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Liz Ivkovich

Liz Ivkovich

Modern Dance/College of Fine Arts


Socially Engaged Dance & Performance

Faculty Mentor: A'Keitha Carey - Modern Dance/College of Fine Arts


Critical inquiry into how, why, and what we do with our bodies is an essential component of dance training that is overlooked in many dance programs. We work on the body but frequently neglect the connection between the body and the socio-political and geographic topographies in which it moves. Through my teaching experiences, I have found students in the U’s Modern Dance department experience this lack of connection between the body’s dance training and the topographies where we dance. There are students in the department (and in other places in the College of Fine Arts) ardent about social justice and environmental issues struggling to find ways to connect their work in dance to these passions. This project is intended to help provide students with a space where they can practice making socially engaged art1; a form of performance making that lies outside the dominant dance aesthetic at the University of Utah.

1Socially engaged art attaches itself to subjects and problems normally allocated to other disciplines; disciplines such as gender studies, environmental studies, and politics. Socially engaged art pulls questions from these disciplines into the realm of art-making, bringing new insights to a particular problem and making it visible.


For my TA Scholar project I will design and teach a one-credit course titled, Socially Engaged Dance and Performance. This course will: (a) serve as a think tank for performance artists of all skill levels to practice analyzing and creating socially engaged performance, (b) combine performance studies and performance art making to practice making our own work, (c) culminate with a performance piece or research project integrating course research and personal aesthetics in the lineage of socially engaged art makers, and (d) emphasize dance because of my experience but include performance of other genres such as theatre, poetry, and performance art. The format of the classroom will reflect the content of the class - the classroom itself becomes a space where we practice socially engaged performance. The format of class is influenced by the work of critical pedagogues such as bell hooks and Paulo Freire.

 A sampling of course topics include:

  • Frameworks for socially engaged dance & performance literacy, especially focusing on feminist theory, ecofeminism, and critical pedagogy;
  • Community organizing in the classroom, studio, theatre and beyond;
  • Developing a personal creative process within socially engaged art making.


I will advertise this course with posters around campus, offering a public course preview event in the fall, and approaching professors to announce the course in their class. During the course student feedback will be taken in the middle of the semester as well as at the end of the semester. This feedback will provide valuable information about the achievement of learning outcomes. At the culmination of the course I will investigate the possibility of adapting the course to meet general education requirements, expanding it from one credit to three credits, and finding a co-teacher from another discipline. The course content, including unit plans and the course syllabus, will be kept in the Department of Modern Dance main office. This will empower future graduate assistants in the Department (or another department) to teach the course, allowing University of Utah students to engage both the content and format of the course.
Last Updated: 7/27/18