Dr. Arushi Singh

Dr. Arushi Singh (she/her)

College of Performing Arts; Department of Dance
Office Location: Sandi Simon Center for Dance


Arushi Singh is a New Delhi-born, Los Angeles-based scholar, educator, and movement artist. She earned her PhD in Culture and Performance from the University of California, Los Angeles. She also holds an MA in Arts and Aesthetics and an MPhil in Theatre and Performance Studies (with high honors) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of South Asia's leading research universities. The training she received at these institutions has greatly influenced the orientation of her research and teaching towards (1) Analyzing performance from an internationalist and intercultural lens, (2) An interdisciplinary study of dance and body-based performance modes, particularly examining its relations to film and visual arts, (3) Integrating concepts from critical race studies and postcolonial scholarship to decenter Eurocentric and Savarna perspectives on dance and cultural production, (4) Exploring dance's multiple modalities and functions as expressed in different regional, national, and community contexts, and (5) Placing an examination of choreography in dialogue with social, cultural, and political- economic discourses by incorporating insights and methods from critical dance and performance studies, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, history, political science, and feminist studies.

Arushi's research focuses on the undertheorized topic of contemporary Indian dance, a transnational and interdisciplinary form distinctly known for privileging aesthetic innovation, with a rich century-long history in the subcontinent and one of the four major dance genres officially recognized by the Indian government. Singh's doctoral dissertation is the first study to analyze the actions of three major cultural institutions (the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Max Mueller Bhavan, and the Gati Dance Forum) that have centrally defined and patronized contemporary Indian dance from the twentieth century to the genre's current global circulation. She employs multi-sited ethnography, archival research, choreographic analysis, and discourse analysis to evaluate the following actions that these cultural entities have deployed to enable the genre's formation and consolidation: policy-making, organizing and hosting seminars, festivals, exhibitions, and artistic residencies, conferring awards and honors, and providing funding for training, performance, and research. In examining these actions, she argues that her selected institutions shape the creation and dissemination of contemporary Indian dance by continuously redefining the category in line with their multiple aesthetic and cultural agendas, reflecting and advancing India's broader economic and ideological shift from state socialism to neoliberalism. Her research offers critical new insights into contemporary dance's vital significance in Indian political discourse, specifically in the institutionalization of Indian postcolonial modernity. Singh's research has been generously supported by the UCLA Center of India and South Asia, the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture, the American Association of University Women, and the International Federation for Theatre Research.

Arushi's writings on contemporary Indian dance have been published in Dance Chronicle: Studies in Dance and Related Arts, Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies, and Dance House Diary, as well as the book entitled Tilt Pause Shift: Dance Ecologies in India. Singh is preparing an article for a forthcoming book volume published by Oxford University Press, The Oxford Handbook of Dance Praxis (edited by Anurima Banerji, Royona Mitra, and Jasmine Johnson). The essay probes how the Sangeet Natak Akademi, an apex national performing arts body founded by the Indian state, assimilates contemporary dance to realize the latter's vision of promoting the subcontinent's diverse cultural heritage and innovative capacity to compete in global geopolitics. Singh has been invited to offer lectures, talks, and movement workshops on Indian dance modernism, critical Bharatanatyam praxis, contemporary art and post-socialism, critical dance studies methodologies, and dance experimentation and the creative process (view CV for details about the events). Additionally, she has presented her research at 11 conferences, including the American Society for Theatre Research (2023), the UCLA Annual Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference on South Asia (2018), the Claremont McKenna College South Asian Studies Association Annual Conference (2017), the International Federation for Theatre Research (2015 and 2016), the University of California Riverside Dance Under Construction Conference (2015), the World Dance Alliance Global Summit (2014), the International Conference of Indian Society of Theatre Research (2014), the World Dance Alliance-Americas Conference and Festival (2013), the World Symposium on Global Encounters in Southeast Asian Performing Arts (2013), and Ignite! Festival of Contemporary Dance (2012). Singh has been invited to participate in the second edition of the bell hooks Symposium entitled "Holding Each Other in Love" at The bell hooks Center, Berea College, KY, in June 2024.

In 2023, Singh was Special Faculty at The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts, teaching Introduction to Critical Dance Studies and The Anthropology of Dance to their BFA majors. Between 2015 and 2021, she held dual appointments as a Teaching Fellow at the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Visual and Performing Arts Education Program, where she co-taught a wide range of undergraduate courses, including World Dance Histories, Introduction to World Arts and Cultures, Introduction to Arts Education, Art as Social Action, Myth and Ritual, Global Perspectives in Dance, Exploring Issues of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access in Arts, and Community Engagement through the Arts, to name a few. From 2020–21, Singh worked with UCLA's Academic Advancement Program (AAP), the United States' largest university-based diversity program, promoting access and retention for first-generation, low-income students historically underrepresented in higher education. She led AAP's Arts Initiative Research Program, which enables undergraduate juniors and seniors to conduct independent research projects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Arushi has had a long journey in the performing arts, which started in her hometown of New Delhi. Between 1993 and 2005, Singh received rigorous training in the Indian "classical" dance Bharatanatyam from Saroja Vaidyanathan, one of its foremost exponents. Simultaneously, she apprenticed with director and playwright Feisal Alkazi in the techniques of modern Indian theatre. She went on to perform on several Indian and international stages as part of Vaidyanathan's professional dance ensemble (2005–2010) and, before that, acted in multiple English-, Hindi-, and Urdu-language plays directed by the latter (1998–2003). Singh no longer dances the traditional repertoire of Bharatanatyam as part of her commitment to divest from a form that, in its very constitution and continued practice, mirrors and perpetuates the harmful power structures of caste, class, religion, and patriarchy in South Asia. At the same time, Bharatanatyam's vocabulary and choreographic principles have significantly shaped the way Singh moves even today, a bodily "fact" that she chooses to explore thoughtfully through her teaching and performance. And this includes critically interrogating the history of Bharatanatyam. Singh is also a practitioner of Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga.

Since migrating to Los Angeles in 2014, Singh has performed in the works of several contemporary choreographers (Ajani Brannum, Victoria Marks, and Christine Suarez, to name a few) and danced at multiple experimental dance venues (including Human Resources-LA, Pieter Performance Space, Annenberg Community Beach House and Fowler Museum). In March 2024, she will perform in the world premiere of Lionel Popkin's Reorient the Orient at the REDCAT (Los Angeles), a production that unpacks the history of interculturalism and representations of Indian bodies within North American dance theatre.

Singh currently serves as an Editorial Board Member of Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies, an annual Dance Studies Association (DSA) publication dedicated to timely themes and debates in dance studies. Between 2020 and 2021, Singh also held a position in DSA's Finance and Development Committee, during which she helped with undertaking an Equity Audit for the organization to redistribute resources in support of junior scholars and projects that galvanize antiracist and decolonial praxis in dance studies. In 2020, she was the Guest Editor of "South Asian Voices on Yoga," a special issue of Race & Yoga, the first peer-reviewed journal in critical Yoga studies. The issue explored a diverse range of topics in Yoga at the intersections of racial capitalism, casteism, and Islamophobia. Singh has previously been a peer reviewer for the Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship and Performance Matters and a reviewer for the BA Dance Admissions Committee of UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance.

Arushi has also served as a cultural worker in the dance field. In 2020, she co-wrote A Vocabulary Guide for Liberation, a political education workbook initiated by Street Dance Activism, an intergenerational collective of queer BIPOC+ dancers and healers working in conjunction with contemporary racial justice movements in the United States. Singh was also a member of the Gati Dance Forum (GDF), an independent collective of performing artists in India working towards enabling the practice and ecosystem of experimental dance in the subcontinent. From 2012–14, she was a Research Associate on a significant project facilitated by the GDF called "Dance Union: Initiative for a Sustainable Dance Environment," a performance infrastructure revitalization and community-building effort supported by the Goethe-Institut and the Royal Norwegian Embassy (New Delhi chapters). You can read details about the project in a 2015 anthology published by the University of California, Berkeley.

Singh is a commissioned writer for the '62 Center for Theatre & Dance, Williams College. She is also on the post-production team of the following dance podcast series: PillowVoices: Dance Through Time (by Jacob's Pillow), Inside The Dancer's Studio, and How People Move People (by the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron). To learn more about Dr. Singh's profile, view her CV for details.