Elswit created a work with visceral impact ... Breath Catalogue points to a different future wherein technology has the potential to facilitate embodiment.”

—Hope Mohr, The Body is The Brain

“For art to be contemporary, it must reflect our current conditions. Digital and information technology is part of the fabric of our society — it can exploit or it can inspire. When handled thoughtfully, emerging technology can deepen the human experience, as Nicely and Elswit demonstrated in Breath Catalogue.”

— Joe Ferguson, SciArt in America

Future Memory

“It is a gift to inherit something significant, but it can also mean a lot of pressure. You may even need to distance yourself and revolt ... And capture the time elapsed between the generations ... The dancer Rani Nair does all this in the solo ‘Future Memory,’ a wonderful, soul-searching, smart, funny and deeply personal act.”

—Anna Ångström, Svenska Dagbladet

“The performance was riveting in its inventiveness and unpredictability. ... We saw, we touched, we heard and thus entered the world of Hager. ”

—Nirmala Seshadri, The Straits Times

“Future Memory (from 2012) is a layer- upon-layer choreography, a witty and profound dance performance that mingles with the discussion about the choreographic heritage that is lively today.”

—Örjan Abrahamsson, Dagens Nyheter

“This is a show with great humor and sincerity that raises questions about ethnicity, identity and artistic creation.”

—Anna Lundholm, Kristianstadtsbladet

“A warm-hearted, humorous approach to a personality and her legacy, to the dance of another time and the reflection upon it that inheritance is not only a gift.”

—Ditta Rudle, Tanzschrift.at

“An unusual dance historical dialogue. Rani Nair's way to confront herself as a dance historical heir resembles an artistic research project, which includes data collection, critical attitude and an exploratory form of work.”

—Malena Forsare, Sydsvenskan

“As with Jooss’s work, everything here must have the effect of being particularly simple, unpretentious, and as though improvised. Her ‘dialogue' with a haute couture outfit was especially inventive; she uses a hairdryer to make a dancing partner, into whom she breathes life through currents of air.”

—Karlheinz Roschitz, Kronen Zeitung

“Nair sought to represent all the layers of her heirloom, which she performs not simply as reconstruction; instead she expands upon Häger and Jooss themselves.”

—Helmut Ploebst, Der Standard

“It is as if she creates a dance's own ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (after Marcel Proust's famous novel) - but, in broken modernist form, more than futurism cubism, between humor and sadness, in her own style, which is constantly questioning itself, mirroring inward-outward.”

—Ingela Brovik, Danstidningen

Courses Developed and Taught:
  • Choreography for Theatre
    University of Bristol, Autumn 2014 and Autumn 2015. Undergrad.
  • Critical Theory
    University of Bristol, Autumn 2013, 2014, and 2015. Grad Seminar.
  • Methods and Questions in Performance Research: Practice-Based Research
    University of Bristol, Autumn 2013. Grad Seminar.
  • Performing Theatre History
    University of Bristol, Spring 2013. Grad Seminar.
  • Popular Performance: Cabaret, Revue, Music Hall
    University of Bristol, Spring 2013 and Autumn 2013. Undergrad Seminar.
  • Performing the Archive: Performance Re-Use and Re-Enactment
    University of Bristol, Autumn 2012. Undergrad Seminar.
  • Performing Mother Courage, Performing History
    Stanford University, Spring 2012. German Studies Grad Seminar.
  • Bodies Watching Bodies
    CalArts, Winter 2012. Grad Seminar for MA Aesthetics and Politics.
  • Automatons, Puppets, and Cyborgs
    Stanford University, Autumn 2011. German Studies Undergrad/Grad Seminar.
  • Photography and Performance
    Stanford University, Winter 2011. Co-taught with Brendan Fay. Art History/Drama Undergrad/Grad seminar.
  • Dance+Theatre: Twentieth-Century German Encounters
    Stanford University, Autumn 2010. Dance/Drama Undergrad/Grad Seminar.
  • Performing Bodies
    Stanford University, Spring 2010. Dance/Drama Undergrad Seminar.
  • Contemporary European Performance
    Stanford University, Autumn 2009. Directed Undergraduate Reading in Drama.
  • Histories of the Body
    Laban, Autumn/Spring 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09. Co-taught with Martin Hargreaves. Graduate seminar for MA Dance Theatre: The Body in Performance.
  • Theory Seminar
    University of Cambridge, Autumn 2008-Winter 2009. Undergrad seminar for Emmanuel College.
Selected Other Teaching:
  • Guest classes at: Princeton University, 2014; Temple University, 2014; University of Copenhagen, 2014; Taipei National University for the Arts, 2010; Emory University, 2012; CalArts, 2012; Central School of Speech and Drama, 2008; Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz Berlin, 2008
  • Performance Forms and Analysis; Staging the Text; Performing the Body; Performance Contexts
    University of Bristol, 2012-present. Undergraduate and graduate lectures, seminars, and workshops on team-taught courses
  • Choreographic Research and Development. Laban, 2007-09. Co-taught graduate practicum
  • Modern German Cultures of Performance; Modern Drama; The Body Paper; Modern German Culture, 1890 to the present day
    University of Cambridge, 2007-09. Undergraduate seminars, lectures, and tutorials on team-taught courses in German, Comparative Studies, and English
Where I’ve been (recently) and where I’m going:

  • December 2-4 . Talk at Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi for How Does the Body Think? Corporeal and Movement Based Practices of Modernism and Modernity, Lodz
  • November 17-19 . Breath Catalogue at the Feel It! Festival, Circomedia, Bristol
  • October 5-9 . An Evening with Astad work in progress showing at the IGNITE! Festival of Contemporary Dance, New Delhi
  • September 3-5 . Performance and The Body Working Group at the Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference, Bristol
  • July 22-30 . Breath Catalogue site-specific performance residency, Cotati
  • March 21-24 . Talk for Culture Analytics Beyond Text: Image, Music, Video, Interactivity and Performance at UCLA's Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, Los Angeles
  • February 25 . Graduate Seminar at UC Berkeley, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, Berkeley

  • November 20 . Talk for the Life of Breath project working group, Bristol
  • November 8 . Breath Catalogue at The 2015 Bridge Project: Rewriting Dance, Talk the Walk performance, Joe Goode Annex, San Francisco
  • November 5-8 . Working group on Collaboration, Evaluation, and Access in Digital Theatre Scholarship at ASTR, Portland
  • October - November . The Life of Breath Project artist-in-residence at Southmead Hospital, Bristol
  • October 14 . Talk on Breath Catalogue at Southmead Hospital, Bristol
  • September 5 . Dance Marathon Archive Box: Open with a Punk Spirit with Rani Nair at Singapore International Festival of Arts, Singapore
  • September 2 . Future Memory performance at Singapore International Festival of Arts, “POST-Empires,” Singapore
  • August 4 & 6 . Future Memory performance at ImPulsTanz - Vienna International Dance Festival, Vienna
  • July 16-17 . Breath Catalogue performance at Fort Mason Center Firehouse, San Francisco
  • April 10-12 . Animation Project workshop at Performance Philosophy conference, School of the Art Institute, Chicago
  • April 2 . Talk at Princeton University, Dance Program, Princeton
  • March 31 . Talk at Temple University, Temple Dance Studies Colloquium, Philadelphia
  • March 26 . Performance lecture at University of Copenhagen, seminar on Invisibility Studies, Copenhagen
  • January 17 . Future Memory performance at IGNITE! Festival of Contemporary Dance, New Delhi
  • January 16 . Gifts, Inheritance, and Passing Things On workshop at IGNITE! Festival of Contemporary Dance, New Delhi

  • December 4 . Talk for Art Writing, Writing Art working group, University of Bristol
  • November 20 . Talk for the Lilian Karina Foundation, Dansmuseet, Stockholm
  • November 13-16 . Panel at SDHS/CORD joint conference, Iowa City
  • November 5 . Talk at Kings College London for the German in the World lecture series, London
  • May 3 . Roundtable at University of Salzburg, symposium on Material and Bodily Archives, Oral Histories, and Kinesthetic Connections, Salzburg
  • May 2 . Future Memory performance at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, Salzburg
  • April 4-5 . Talk at Oxford University for Film and Other Arts, 1895-1955 symposium, Magdalen College/New College, Oxford
  • April 3 . Talk for the Political Cultures research cluster event on Media and Political Culture, University of Bristol
  • March 14-15 . Future Memory performance and post-show talk with Rani Nair and Sandra Chatterjee at Dansens Hus, Stockholm
  • March 13 . Post-show talk with Olga de Soto at Dansens Hus, Stockholm
  • March 10 . Conversation with Olga de Soto and Rani Nair at Dansens Hus, Stockholm
  • March 7 . Gifts, Inheritance, and Passing Things On workshop at Dansens Hus, Stockholm
  • February 10 . Talk for the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network, Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, Cambridge

  • December 11 . Talk for Reenactment Lecture Series at Universität Potsdam and Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam
  • November 14-17 . Panel at SDHS/CORD joint conference, Riverside
  • October 21 . Future Memory performance and post-show talk with Rani Nair at Kungliga Konsthögskolan, Skeppsholmsstudion, Stockholm
  • October 9 . Future Memory performance at Skånes Dansteater's dance and cultural heritage festival, Malmö
  • August 12-21 . Future Memory residency at Dansens Hus, Stockholm
  • June 26-30 . Panel at Performance Studies International (PSi), Palo Alto
  • June 13 . Talk at University of Edinburgh, School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures, Edinburgh
  • May 22-23 . Performance of Future Memory at Scenkonst Biennialen, Jönköping
  • February 15th . Talk at Brown University, Department of Theatre, Speech, and Dance, Providence

  • December 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th . Premiere of Future Memory, plus post-show talk with Rani Nair, Malmö and Lund
  • November 29th . Talk at the London Theatre Seminar, London
  • November 2nd . Working Group on Theatre and Dance at the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), Nashville
  • October 25th . Panel on Germany and the Cultural Olympiad with Ben Schofield, Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, and Emily Oliver at Kings College London, Arts and Humanities Festival, London
  • September 18th . Talk at Emory University, Friends of Dance Lecture Series, Atlanta
  • July 10th . Talk at Kings College London, Department of German, London
  • June 29th . Animation Project Workshop with Megan Nicely at PSi, Leeds
  • June 25th . Animation Project Performance with Megan Nicely at the Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Birkbeck College, London
  • June 16th . Keynote at the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA), Bodies Working Group, interim event on Pina Bausch, London
  • June-July . Cultural Olympiad Reading Groups at Kings College London
  • February 2nd . Nick Ridout at WHAP! Lecture Series at the West Hollywood Library, Los Angeles
  • January 24th . Talk at CalArts, MA Aesthetics and Politcs, Theory Tuesdays, Los Angeles

  • December 16th-17th . Animation Project Performance with Megan Nicely at The Garage, San Francisco
  • November 28th . Talk at Stanford University, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, German Department Colloquium, Palo Alto
  • November 20th . Working Group on Theatre and Intellectual Property at ASTR, Montreal
  • September 16th-17th . The People SF performance with Big Art Group at Z Space, San Francisco
  • August 29th-September 2nd . João Fiadeiro Workshop on Real Time Composition at Dansbyrån (part of the Dance Bar series), Gothenburg
  • September 1st . João Fiadeiro Dance Bar “Blind Date” with Devdatt Dubhashi
  • June 20th-July 29th . DAAD Junior Faculty Summer Seminar on Theatre and Media with David Levin at University of Chicago
  • July 9th . Dance Camp at The Garage, San Francisco
  • June 25th . Talk at Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS), Toronto
  • May 31st-June 3rd . Petra Kuppers Workshop on What Dance Can Do.: Experimental Community Performance at Dansbyrån (part of the Dance Bar series), Gothenburg
  • April 27th . Talk at Stanford University, Stanford Humanities Center, Working Group on Visualizing Complexity and Uncertainty, Palo Alto
  • April 2nd-5th . Erin Manning Workshop at Dansbyrån (part of the Dance Bar series), Gothenburg
  • February 18th-19th . Movement, Somatics, and Writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • December 2nd . João Fiadeiro Dance Bar at Dansbyrån, Gothenburg
  • November 21st . Concurrent Panel Paper at ASTR, Seattle
  • November 4th . Erin Manning Dance Bar at Dansbyrån, Gothenburg
  • October 8th . Talk at German Studies Association (GSA), Oakland
  • September 5th . Guest Speaker at Taipei National University for the Arts, Dance College, Symposium on The Green Table, Taipei
  • September 3rd . Harmony Bench Dance Bar at Dansbyrån, Gothenburg
  • August 24th . Göteborgs Dans & Teater Festival, breakfast talk with Lisi Estaras (Les Ballets C de la B), Gothenburg
  • August 12th-13th . Performance with Christi Weindorf at The Garage, San Francisco
  • August 3rd . Talk at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), Los Angeles
  • July 11th . Talk at SDHS, Surrey
  • June 11th . Talk at PSi, Toronto

Department of Theatre
University of Bristol
Cantocks Close
Bristol BS8 1UP
United Kingdom