Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Spencer Cahill, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.


Professional socialization, Identity construction, College students, Performing arts, Sociology of art


In a university undergraduate dance department, students seem to be learning more than pirouettes and pas de bourées; students are learning how to construct their identities and present themselves as ‘dancers’. As they progress through their undergraduate careers, the students are not only developing technical skills, but they are also learning the ins and outs of how dancers look, speak and behave. Based on three months of observation and in-depth interviews, it seems that developing into a dancer requires developing into an individual who shows unique commitment both to him/herself and to the art of dance itself. While many of the students enter the university focused on increasing their technical prowess measured in terms of turning ability, elevation in leaps, and flexibility, the older students in the program seem to be focused more on finding their own – individualized – standards of excellence, which frequently have little to do with technical ‘tricks’. Over the course of their undergraduate careers, the students also devote less and less of their class time to performing for each other and more to introspection and self-exploration. All of this is also reflected in their ways of dress and classroom interaction, as well as their relationships with the faculty.