PhD or Bust

The DCA checks in with young writers who are pursuing their passion for engaging with dance through the written word. Dance writer MEAGAN BRUSKEWICZ explains why she packed up from New York City this summer and headed west to pursue graduate studies in California (believe it or not, the weather had nothing to do with it).

This fall, I will attend the University of California, Riverside in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies. Since undergrad, I knew my true passion was dance and that my career would unfold in this field. But until recently I was still deciding between various paths. It’s not until now, even after deciding to attend grad school, that I realize just how many experiences in my life have led me on this specific road. Now it seems the only logical next step.

I’ve always been a thinker. My natural tendency is to analyze situations and the world around me – inquire, investigate, problem solve. In high school, this came through in strong affinities for math and science. The processes made sense to me: look at a problem, hypothesize, study, test, solve, and continue on to another problem or question.

I didn’t think this side of me was relevant to my dance-loving side. I started college thinking I would continue to dance and pursue pre-med studies separately. Yet as my professors introduced me to a new understanding of dance as art, I found that I could apply those same natural analytical tendencies to my true passion.

Two years ago, I allowed myself to explore this intersection further when I started my dance blog. I never felt drawn to dance criticism – partially because I didn’t feel I had the viewing experience to adequately review works and partially because I didn’t want to take on the role/responsibility of “rating” an artist’s contribution. Instead, my blog explored questions about dance from many perspectives: funding, education, exposure, etc. I didn’t really consider myself a writer when I started out. Eventually, though, I got positive responses from friends, family, even Internet strangers, and realized I might have potential writing about dance.

I went to the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) conference in 2010. I had heard of CORD, the national association for dance scholars, from an undergraduate professor and had been a member since I was a student. The theme of this particular conference piqued my interest and I made a point to attend. It was there, during a cold November weekend in Seattle, that I found a natural fit for my dance pursuits in the academic community. I had discovered the marriage between the analysis I was naturally drawn to and the field of dance that I was passionately devoted to.

Pursuing this program may of course be just an excuse to extend my dance studies, which I’ve been yearning to do ever since I got my first taste of critical dance analysis as an undergrad. I simply won’t be satisfied until I reach that deep level of study and I won’t feel able to adequately serve the field without this depth. I also believe that grad school is the right step for my career, not that I know exactly what it is yet (wouldn’t that be nice). But I feel certain grad school will help me figure out my goals and provide the experience necessary to reach them.

After much reflection, I’m very glad that I decided to go to grad school, particularly this Ph.D. program at UC Riverside. It may not be the road commonly traveled, nor the easiest or the cheapest, but it’s the right road for me.

Meagan’s blog can be found at

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