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Sarah Wilbur

Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance
Dance Program
Box 90686, Durham, NC 27708-0685
Rubenstein Arts Center 209F, 2020 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27705

Research Interests


Academic research interests: dance, cultural studies, and performance studies, choreography and performance, U.S. arts labor, policy, and philanthropy, ethnography, social and political theory, critical arts pedagogy, theories of practice, institutionality, and corporeality, principally in a US context. Current research investigates economic drivers and incentives in dance and the US healthcare industry via local US clinical, community, and congregate care contexts. 

Creative research interests:  contemporary concert dance, dance theatre, musical theatre, opera, devised intergenerational performance, and participatory dance making across the contexts of K-12 education, social services, aging services, and healthcare.







Fellowships, Gifts, and Supported Research


Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies and the Humanities · 2016 - 2018 Postdoctoral Fellow-Theatre Arts and Performance Studies/TAPS, Brown University · Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Position held in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” is a multi-school, multi-year initiative designed to advance the field of dance studies. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project will appoint postdoctoral fellows in dance studies at Brown University, Northwestern University, and Stanford University from 2012-13 through 2017-18. For more information, see website: http://www.mellondancestudies.org/about/
Jacob K. Javits Fellowship · 2009 - 2012 US Department of Education Position held in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles
Don Wilmeth American Theatre and Drama Society Fellow · 2016 - 2017 American Theatre and Drama Society Fellow Brown University
Bessie Schönberg Choreography Fellowship · 2008 - 2008 The Yard Community-based new work choreography residencies, intergenerational teaching in modern dance and creative process, and public performances and in spring, summer, and fall 2008 at The Yard in Chilmark, Massachusetts. http://www.dancetheyard.org
EXPLORE Seed and Completion Grant · 2023 - 2024 Duke Office of Research & Innovation · $15,000.00 Prescribing Dance: Sweating the Impacts of the US Healthcare Industry on the Working Lives of Artists (working title) is the first regionally-specific cultural labor study of the rapidly expanding arts labor subfield of dance and art in health. Sited in three cities, dance artist-scholar Sarah Wilbur’s feminist ethnographic approach argues for care infrastructures as fundamentally embodied struggles between differently invested funders, administrators, artists, health practitioners, and program participants. Leveraging her longstanding experience as a dance artist and health collaborator, Wilbur invites a broad interdisciplinary readership to pay closer, body-level attention to how arts and health partners co-operate to mobilize local spaces of creative exchange. Peppering her structural and historical analysis of regional patterns of dance and health investment with ethnographic vignettes from local dance-based programs in clinical, community, and congregate care contexts, Wilbur uses “sweat” as a material, bodily, and semiotic marker to keep human movement, and transformation at the center of debates about how to create sustainable communities of care. Accounting for sweat as both the material/biological evidence of the body’s struggle to establish and maintain equilibrium and a symbolic marker of labor, fitness, pathology, and/or strength, Wilbur demonstrates how differently invested partners negotiate the ethical responsibilities embedded in arts/health economies, and weather the complex outcomes of local invitations to “heal” through a prescription to get up and dance.
Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies and the Humanities · 2016 - 2018 Postdoctoral Fellow-Theatre Arts and Performance Studies/TAPS, Brown University · Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Position held in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” is a multi-school, multi-year initiative designed to advance the field of dance studies. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project will appoint postdoctoral fellows in dance studies at Brown University, Northwestern University, and Stanford University from 2012-13 through 2017-18. For more information, see website: http://www.mellondancestudies.org/about/
Jacob K. Javits Fellowship · 2009 - 2012 US Department of Education Position held in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles
Don Wilmeth American Theatre and Drama Society Fellow · 2016 - 2017 American Theatre and Drama Society Fellow Brown University
Bessie Schönberg Choreography Fellowship · 2008 - 2008 The Yard Community-based new work choreography residencies, intergenerational teaching in modern dance and creative process, and public performances and in spring, summer, and fall 2008 at The Yard in Chilmark, Massachusetts. http://www.dancetheyard.org
EXPLORE Seed and Completion Grant · 2023 - 2024 Duke Office of Research & Innovation · $15,000.00 Prescribing Dance: Sweating the Impacts of the US Healthcare Industry on the Working Lives of Artists (working title) is the first regionally-specific cultural labor study of the rapidly expanding arts labor subfield of dance and art in health. Sited in three cities, dance artist-scholar Sarah Wilbur’s feminist ethnographic approach argues for care infrastructures as fundamentally embodied struggles between differently invested funders, administrators, artists, health practitioners, and program participants. Leveraging her longstanding experience as a dance artist and health collaborator, Wilbur invites a broad interdisciplinary readership to pay closer, body-level attention to how arts and health partners co-operate to mobilize local spaces of creative exchange. Peppering her structural and historical analysis of regional patterns of dance and health investment with ethnographic vignettes from local dance-based programs in clinical, community, and congregate care contexts, Wilbur uses “sweat” as a material, bodily, and semiotic marker to keep human movement, and transformation at the center of debates about how to create sustainable communities of care. Accounting for sweat as both the material/biological evidence of the body’s struggle to establish and maintain equilibrium and a symbolic marker of labor, fitness, pathology, and/or strength, Wilbur demonstrates how differently invested partners negotiate the ethical responsibilities embedded in arts/health economies, and weather the complex outcomes of local invitations to “heal” through a prescription to get up and dance.
David L. Paletz Course Innovation Grant · 2018 - 2019 Trinity Arts and Sciences, Duke University
David L. Paletz Course Innovation Grant · 2019 - 2020 Trinity Arts and Sciences, Duke University
Open Monograph Award · 2020 - 2021 Duke University Libraries For FUNDING BODIES: FIVE DECADES OF DANCE MAKING AT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, forthcoming (fall 2021) from Wesleyan University Press.
Faculty Book Workshop · 2019 - 2020 Invited Author · Franklin Humanities Institute
Co-PI, Artist Case Studies · 2018 - 2021 Doris Duke Charitable Foundation · $200,000.00