Sarah Marie Wilbur
Assistant Professor Of The Practice of Dance
Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Sarah Wilbur (Assistant Professor of the Practice/Dance) is a cross-sector choreographer and dance/performance researcher who studies US arts institutions and infrastructures as critically embodied support systems. Sarah brings a strong field orientation to bear on her academic research, which includes twenty-plus years of field experience as a dance artist working in concert dance theatre, musical theater, opera, K-12 education, health care, and Veterans’ Affairs. Her writing and dance making together recognize the parity between dances that are performed and the aspects of dance making that are suppressed or ignored. It is Sarah’s primary goal to highlight dance’s under-recognized labor and laborers in all facets of her professional work.
Sarah’s current manuscript, entitled Funding Bodies: Five Decades of Dance "Making" at the National Endowment for the Arts [1965-2016] offers a critical cultural history of institution building and belonging inside the lone dance philanthropic arm of the US federal government. The first book-length look at how NEA dance funding instruments make artists move, the text shows how institutionally-imposed grant criteria incentivize the behaviors and aspirations of dance organizers across three roughly fifteen year funding regimes. Funding Bodies grew out of Sarah's doctoral research that began in 2009 at UCLA and is currently under contract with Wesleyan University Press.
In addition to this historical work, Sarah also produces ethnographically informed studies of local dance and arts support systems. This work appears in Performance Research, TDR/The Drama Review, The Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship, and Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice. Early articulations of her ideas on funding policies, practices, and politics also appear in the The Oxford Handbook on Dance and Competition, and The Futures of Dance Studies edited collection (University of Wisconsin Press). Sarah has also published scholarly book reviews in her home disciplines of dance and performance studies for e-misférica, and Dance Research Journal.
Sarah will serve as a guest faculty member and research advisor at Wesleyan University's Institute for Curatorial and Performance Practice (ICPP), teaching graduate courses on arts support and consulting on a Doris Duke Foundation-supported research project articulating the the zig-zag career trajectories and culturally specific challenges of artists working in economically precarious cultural realm of live performance. Prior to landing at Duke, Sarah served as the final Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies and the Humanities at Brown University (2016-2018), where she developed coursework for undergraduate and graduate students highlighting dance as a vital topic, theory, and method of knowledge production across areas of humanistic inquiry.
Education & Training
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles (culture and performance studies)
M.F.A., University of California, Los Angeles (dance)
B.F.A., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (dance)
Wilbur, Sarah. “Gestural Economies and Production Pedagogies in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening.” Tdr/The Drama Review 60, no. 2 (June 2016): 145–53. https://doi.org/10.1162/dram_a_00553. Full Text Open Access Copy
Wilbur, Sarah. “It's about Time Creative placemaking and performance analytics.” Performance Research 20, no. 4 (July 4, 2015): 96–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/13528165.2015.1071046. Full Text Open Access Copy