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Minor in Performance Studies

Take an international and interdisciplinary approach to performance.

Look at performance practices and events of different cultures around the world. What impact do they have on daily life and how do they shape the social and political landscape of that culture? Investigate the field of performance studies and its connections to other disciplines such as anthropology, theatre studies, philosophy, feminism, critical race theory, and more. You will analyze everything from theatrical performances to cultural and religious rituals. With peers from different academic backgrounds, you will explore chosen topics together using a variety of skillsets from a variety of perspectives.

Minor in Performance Studies Curriculum

You must complete 18 units for the minor.

Required Course (4 units)

Choose one of the following courses:   

Introduction to Performance Studies

PERF-UT 101 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

(Students may also take PERF-UT 200 in lieu of this course if majoring or minoring in Performance Studies)

This course is an introduction to the field of performance studies.  Students are introduced to the concept of “performance” broadly construed to include not just “staged” performances for theater, film, television, dance, and musical performance, but also performance as a practice of self-presentation; in social rituals and daily interactions; in bodily and speech acts; and in linguistic, visual, and other modes of communication.  By studying a wide range of examples that illustrate the varied constructions of the verb “to perform” students are encouraged to consider the social significance of performance, and how it structures our perceptions and social lives. The course is geared toward lower-division undergraduates interested in (though not necessarily familiar with, or specializing in) the study and/or practice of performance.

Check Albert for course schedule

Performance Studies: An Introduction

PERF-UT 200 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

(Students may take this course in lieu of PERF-UT 101 if majoring or minoring in Performance Studies)

The course is taught using a blended learning approach. Guided online by Richard Schechner, a founder of the field of performance studies, and in person by Professor Erin Mee (who for years worked closely with Schechner), students explore the performances in the Americas, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, and the Pacific islands.

Students delve back in time to ask what kind of performances took place in the caves of paleolithic Europe? How do these ancient shamanic and initiatory practices relate to Burning Man, YouTube, and today's avant garde? How do people perform their professions, their genders, their races and nations, their identities, their social lives, and their daily rituals? For this course, Schechner filmed interviews with more than a dozen scholars, scientists, and artists. Embedded in the course are clips and images of many different kinds of performances.

Student engage each other directly in class and blog with each other during the week. Students form groups to devise performance projects.  Performance Studies: An Introduction puts students in interactive dialogue with the most important events, people, theories, and questions of the dynamic, emerging field of performance studies.

Check Albert for course schedule

Elective Courses (12 units)      

Gender Performance

PERF-UT 106 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course will examine the work of diverse choreographers during the latter part of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. Through a consideration of experimentation in the realm of dance, we will ask how techniques of the body can change not merely our notions of dance aesthetics, but our fundamental understanding of the constitution of the self. We will look at both Western and non-Western efforts to challenge dance “tradition”, and to engage philosophical issues through bodily practice. How have these experiments reoriented our way of thinking about the relationship between dance and the other arts, and more broadly between art, philosophy, and the social order?

Check Albert for course schedule.

Music, Voice and Performance

PERF-UT 105 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This interdisciplinary course will offer a series of interlocking perspectives on the performative politics of Brazilian sonic and kinesthetic cultures.  Using critical readings on the Brazilian social, political and cultural history we will engage with some of the key concepts and topics that concern scholars working in the humanities and social sciences: race, cultural politics, citizenship, violence, tourism, embodiment, gender, sexuality, place, globalization, translation, political economy, power, voice, diaspora, memory, and improvisation.  One of our principal aims will be to consider how various forms of identity (racial, gender, class, religious) are constructed and negotiated within disparate contexts of music and dance performance (in religious ceremonies, at informal gatherings, in the mass media, in carnival, on stages and in concert halls, in recording studios, within cultural institutions, etc.) We will also examine how the contours of racial (and gender and class) politics in Brazilian society shifted over the course of the twentieth century and how Brazilian social history has made a rather complex braid with broader international and transnational geographies. 


Check Albert for course schedule.

Performance Composition Workshop

PERF-UT 201 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course focuses on performance as a mode of research/investigation: how can engaging in a performance or practice (rather than simply reading about/observing it) illuminate in ways that may be otherwise inaccessible to the researcher?  What knowledges does the doing of performance produce?  Students in this class will be asked to develop a research question (in consultation with the instructor), design and engage in a performance project aimed at answering (or at least investigating) that question, and then produce a final project (written or performed) that illustrates her/his research findings.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Performance Histories

PERF-UT 205 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Countering the “presentist” critique of performance studies as a field (i.e., that its emphasis on “liveness” limits it to analysis of contemporary practices), this course will examine both the long history of performance (and the specific research methodologies that are required for that examination), and the history of performance studies as a mode of social inquiry. How have performance, and the writing about performance, been deployed historically, and to what ends? How can contemporary researches access the archives that house answers to these questions, and how do archives in themselves constitute an historiographic “performance”? Students will consider the impact of performance in the contexts of (post-)colonial history, aesthetic genealogies, and other historiographic projects.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Performance Theory

PERF-UT 102 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course examines the diverse issues and methodological questions raised by different kinds of performance. Where “Introduction to Performance Studies” asks, “What is performance? What counts as performance, and what is its cultural significance?” this course asks, “How can we interpret and analyze performance? What is ‘theory’ in this context, and how do theory and practice inform each other?” Readings introduce students to key concepts in the field such as “ritual,” “performativity,” “liveness,” and “affect.” Material for the course (readings, videos, and other media) exemplify the interdisciplinary nature of performance studies by drawing from work in aesthetics, anthropology, architecture studies, ethnic/area studies, queer studies, religious studies, legal studies, literary studies, etc.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Performance and Politics

PERF-UT 104 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course focuses specifically on the political aspects of performance -- how it reflects, enacts, and shifts political discourse and practices. Beginning with a broad construction of “politics” -- that “the personal is political, and vice versa” -- the courses encourages students to study events and practices that produce political effects. How can performance and performance theory be applied usefully to understand how, why, and where political dialogue takes place, and where it fails to do so?

Check Albert for course schedule.

Performance and Technology

PERF-UT 304 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course considers the concept of technology as a way of thinking about performance generally, and then focuses specifically on the role of various technologies in performance – historically as well as in contemporary practices. How do technical innovations, new knowledges, etc. make new forms of performance possible? The course will consider both technology in (aesthetic) performance and the performance of technology in extra-theatrical settings.  

Check Albert for course schedule.

Performance of the City: New York

PERF-UT 103 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

A founding tenet of our field is the significance of the site where performance takes place – including its metropolitan environment. This course serves to introduce students to the performance culture of a given city (whether New York or one of the other Global sites), and to the ways in which any urban environment is staged by its residents and visitors. The class will take the city itself as its “text,” exploring its history, its significant performance venues, and the public spaces where the population gathers in a collective spectacle of social relations. Readings in urban performance studies will be supplemented by class trips to performances, from the opera to skateboarding ramps to public parades.

Check Albert for course schedule.

The Performance of Everyday Life

PERF-UT 206 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course focuses in depth on “everyday” versions of performance (as opposed to theatrical or formal performances).  Drawing from anthropology, affect studies, social psychology, sociology,  architecture studies, etc. the course invites students to view seemingly non-theatrical social interaction as performance, and to consider the significance of the seeming “normal” and inconsequential nature of such performances.  What happens when what is “second nature” becomes the focus of our attention?  The course will also place particular emphasis on writing as a mode of illuminating and interrogating the “everyday,” as well as considering it as performance practice in and of itself.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Performative Writing Workshop

PERF-UT 204| 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Students in this workshop will study theories of linguistic performativity -- how words/writing perform functions in shaping the world (i.e., in law, science, fiction, etc.) -- and then explore that functionality in their own writing. How can the performative effects of writing be deployed purposefully, strategically, artistically, etc.? What do particular rhetorical/textual choices do? What is the relationship between the performativity of writing, on the one hand, and performance on the other? Students will be encouraged to experiment with their writing (both in terms of style and subject matter), and then to analyze the results of these experiments in order to hone their abilities to both observe, describe, and enact performance strategies in writing.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Queer Politics & Performance

PERF-UT 302 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course takes sexuality as its lens through which to consider performance, and vice versa.  Much of the current vitality of the concept of “performance” has come through the study of gender and sexuality -- the political impact and social legibility of performances of gender and sexuality in daily life, art practices, and elsewhere -- and this course examines and applies these theories of gender/sexuality performance to a wide range of examples.  Students will read both new and canonical work in field of gender studies with an eye toward the specific impact of performance in this work, as well as examine performance examples in order to analyze the ways gender and sexuality are produced within them.

Check Albert for Course Schedule.

Theories of Movement

PERF-UT 303 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course will explore the rich history of experimental dance and movement-based performance, and the possibility of a movement-based analysis of performativity. While dominant theories of “performativity” (the doing that performance does) emerge from linguistic theories and/or text-based accounts (ethnographic descriptions of ritual, etc.), the direct impact of movement has garnered less scholarly attention (with the exception of dance studies). How does movement (not only in dance, but in performance more generally) enact social/aesthetic theory, and how might movement itself theorize social relations?

Check Albert for course schedule.

Topics in Performance Studies

PERF-UT 305 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

“Topics in Performance Studies” is a course that allows for an in-depth exploration of a particular kind of performance practice. For example, in a given iteration, the subtitle might be “Voice and Performance.” In such a course, vocal technique could be examined in the context of a larger consideration of philosophical approaches to the significance of the voice. Or, in an iteration subtitled “Ritual Dance,” the use of movement and choreography for the purposes of worship could be explored from the perspective of diverse belief systems. Students in these “Topics” courses are not expected to be proficient performers themselves of the performance styles under consideration, although some instructors may choose to make practical work an option.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Practical Experience (2 units)


All students declaring a Minor must receive a grade of C or above in order to have the course count towards a Tisch Minor.

Course Allocations

No more than one (1) class or a maximum of four (4) units can be used to substitute a Minor designated class. Students cannot substitute required classes for the Minors.

As of spring 2015, regarding double-counting of courses for Tisch students: students who have any combination of Tisch majors/minors will only be permitted to count one course towards both areas. Tisch minor courses can be double-counted between two Tisch minors.