Dance on the Edge: Hyunjung Kim, a New Graduate of the Dance History and Theory Ph.D. Program

By Kathryn Webber, Graduate Student Editor of CHASS College Computing


Hyunjung Kim
As the last few days of the quarter slipped away, one group of students in particular were feeling the pressure: graduate students who were trying to beat the clock and file their dissertations by the December 10 th deadline. Hyunjung Kim of the Dance Department was one such student. Having passed her oral defense on November 5, Hyunjung was putting the finishing touches on her compelling dissertation, “Choreographies of Gender and Nationalism in Contemporary South Korean Dance.”

Hyunjung Kim will be receiving her Ph.D. from one of the most unique and prestigious graduate programs in the country: the Dance History and Theory Ph.D. program at UCR. This distinctive program combines a variety of disciplinary approaches, exploring the culture and history of dance. The practice of dance is considered theoretically in relation to digital culture, ethnicity, sexuality and gender as well as corporeal knowledge and choreography. In this type of environment, scholars are free to take innovative approaches to their considerations of dance.

This understanding of the study of dance is one that sets the Dance Department at UCR apart from most programs nation-wide. As Hyunjung explains, “Dance has been marginalized within the academy because of the ephemerality of the moving body. Dance has been seen as un-intellectual, intuitive, natural and uncritically expressive, but our Ph.D. program in Dance History and Theory re-signifies dance studies as a scholarly discipline, reflecting recent cultural studies of dance and emphasizing the body as a social text.”

Hyunjung says that her experience has exposed her to a variety of dance practices and theories including Native American dance, Asian dance, African Diaspora dance and American modern dance and ballet. It is this knowledge that Hyunjung has been able to bring to undergraduates in Dance 7, a class designed specifically for students who are not dance majors. In addition to her breadth of knowledge, Hyunjung has been able to specialize in the study of Korean dance. She has had the opportunity, rare in most graduate programs, to teach her specialty in Dance 75: World Dance Forums, a class designed to give dance graduate students a chance to teach their area of expertise.

Furthermore, through the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts, Hyunjung has been able to impact the local community by teaching Korean dance in the Riverside public schools. Hyunjung feels that through the Gluck Fellowship she has aided students in understanding other cultures and thus in appreciating each other’s cultural identities.

In her own research, Hyunjung has discussed the relationship between the South Korean national discourse of “tradition” and Korean dance. According to Hyunjung, her dissertation “expands definitions of what is considered ‘Korean dance’ in the context of cultural nationalism and demonstrates ways that contemporary Korean dancers (re)claim agency in creating contemporary Korean identity, and ways their choreography opens up a possibility for a bodily (re)writing of gendered and subaltern histories.” Focusing on shamanism, Hyunjung explores different, and sometimes conflicting, threads of Korean nationalist discourse in terms of gender, colonialism, modernity and globalization.

Now, having filed her dissertation, Hyunjung Kim has left her life as a graduate student behind her. She has returned to Seoul, South Korea and will embark on her job search. It is clear that wherever Hyunjung Kim teaches, the distinctive methodologies and theories she acquired as a graduate student in the Dance History and Theory program will greatly impact her students. While the Dance Department will certainly miss Hyunjung and her commitment to teaching and research, Hyunjung will serve as an exemplar of the kind of scholarship that can be produced by UCR’s Dance Department. Through Hyunjung and other recent Dance Ph.D. students, Dance History and Theory will be able to attract other innovative scholars who will, in turn, challenge some of the ways that Dance has been viewed within the academy of dance.

Please contact the Dance Department for more information about their graduate programs. To learn about the Gluck Fellows Program please click here.

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

College Information

College Student Academic Affairs (All Student Inquiries)
3400 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.

Tel: (951) 827-3683 | Fax: (951) 827-5836

College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
3413 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.