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Betsy Cooper

Professor Betsy Cooper joined the CSULB faculty as Chair of the Department of Dance in fall 2018. Cooper’s teaching expertise is in ballet and pointe techniques, ballet history, 20thcentury modern dance history, dance research methods and higher education administration. 

Education and Training

Professor Cooper holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Washington, and a BA, cum laude, in Archeological Studies from Yale University.

Professor Cooper received her formative dance training at the School of American Ballet in NYC, studying with legendary teachers Felia Doubrovska, Alexandra Danilova, Stanley Williams, Helene Dudin, Muriel Stuart and Suki Schorer. She also trained on scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet School, School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Alvin Ailey School and Jacob’s Pillow. 

Research Interests

Professor Cooper’s scholarly research probes at the intersections of dance, politics, and censorship of the body in mid-20th century concert dance and the Hollywood film industry. She has published articles on the WPA’s Federal Dance Project in Theatre Research InternationalDance Research Journaland The International Dictionary of Modern Dance. Her recent work, "The Body Censored: Dance, Morality and the Production Code during the Golden Age of the Film Musical," appears in Dance on Its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies, published by Oxford University Press. She is an active member of the editorial review board for the Journal of Dance Education, where she has contributed articles on engaged learning and embodied writing practices. With Steven Corbett, she co-edited a special topics issue on writing in the performing and visual arts for the journal, Across the Disciplines.  She is currently co-editing Writing In and About the Performing and Visual Arts.

Professor Cooper greatly enjoys public speaking and opportunities to share her knowledge and love of dance history. From 2001-2015, she was a frequent guest lecturer and panel moderator at Seattle’s major performing arts venues. In 2011-13, she researched, authored and hostedUW Dance Presents Chamber Dance Company, a 10-part series for University of Washington Television featuring historic and contemporary modern dance repertory.


Co-editor to special issue of Across the Disciplines: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Learning and Academic Writing, entitled “Create, Perform, Write: WAC, WID, and the Performing and Visual Arts.” 

“Reflective Writing/Reflective Practice: Promoting Engaged Learning and Confidence in Dance Training,” Journal of Dance Education 13(1): 4-11. 

 “The Body Censored: Dance, Morality and the Production Code during the Golden Age of the Film Musical.” Chapter Four (pp. 97-125) in Dance on Its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies. eds., Melanie Bales and Karen Elliot (Oxford University Press). 

 “A Conversation with Todd Bolender,” Ballet Review. Fall/2011 issue.

“Embodied Writing: A Tool for Teaching and Learning in Dance,” Journal of Dance Education, 11(2): 53-59.

“Statements of Personal Goals” and “Dance in a Ritual Context,” published in Writing About Dance, by Wendy R. Oliver, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2010. 

 “Dances About Spain: Censorship at the Federal Theatre Project.” Theatre Research International, 29(3): 232-246.

Proceedings Society of Dance History Scholars 2001. Paper: “Dances About Spain: Guns & Castanets and Adelante.” 

Dancing in the Millennium Conference Proceedings 2000Paper: “The Capitalist Contagion and The Dancing Vector: Watch Your Step You Might Catch The Bourgeois Bug.” 

International Dictionary of Modern Dance, St. James Press. Entries on “Nona Schurman” and the “Federal Dance Theatre of the W.P.A.” 

Dance Research Journal 29(2):23-48. “Tamiris and the Federal Dance Theatre 1936-1939: Socially Relevant Dance Amidst the Policies and Politics of the New Deal Era.” 

Awards and Accomplishments

Prior to joining the faculty of CSULB as Chair of the Department of Dance, ProfessorCooper was Dean of The Hartt School, University of Hartford. From 2012-2015, she served as Divisional Dean of Arts in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington and directed theiraward-winning Dance Program from 2001-2013. While at the University of Washington, shereceived a 2004 Distinguished Teaching Award and the Thomas L. and Margo G. Wyckoff Endowed Faculty Fellowship. Under her leadership, the UW Dance Program was honored with the 2002 Brotman Award for Instructional Excellence.

Professor Cooper performed with classical and contemporary companies nationally and abroad, including Nationaltheater Mannheim, Matthew Nash Music & Dance, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Makarova & Company and Connecticut Ballet. She remains active as a performer, choreographer and dance educator. For seven seasons, she was a member of the Seattle Dance Project, premiering in original works by Edward Liang, Molissa Fenley Hilde Koch, Heidi Vierthaler and Jason Ohlberg. In June 2018, she had the honor of performing with Molissa Fenley and Company at St. Mark’s Church in NYC.

Cooper’s choreography has been commissioned by Seattle Dance Project, Connecticut Ballet, Bucknell University, Western Washington University, and Arc Dance Company, where she was the resident choreographer from 2007-2011.

Betsy Cooper performing. Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki Betsy Cooper performing in white flow costume. Photo by Joel Levin.