Spring 2023 - CA 228W D100

Dance Aesthetics (3)

Class Number: 6356

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Wed, 3:30–6:20 p.m.



An introduction to aesthetic theory as it applies to dance. Lectures will address, among other things, the nature of aesthetic experience, as well as issues pertaining to critical judgment, communication, taste, and high and low art. Students with credit for FPA 228W may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


In this course we will develop tools for the articulation of our observations, thoughts and experiences of dances and dancing in relation to philosophical, social and critical theory. We will become familiar with aesthetic theory and questions of aesthetic value, while also attuning ourselves to the multiple, diverging and overlapping cosmologies considering how dance exists as an ontological tool for the lived experience.  Embodiment is central to the cognitive function of all people. Knowledge is produced in different ways, at different sites, in relation and importantly through embodied explorations. Dance is one such embodied exploration, and it is a cultural, political and social knowledge source. Ontology is that branch of philosophy concerned with the study of being, and the different kind of being that entities might have, so to discuss the ontological status of dance is to consider the many things it is and can be. We will contextualize the form within contemporary art, expanded notions of performance, social practice and popular culture.

Through conversation, writing, witnessing work, embodiment explorations and listening we will ask: What are the forms we embody as dancers, and why? What are the value systems embedded within and placed upon, myriad dance practices? What do we feel when we watch dance in performance? How do we contextualize the dances we perform, study and observe?

Weekly reading assignments will include contextual questions and will be used for in-class discussions as a class and in smaller groups.  Students will be expected to contribute to class discussions and embodied explorations.   



  • The development of an understanding of the advantages and limitations of several systems of critical theory.
  • Building an understanding of the systems of classification and values placed on different dance forms and mediums.
  • The ability to contextualize ones own experience within the milieu and articulate the experience. 
  • Analyzing, evaluating and articulating in words the formal elements, cultural specificity and expressive ideas of a given choreography..
  • Developing and honing critical thinking and writing skills.
  • Placing dance theory within the larger history of aesthetics, the philosophy of art and emergent theoretical frameworks. 
  • Becoming familiar with critical, poetic and analytical formats of writing.


  • Class Participation 25%
  • Short Written Assignments 25%
  • Midterm Paper 20%
  • Final Paper + Presentation 30%


Assignments and Grading:

Class Participation: 25%
Class participation includes contributions to discussions, informal presentations, engagement with embodiment exercises, attendance and punctuality. Please note that being late for class on 3 occasions will be marked as an absence. Arriving anytime after 4:30pm constitutes being late. Students that are absent are responsible for the class material that was missed, including class and small group discussions.

Short Written Assignments: 25%
Low stakes writing assignments in response to weekly readings must be submitted on Canvas on time for full marks. Late assignments will be marked at 50% for up to two weeks past the deadline. Beyond the two weeks, assignments will be marked 0.

Midterm Paper: 20%
The midterm paper, which will take the form of a review of a dance work, must be submitted on time. Late papers will be marked at 75% for up to two weeks. After two weeks papers will be marked at 50%. Papers not submitted one week before the last day of classes will be marked 0.

Final Paper + Presentation: 30%
A 400-word research proposal and a four-resource annotated bibliography are due shortly after midterm. You will have the opportunity for peer review and revision. You can only advance to the final research paper assignment once you have received approval on your proposal.
We will dedicate a portion of one class to developing peer-review skills and reviewing a draft of one another’s final paper. Each student will need to bring two printed copies of their draft paper to class. All students are required to fully engage in the review of a peer’s work.
Each student will present their research for the final paper in visual, oral and embodied form. Further instructions for the paper will be detailed in class.


Some of the readings will also be very dense and difficult. Don’t panic. The main thing is to absorb as much of the gist of the required readings as possible, and to come to class with any questions you have, which we will work through together.  




Lap top to follow along with readings and take notes


Printed readings and a notebook for taking notes


All readings will be available on Canvas, as a pdf or a url


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html