Reconnecting Dance and Physical Education through Dance Science


  • Melonie B Murray University of Utah
  • Steven Ross Murray University of California, Berkeley



dance education, dance history, dance science, physical education


This article traces the development of dance as an academic discipline from its infancy in physical education programs to its present state, noting the significance of the burgeoning field of dance science and how it is a catalyst for the reconnecting of dance to physical education. The academic discipline of dance originated in the early 20th century in American academe, particularly in women’s physical education programs. By the 1920s, dance emerged as a discrete discipline with Margaret H’Doubler’s founding of the first baccalaureate degree in dance at the University of Wisconsin. By the 1960s, the academic discipline of dance had shifted from its original mission of movement education for everyone to focus more on professional dance training for highly skilled performers. This philosophical shift saw many dance programs move from homes in physical education to the fine arts. During this time, dance also saw an increasing disciplinary emphasis on choreographic and performance projects, a trend still evident today. Dance science began to develop as an academic field in the early 1980s, and shortly after publications and conferences in the area were born. The professional association the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science was founded in 1990. With dance science’s emergence, dance and physical education began to realign, albeit often in departments of kinesiology. Today, with the development of dance science as a burgeoning field, dance and kinesiology are coming full circle, rejoining through their historical roots.

Author Biographies

Melonie B Murray, University of Utah

Associate Professor, School of Dance and Associate Dean, College of Fine Arts

Steven Ross Murray, University of California, Berkeley

Director, Physical Education Program