School of Arts

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Dr Freya Vass-Rhee





Freya Vass-Rhee is a Lecturer in Drama and Theatre with a specialization in dance/physical theatre studies and performance. Her primary research interests include cognitive dance and theatre studies, postdramatic physical theatre practices, visuo-sonority in contemporary dance, dramaturgy, and arts/sciences interdisciplinarity. Prior to joining the department in 2013, she taught at the University of California Riverside, Saint Mary's College of California, the Frankfurt University of Music and the Performing Arts, and for Hollins University's European Study programme in dance.

Freya was a professional dancer from 1982-97, with engagements in companies including the Ballet Nacional de España (Madrid), Tulsa Ballet Theater (USA), Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz (Munich), the Salzburg Landestheater (Austria), and as a guest artist with the Teatro Massimo do Palermo (Italy) and the Theater des Westens (Berlin). A versatile performer whose training includes ballet, modern/contemporary dance, and musical theatre dance (under Lee Theodore at the American Dance Machine), her repertoire spanned corps de ballet and soloist roles in classical and neoclassical ballets (Petipa, Balanchine, Tetley, Massine and others), modern and contemporary works (Jooss, Cullberg, Limón, Linke and others), and musicals including CabaretMy Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, and Annie Get Your Gun. From 1995-98 she was Ballet Mistress at the Salzburg Landestheater and staged works for the Theater Mecklenburg Vorpommern, as well as choreographing for dance ensembles, musical theatre productions, and the cabaret stage in Germany and Austria. From 1984-2003 she was also a freelance ballet instructor and master teacher for professional development programmes and companies in Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway and the US.

Following her professional career, Freya studied Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of California, Los Angeles before completing an interdisciplinary PhD in Dance History and Theory from the University of California, Riverside with the dissertation Audio-Visual Stress: Cognitive Approaches to the Perceptual Performativity of William Forsythe and Ensemble. From 2011 to 2015, Freya was an Associate Researcher with the Dance Engaging Science workgroup of the Motion Bank project (The Forsythe Company, Frankfurt).

From 2006-13, Freya served as Dramaturg and Production Assistant to choreographer William Forsythe, collaborating closely on over a dozen works including Heterotopia (2006), Angoloscuro (2007), The Defenders (2007), Yes We Can't (2008/2010), I don't believe in outer space (2008), The Returns (2009), and Sider (2011). She has also freelanced as Dramaturg for choreographers including David Dawson and is currently a dramaturgical consultant to CORPUS contemporary dance ensemble in Copenhagen.

Freya’s research has been published in William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography (Routledge), Theater Without Vanishing Points (Alexander Verlag), Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness and Engagement (Palgrave), Dance Chronicle, and Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices. Forthcoming research includes chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance and The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet and a monograph on perceptual performativity focused on William Forsythe’s works and working methods. She is also currently developing empirical dance research studies with collaborators in psychology and sport/exercise science.

Freya serves on the Executive Committee of the Society for Dance Research and has served on the Board of Directors of the Congress on Research in Dance. She participates in workgroups on dance and science with the Theatre and Performance Research Association, the International Federation for Theatre Research, Performance Studies International, and the American Society for Theatre Research.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Vass-Rhee, F. (2018). Schooling an ensemble: The Forsythe Company’s Whole in the Head. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices [Online] 10:219-233. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2010). Auditory Turn: William Forsythe's Vocal Choreography. Dance Chronicle [Online] 33:388-413. Available at:
Book section
Vass-Rhee, F. (2019). Haunted by Hamlet: William Forsythe's Sider. in: The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance. Oxford University Press, pp. 455-475.
Vass-Rhee, F. (2018). Foreword to the Second Edition, The Neurocognition of Dance: Mind, Movement and Motor Skills. in: The Neurocognition of Dance: Mind, Movement and Motor Skills. Psychology Press.
Vass-Rhee, F. (2015). Distributed Dramaturgies: Navigating with Boundary Objects. in: Hansen, P. and Callison, D. eds. Dance dramaturgy: modes of agency, awareness and engagement. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 87-105.
Vass-Rhee, F. (2013). Promising Research, Questioning Education: The 'Dance Engaging Science' Workshops. in: Boxberger, E. and Wittmann, G. eds. pARTnering documentation: approaching dance. heritage. culture. 3rd Dance Education Biennale, Frankfurt am Main. epodium Verlag, pp. 50-53.
Vass-Rhee, F. (2011). Dancing Music: The Intermodality of The Forsythe Company. in: Spier, S. ed. William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography: It Starts From Any Point. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 73-89. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2010). Turning the Tables: William Forsythe’s Antipodes I/II. in: Brandstetter, G. and Wiens, B. eds. Theater Ohne Fluchtpunkt: Das Erbe Adolphe Appias: Szenographie und Choreographie im Zeitgenössischen Theater. Berlin: Alexander Verlag, pp. 293-301. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2018). Book review: Choreographies: Tracing the Materials of an Ephemeral Art Form by Jacky Lansley. Dance Research [Online] 36:274-275. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2017). Book review: Theatre and Cognitive Neuroscience Falletti, C., Sofia, G. and Jacono, J. eds. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 33:300. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2017). Book review: Dramaturgy in Motion: At Work on Dance and Movement Performance, by Katherine Profeta. Theatre Research International [Online]:197-198. Available at:
Conference or workshop item
Vass-Rhee, F. (2016). Melding an Ensemble at Memory’s Limits: William Forsythe’s Whole in the Head. in: Congress on Research in Dance/Society of Dance History Scholars Joint Conference "Authenticity and Appropriation".. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2014). Fielding Dramaturgy. in: Forsythe Lectures series, deSingel Internationale Kunstcampus.. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2007). Motion/Perception: William Forsythe's Spectatorial Shifts. in: Congress on Research in Dance Conference Proceedings. pp. 206-211.
Vass-Rhee, F. (2006). Integrating Dance and Cognitive Science: Toward Emancipatory Research. in: Continuing Dance Culture Dialogues, 38th Annual Conference of the Congress on Research in Dance.
Vass-Rhee, F. (2012). Still failing after all these years: William Forsythe’s Yes We Can’t: dramaturg's note. [Text].
Vass-Rhee, F. (2012). William Forsythe’s I don’t believe in outer space: dramaturg’s note. [Text].
Vass-Rhee, F. (2008). Reconciling Giselle (Giselle Aussöhnen): dramaturg's note. [Text].
Vass-Rhee, F. (2011). Audio-Visual Stress: Cognitive Approaches to the Perceptual Performativity of William Forsythe and Ensemble. Available at:
Vass-Rhee, F. (2018). The Disappearance of Poetry and the Very, Very Good Idea. in: The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet. Oxford University Press.
Total publications in KAR: 20 [See all in KAR]
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I teach across the Drama curriculum with particular focus in physical practices and interdisciplinary studies.

Introduction to Musical Theatre Dance (DR684) 
Musical Theatre Dance 2 (DR686) 
Two modules focused on the development of technique as well as period dancing styles ranging from the early 20th century until today. Readings and discussions on race, culture, class and politics ground the dance practice firmly in theory.

Psychology of the Arts (ART520) 
An interdisciplinary School of Arts-level module examining research on the creation, perception, and reception of visual and performing arts, music and film. Topics include philosophical and empirical perspectives perspectives on aesthetics, arts-experimental design, perception of art, meaning in art, the psychology of the creative process,  social and cultural issues, and the ramifications of arts-sciences research.

Previous teaching includes:

Physical and Vocal Training for Actors (DR891) 
Solo Acting: Composition and Performance (DR895)
Ensemble Devising and Performance (DR880) 
Dissertation Project: MA-T (DR995)

Performance Skills (DR324)
Making Performance 1 (DR338)
Physical Theatre I (DR663)
Creative Project (DR678)
Independent Project (ART500)




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A specialist on William Forsythe's works and choreographic practices, Freya's broader research interests include visuo-sonority in dance, physical and perceptual dramaturgies, improvisational and devising practices in dance/theatre, performative installations, contemporary ballet, and musical theatre dance. A further critical research strand examines the interdisciplinary interfaces and metacritical terrain between dance research and scientific research.


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Freya welcomes discussion of PhD project proposals relating to:

  • cognitive dance and theatre studies
  • contemporary dance- and theatre-making practices
  • postdramatic dramaturgies
  • scenography, sound, and vocality in dance/theatre
  • performativity from historical or contemporary perspectives
  • arts-sciences interdisciplinarity and sci-art
  • physical theatre
  • ballet studies
  • musical theatre dance

Past and current supervisions include:

Judita Vivas (2016), The Pageantry of Western Bodies: Material Practices, Recycled Intercorporealities, and Dramaturgical Configurations in the Twenty-First Century (co-supervision)

Robbie Wilson (2018), Towards a Ludic Ecology: Popular Participatory Peripatetic Performance (co-supervision)

Sarah Passfield (2018), Affective Dramaturgies in Dance Theatre: Leaky Encounters and Turbulent Spectating (co-supervision)

Lindsey Drury, Of Ether and Ethereal Movements: A History of Psychosomatics from Early Modern Dance and Medicine (co-supervision)

Philippa Standberg-Long, Beyond Repetition: How doe the Meisner process diminish self-consciousness and enhance spontaneity in actors? (co-supervision)

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Last Updated: 17/05/2019