33843 - Anthropology of Dance (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology (cod. 0964)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Music and Theatre Studies (cod. 8837)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will have mastered the theoretical approaches that characterise the discipline; they will be able to adopt the appropriate methodologies for the study of dance from an anthropological perspective and will be aware of how the study of dance can be an effective tool for analysing other aspects of social reality, such as the political and identity dimension

Course contents

The first part of the course will illustrate the interest in dance that characterised the work of the first anthropologists, with particular attention to Katherine Dunham, an anthropologist and dancer among the first to combine theoretical knowledge and performance. We will then analyse the turning point of 1960, with the creation of the disciplinary field, and examine the research that, since the 1980s, has focused attention on the relationship between dance and politics.

The second part of the course will investigate phenomena linked to dance activity in the contemporary world, with particular reference to nationalism, human rights, and the revitalisation of local "traditions".

Should they wish, students may carry out group work on a topic related to the anthropology of dance and present this to their colleagues in the lectures at the end of the course.

Attending students (and also non-attending students, provided they have taken the exam in Anthropology of Dance by February 2024) will be able, as part of the Methodologies of Ethnographic Research course starting at the end of January 2024, to propose an interview with a dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, or spectator.


Classes will start on 9 November 2023.


  1. Natali C., Percorsi di antropologia della danza, Milano, Libreria Cortina, 2009.
  2. Two alternative possibilities:

2a. The following collection of articles:

Allovio, S., 2018, Un assolo lungo ottant’anni. Riflessioni antropologiche a partire dalle danze di corte mangbetu, in Danzare l'Africa oggi. Eredità culturali, trasformazioni, nuovi immaginari, Bologna, Dipartimento delle Arti e ALMADL (available at http://amsacta.unibo.it/5838/); Buckland, T.,1999, All Dances Are Ethnic, but Some Are More Ethnic Than Others: Some Observations on Dance Studies and Anthropology, in “Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research”, XVII, 1, pp. 3-21; Franco, S., 2017, Danzare la nazione all’epoca delle postcolonie: il caso del Kenya, “Danza e ricerca”, 9, 127-151; Grau, A., 2005, When the Landscape becomes Flesh: An Investigation into Body Boundaries with Special Reference to Tiwi Dance and Western Classical Ballet, “Body & Society”, XI, 4, 141–163; Kealiinohomoku, J.W., 1983, An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance, in R. Copeland e M. Cohen (eds.) What is Dance?, Oxford, Oxford University Press (ed. or. 1969-1970, Impulse, 24-33); Kurath, G.P., 1960, Panorama of Dance Ethnology, in “Current Anthropology”, I, 3, pp. 233-254; Reed, S.A., 1998, The politics and poetics of dance, in “Annual Review of Anthropology”, XXVII, pp. 503-32; Youngerman, S., 1974, Curt Sachs and His Heritage: A Critical Review of World History of the Dance with a Survey of Recent Studies that Perpetuate His Ideas, in “CORD News”, VI, pp. 6-19.


2b. One text of your choice from:

Clark, V.A., Johnston, S.E. (eds.), 2005, Kaiso!: Writings by and about Katherine Dunham, Madison, Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin Press

Jackson, N., Shapiro-Phim, T. (eds.), 2008, Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice. Dignity in Motion, Lanham, Maryland, Scarecrow Press

Neveu Kringelbach, H., 2013, Dance Circles. Movement, Morality and Self-Fashioning in Urban Senegal, Oxford, New York, Berghahn Books

O’Shea, J., 2007, At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage, Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press

Pizza, G., 2015 Il tarantismo oggi. Antropologia, politica, cultura, Roma, Carocci

The programme for non-attending students does not require any additional material because non-attendance implies a greater amount of individual studying.

Teaching methods

The course includes lectures on theoretical topics, Power Point presentations, viewing of films, possible group work and participation (optional) in dance workshops.

Assessment methods

Assessment is carried out through an oral exam, in which students are required to show deep knowledge of the bibliography, critical analytic skills and appropriate linguistic communicative ability.

Attending students: the assessment will also take into account any group work carried out on a topic relating to the anthropology of dance. The group work does not replace but supplements the oral examination.

The mark will be assigned taking into account the following evaluation levels:

30 cum laude: excellent performance showing soundness of knowledge, rich discursive articulation and appropriate expression;

30: very good performance, complete and appropriate knowledge, well articulated and appropriately expressed;

29-27: good performance, more than satisfactory knowledge, well expressed;

26-24: standard performance, essential knowledge, but not comprehensive and/or not always correctly expressed;

23-21: sufficient performance, general but superficial knowledge, often inappropriately expressed showing confused articulation;

20-18: poor performance, with just acceptable expression and articulation with significant gaps;

<18: insufficient performance, absent or very incomplete knowledge, lack of orientation in the discipline.

Teaching tools

Attending students are kindly invited to subscribe from November to the following mailing list in order to receive information about possible variations in the lecture timetable and rooms:


Office hours

See the website of Cristiana Natali


Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.