Dance and Ethics (Book)

Moving Towards a More Humane Dance Culture

Focuses on ethical issues confronting Western theatrical dance, from treatment of dancers to choreography, dance criticism, presenting and paradigm shifts in the dance field. It aims to equip dance artists with alternative frameworks and ethical decision-making skills for different stages of their careers and with dignity and respect.

Category: Performing Arts


Dance and Ethics: Moving Towards a More Humane Culture is an introductory study of ethical issues as applied to the history and field of Western theatrical dance. It is the first sustained work of its kind, inspired by the belief that there are serious issues to be illuminated by examining dance in relation to ethics and to the changing values in the dance world itself, especially as faced by young dancers entering the profession.

Since the 1960s and gathering momentum with the #metoo movement, scholars and practitioners, especially from the fields of dance education, somatics and the realms of postmodern dance and ballet, have increasingly believed that attitudes and practices involving psychological, physical and sexual mistreatment of students and dancers must be challenged. Dance and Ethics examines key ethical issues related to the dance field, primarily within the United States, and how those directly impact different aspects of the lives of dance artists over the span of their careers. The issues discussed include the basic ethical choices facing a dance artist in terms of whether to care about ethics or separate art from morality; ethical issues involved in student–teacher and dancer–choreographer relationships; how ethical concerns relate to the creation and reception of choreographic work; ethical aspects of the critical assessment of dance and dancers; and ethical issues related to presenting systems and institutional infrastructures within the dance field.

While there is a clear bias towards greater humanism within the dance field, Naomi Jackson is sensitive to the variety of moral stances available in any given situation. Readers are invited to consider that ethical options exist other than those that are usually promoted, that while sometimes there are no clear right and wrong answers, there are better and worse positions to be explored and defended and that it is important for the dance field and broader culture to consciously address ethical issues in relation to dance in a sustained, thoughtful and creative manner.

The book focuses on theatrical dance forms of ballet, modern/postmodern dance and theatrical jazz, but also extends to commercial dance, dance for the camera/internet and social/vernacular/folk dance when relevant to the main argument. 

Dance and Ethics will appeal primarily to educators and students as well as young professional dancers.  It is designed for undergraduate and graduate students in dance studies, American studies, performance studies and cultural studies. It will be useful for undergraduate and graduate dance courses focused on pedagogy, choreography, criticism, community engagement, politics and aesthetics.


Naomi M. Jackson, Ph.D. is a Professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. Her books include Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (co-edited with Toni Shapiro-Phim, Scarecrow Press), Right to Dance: Dancing for Rights (Banff Centre Press and Converging Movements: Modern Dance and Jewish Culture at the 92nd Street Y (Wesleyan University Press). She has spearheaded two international conferences, including one on dance and human rights, and one on dance and Jewishness. Her research focuses on ethics, human rights, social justice and contemporary trends in dance history and theory.


1. Why Study Ethical Issues in Dance?
2. Dance, Decency and a Life Well-Lived
3. Educating Dancers with Dignity, Respect and Care
4. Ethics and Dance Making
5. Ethics and Critiquing Dance
6. Ethical Issues in the Presenting World of Dance
7. ‘Care’-fully Negotiating Change: Moving Towards a More Humane Dance Culture


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