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.
Freya was a professional dancer from 1982-97, with corps and soloist 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 classical and neoclassical ballets (Petipa, Balanchine, Tetley, Massine and others), modern and contemporary works (Jooss, Cullberg, Limón, Linke and others), and musicals including Cabaret, My 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 works for dance ensembles, musical theatre productions, and the cabaret stage. 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).
Freya served as Dramaturg and Production Assistant to choreographer William Forsythe from 2006-13, 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. She has instructed at the University of California Riverside, Saint Mary's College of California, the Frankfurt University for Music and the Performing Arts, and for Hollins University's European Study programme in dance.
Freya’s research has appeared in William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography (Routledge), Theater Without Vanishing Points (Alexander Verlag), Dance Dramaturgy: Modes of Agency, Awareness and Engagement (Palgrave), Cuerpo y grafía: percepción, presencia, tecnologías para la escena contemporánea, and Dance Chronicle. Forthcoming research includes a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance and a monograph on perceptual performativity focused on William Forsythe’s works and working methods.
Freya has served on the Board of Directors of the Congress on Research in Dance (2005-2009) and participates in workgroups on dance and science with the Theatre and Performance Research Association, the International Federation for Theatre Research, and the American Society for Theatre Research.back to top
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A specialist on William Forsythe's works and choreographic practices, Freya's current research interests include visuo-sonority in dance, improvisational and devising practices in dance/theatre, physical and perceptual dramaturgies, performative installations, and musical theatre dance. A further critical research strand examines the interdisciplinary interfaces and metacritical terrain between dance research and scientific research.
In addition to developing her dissertation into a book manuscript, Freya is currently collaborating with cognitive researchers to develop empirical dance research studies under the auspices of the Centre for Cognition, Kinesthetics and Performance.
Freya's teaching highlights the synergies and cross-domain influences between physical theatre and contemporary dance theatre practices. Her training style incorporates an eclectic postdramatic and perceptually driven variety of movement and vocal approaches and modalities, with the aim of developing students' strength, flexibility, dynamic range, and sense of performance rhythm. In practical sessions, Freya stresses and supports the development of improvisational skills, fluid dramaturgies, and devised approaches to the composition and production of works. Freya also teaches musical theatre dance at 2nd and 3rd-year levels, stressing the development of technique as well as period dance styling ranging from the early 20th century until today.
Modules convened or taught:
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)
Introduction to Musical Theatre Dance (DR684)
Musical Theatre Dance 2 (DR686)
Independent Project (ART500)
Freya welcomes proposals for PhD projects relating to:
- cognitive dance and theatre studies
- contemporary dance- and theatre-making practices
- postdramatic dramaturgies
- dance, sound, and vocality
- performativity from historical or contemporary perspectives
- arts-sciences interdisciplinarity and sci-art
- physical theatre
- ballet studies
- musical theatre dance