Skip to main content

ChaleffRebecca Chaleff

Assistant Professor

Department of Theatre and Dance

Rebecca Chaleff is a dance scholar, performer and dramaturg. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and was a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Riverside. Chaleff’s research merges critical theory with practice to highlight the unseen, and often undervalued, elements of dance performance.

Her current book project analyzes how dances are passed from body to body, and corpus to corpus, to survive the deaths of individual choreographers. In particular, the manuscript engages with the affective attachments of queer and racialized histories to question how choreographic claims to artistic afterlives reinforce the sociocultural hierarchies that privilege whiteness and homonationalism.

Chaleff’s writing has appeared in numerous scholarly journals, including Dance Research Journal and TDR/The Drama Review, and is forthcoming in “The Futures of Dance Studies” anthology.

As a dancer, she has had the pleasure of performing with GERALDCASELDANCE, Pat Catterson, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company Repertory Understudy Group, Douglas Dunn and Dancers, Molissa Fenley and Company, and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, among others. She is currently dramaturging a new work in collaboration with Gerald Casel.

What excites you most about coming to UC San Diego?

There are so many reasons that I am excited to join the faculty at UC San Diego. As a former Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, I have had the opportunity to learn a little bit about how the UC system supports research and teaching among its faculty and students. I am so thrilled to continue working at a UC.

I look forward to teaching at UC San Diego, in particular, because of the resources and fellow faculty in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Not only is the department well established in its many areas of expertise, it is also entering an exciting period of change that I am excited to be a part of. I will also have the opportunity to further my research and teach both dance scholarship and practice, and to work with both graduate and undergraduate students in both of these areas.

Why did you choose your field of study?

I have been passionate about dance for my entire life, but it wasn’t until college that I learned that I could merge my interest in dance practice with the theoretical and historical aspects of my studies. As a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow, I have worked to merge theory and practice in my own scholarship, dancing and dramaturgy. I have learned how closely dance is intertwined with historical and contemporary issues in politics, economics and culture.

My interest in dance has also lead me into exciting theoretical fields that I have learned to incorporate in my research. Dance teaches us so much about our past, and opens so many opportunities for the future. It is a truly inspiring field to be a part of.

What advice do you have for students who choose to major in arts and humanities?

I have two pieces of advice. First, remember that we are always in process. We are encouraged to set goals and reach them, which is a useful tool, but it is not the only way to partake in education. The more we think about classes and research as a constantly evolving process, the easier it is to open ourselves up to the surprises and opportunities that present themselves in the moment — opportunities that may lead us in unexpected and exciting directions.

Second, nobody goes to class because they already know everything. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down, take risks and really engage with learning as a reflective practice.

How do you view your role relative to the greater regional community?

At UC San Diego, I am exciting to be connected with a broader network of dance scholars in the Southern California area. There is a lot of important work being cultivated in this area that pays close attention to underrepresented choreographers, including Indigenous, queer and differently abled artists. I am looking forward to contributing my areas of expertise to this broader project, and to learning from the students who are engaged with forms of dance practice and performance that I’m still learning about.

Tell us something about yourself that is not normally mentioned in your bio.

I have a beautiful rescue dog named Nova who loves to go for hikes. We have enjoyed exploring the beautiful parks, trails and beaches in San Diego together.