Sarah Marie Wilbur
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Dance

Sarah Wilbur (Assistant Professor of the Practice in Dance) is a cross-sector choreographer and performance researcher who studies arts labor, economies, and institutional support, principally in a US context. She brings a strong field orientation to bear on her academic research, including over twenty years of experience working across the uneven economies of concert dance, theatre, musical theater, opera, K-12 education, health care, and most recently, Veterans’ Affairs.

Sarah's research and teaching together recognize parity between dances that are performed and the aspects of dance making that are suppressed or ignored. It is Sarah's primary goal to highlight under-recognized labor and laborers in the arts in all facets of her professional work.

Sarah’s current manuscript, Funding Bodies: Five Decades of Dance Making at the National Endowment for the Arts asks the choreographic question: How has the movement of philanthropic capital motivated the movement of dance organizers across the last five decades? Ideas from this monograph currently appear in TDR/The Drama Review (2017), and The Oxford Handbook on Dance and Competition (2018). Funding Bodies is under contract with Wesleyan University Press.

In addition to her work on institutional endowment in dance and the arts, Sarah also contributes ethnographic analyses of local arts work and workworlds. Such writing currently appears in the Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship (2013), Performance Research (2015), TDR/The Drama Review (2016), and the Futures of Dance Studies collection (2020).

Beyond Duke and Durham, Sarah also serves as a guest faculty member in the low residency graduate program, the Institute for Curatorial and Performance Practice (ICPP) at Wesleyan University, where she teaches graduate courses on arts labor and entrepreneurial strategies. In conjunction with this work, Sarah is a co-PI for an exploratory study commissioned by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that tracks how artists from divergent sociocultural backgrounds circumnavigate economic drivers and institutionalized "norms" of curation and live performance.

Sarah second book project (in development) catalogues the collective labor at play in local dance work and work-worlds in secondary and "off-center" US communities and towns.

Prior to landing at Duke, Sarah was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies and the Humanities at Brown University (2016-2018). She holds terminal degrees in dance practice (MFA) and culture and performance studies (PH.D.) from the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles.

She also sweats more than most humans. 

Education & Training

Ph.D., culture and performance studies - University of California, Los Angeles
M.F.A., dance - University of California, Los Angeles 
B.F.A., dance - University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 

Current Research Interests

Academic research interests: dance, culture, and performance studies, choreography and performance, U.S. arts policy/philanthropy, institutional ethnography, social and political theory, critical arts pedagogy, theories of practice, institutionality, and corporeality.

Artistic research interests: intergenerational performance, concert dance, dance theatre, musical theatre, opera, physical theatre, dance in K-12 education, and integrative dance and health.

Duke's investment in interdisciplinary research and teaching and the introduction of a new experimental MFA in Dance (Interdisciplinary Embodied Praxis) in Fall of 2019 offer ideal institutional platforms for me to pursue these goals as an arts practitioner and scholar of dance, performance, and labor in the arts.

Office Hours

By appointment.
Rubenstein Arts Center
2020 Campus Drive #209F

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

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