Research and Publications

I research arts work and work worlds with particular emphasis on how institutions value the arts, principally in a US context.

My forthcoming manuscript (under review), entitled Funding Bodies: Five Decades of Dance "Making" at the National Endowment for the Arts (1965-2016) offers a book-length look at how federal philanthropic policies have shaped and constrained the US dance field. Funding Bodies is under contract with Wesleyan University Press.

Current Research:

(peer reviewed journals, invited chapters, book reviews, and commentary)

"Endangered Strangers: Tracking Competition in US Federal Dance Funding" in The Oxford Handbook of DANCE AND COMPETITION. Sherril Dodds, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. (print)


(in press) "Who "Makes" a Dance? Embodying Infrastructure through a Dance Lens," in The Futures of Dance Studies edited collection. Susan Manning, Janice Ross, and Rebecca Schneider, Eds. University of Wisconsin Press, (forthcoming January, 2019)

"Does the NEA Need Saving?" in TDR/The Drama Review, volume 61, issue 4, T236, Winter 2017, p. 96-106. (print). DOI# 10.1162/DRAM_a_00694

**ON TAP: A THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES PODCAST** commentary on TDR/NEA essay, here: (@36:36).

“Gestural Economies and Production Pedagogies in Deaf West’s Broadway Revival of Spring Awakening” in "Critical Acts", TDR/The Drama Review, Volume 60, Issue 2 - T230, Summer 2016, p. 145-153. (print) DOI#: 10.1162/DRAM_a_00553

"It's About Time: Creative Placemaking and Performance Analytics" in Performance Research: On Institutions. Gigi Argyopoulou and Hypatia Vourloumis, Eds. Vol. 20, issue 4, August, 2015. (print) DOI#: 10.1080/13528165.2015.1071046.

Link to article: (web) 11.15.15


“Dance for Veterans:  A Complimentary Health Program for Veterans with Serious Mental Illness” in Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy, and Practice. Donald Stewart and Michael Balfour Eds. Vol. 6 issue 1. New York: Routledge, 2015. [March 2015]



"Failing Perceptions: Policy, Production, and U.S. Dance Makers" in Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship. Linda Caldwell and Urmimala Sarkar, Eds. World Dance Alliance, 2013. ISSN 2309-267X. (web) 11.15.15


Book Review. 'Performing Policy: How Contemporary Politics and Cultural Programs Redefined U.S. Artists for the Twenty-First Century by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez in e-misférica, Macarena Gómez Barris and Marcial Gody-Anativia, Eds. Vol. 14, Issue 1, 2018. (web)

Book Review. The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics. Kowal, Rebekah J., Gerald Siegmund, and Randy Martin, eds. Dance Research Journal, Helen Thomas, Ed., Vol. 50, Issue 1, August 2018. (print)

"A Dance Based Addendum to the Gray Areas Quiz" in Art Practical, Volume 5.4, April 2014. (web) 11.15.15


Updated essays are downloadable at



This is how I look when trying to wrap words around dance and embodied meanings.

Photo: Nguyen Nguyën, 2014

This is how I feel about arts funding and things. 

Photo: Troy Blendell (2018)

  • facebook-square
  • Twitter Square



Dance Advocate.

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Dance

Duke University

Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.

I am Sarah Wilbur. I am a dance artist and scholar whose creative and academic research together recognize the parity between dances that are performed and the aspects of dance making that are suppressed or ignored.  I am invested in illuminating the vital contributions of dance and arts labor and laborers. My academic research asks how economic flows and institutionalized norms of arts production make people move and organize arts work. Archivally and ethnographically, I study local arts work worlds to show people enact policies--and alternative possibilities--in order to sustain enabling environments for the arts. I work principally in a US context.


I currently serve as an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Dance in the Dance Program at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, U.S. As a dance artist, I have spent over two decades working between the non-profit arts production contexts of concert dance, musical theater, opera, and experimental performance, K-12 education, social service, health care, and Veterans' Affairs. My cross-sector trajectories as a practicing dance artist strongly informs my approach to research and teaching.


I am currently completing a book that asks how instruments of federal arts funding make dance artists move through the enduring struggle to resource and recognize dance across the first fifty years of grant making at the Dance Program at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). I am also concurrently conducting ethnographic research on local dance work worlds in off-center US communities as part of my second monograph, and working with a large team of artists, healthcare providers, senior advocates, and service providers in Durham on an arts engagement initiative aimed at fostering a creative community of care for elders living with Dementia and cognitive impairments.

I hold terminal degrees in dance practice (M.F.A.) and culture and performance (Ph.D.) from UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. I also hold a B.F.A. in dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

I have taught dance studio, seminar, and hybrid courses in academia since 1997 at five diverse American universities. My studio-oriented courses help students to situate their dance practices and productions in cultural and political economic contexts. My seminar courses apply body-focused research methods to the study of cultural performances in and beyond the arts.  In July of 2018, I joined the Duke Dance faculty after completing a two-year appointment as the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in dance studies at Brown University (2016-2018). At Duke, I teach studio courses in improvisation and interdisciplinary performance and seminar/lecture courses in critical dance studies, dance research and writing, theories of corporeality, arts labor and political economy, critical dance pedagogy, and most recently, artists in the US healthcare system. 

More on my institutional affiliations here:


Assistant Professor of the Practice of Dance                       

Dance Department

Duke University

Box 90686

2020 Campus Drive 209F

Durham, NC 27708-0685

Office Phone: 919-660-3369            

To avoid over-choreographing our present or future relationship(s), you might consider following me in the clouds using any of the following handles:


On Facebook:

On Twitter: @swilburdance

On Instagram: @swilburdance


© 2023 by  Designs by Thomas Rider. Proudly made by