top of page

Can you earn a PhD through dance?


The quick answer is, sadly, no! But today's question takes us through an interesting investigation of some of the different ways you can gain a PhD. Increasingly, there is room for creativity and industry knowledge in the PhD process. You can gain this degree by writing a novel, developing policy, or creating artworks. There is more and more recognition of the originality and in-depth study that goes into these processes.


So let's get to answering our question:


"Hi, I heard from an older student that someone got her PhD by dancing instead of writing. Is that for real anywhere in the world? Because I want to do that. Thanks" - Levi (she/her), B.C., Canada.

Hi Levi,


Your question actually brought back a distant memory for me. I recall hearing the same story back when I was a PhD candidate. I think it's the kind of urban legend that appears from time to time across campuses where students are dreaming of some other way to create a dissertation that doesn't involve quite so many footnotes...


I had a look for the source of this rumour, and my best guess is that it came from a misunderstanding of the 'Dance your PhD' contest where students express their research through interpretative dance. I love this contest and highly recommend you watch it, but the choreographers are communicating their arguments rather than actually gaining a doctorate in the process.


Accredited institutions have certain standards they need to adhere to so that a PhD means the same thing globally. While different countries and universities/colleges have different programs, they need to be of a comparable level of difficulty and produce graduates with comparable skills. One of the core skills of a PhD graduate is the ability to advance a sophisticated and original argument, or to produce new knowledge, through the composition of a (written) thesis.


While dance can certainly be original, complex, and communicative - it's not a thesis.


Nor is it an exegesis - a special kind of thesis that contextualises and amplifies the themes in a creative work. I think an exegesis-based program would be the best way of gaining a PhD in dance. Through this kind of PhD program, you could develop and perform choreography, then account for its originality and importance using academic writing. I had a look a dance PhD programs and found some including this offering from Temple University. This degree involves performance practice but also runs more traditional coursework units and culminates "in an in-depth dissertation project". So you'd still need to write about your dance and have that written work be examined in order to gain a PhD.


So can you dance instead of writing? No. But do be aware of the increasingly diverse PhD program offerings where you have a chance to dance as well as write.



What are your thoughts on a PhD through creative means? Is this something you'd ever want to do? Or something you've done? Let us know in the comments.


22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comentarios


bottom of page