Virtual Open Day

Dr Clare Parfitt

PhD Supervisor

Clare Parfitt researches popular dance practices as carriers of cultural memory. Trained in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge, her work is now interdisciplinary, mediating between dance studies, art history, film studies, cultural history and memory studies. In 2014 Clare was awarded AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2014-2016) to lead the project Dancing with Memory, which explored the relationship between popular dance and cultural memory via the case study of the cancan.

“I am interested in the ways that discourses of race, gender, class and nationality that surround the dance form of the cancan have been remembered, reworked, rejected and forgotten in literature, art, film and dance itself from the 1820s to today.”

She hosted a series of symposia on popular dance and cultural memory, and the research will culminate in a sole-authored monograph. Follow the continued progress of the project here:

Research Interests

  • Cultural histories of popular dance practices (particularly the cancan) in street, stage and screen contexts
  • Dance and cultural memory
  • Dance and the construction of race, gender, national and class identities in transnational, colonial and postcolonial contexts (particularly the relations between Britain, France and the Caribbean)

“My research interests are in popular dance practices (on the street, stage or screen), whose low-art status and supposed triviality often disguise the workings of highly complex historical and transcultural processes. I am interested in what happens to popular dance practices as they are transmitted through history and across geographical space, through the performances, writings, images, films and digital media that inform cultural memory and cultural amnesia. For over a decade my research has focused on the cancan as a complex site for the negotiation of race, gender, national and class identities since its emergence in the 1820s.”

Postgraduate Research Supervision

Clare is Research Degree Co-ordinator for Dance, Theatre and Music.

Completed supervision:

  • PhD Co-Supervisor for Jane Turner – ‘Emergent Dance: a choreographic exploration’ (2010-2012)
  • MPhil Co-Supervisor for Teresita Marsden – ‘The Quadrille: Eurocentrism manifest within the Afro-Caribbean Limonese community of Costa Rica’ (2008-2010)

Supervision in process:

  • PhD Director of Studies for Paul Sadot – ‘Hip Hop Dance Theatre in the UK’ (2014-)
  • PhD Director of Studies for Celena Monteiro – ‘European Dancehall Queen Competitions in the Digital Age: Transcultural Feminine Identity Production in Performance’ (2013-)
  • PhD Director of Studies for María Faidi – ‘Oriental Dance in Egyptian Cinema’ (2010-)

Clare is interested in supervising further doctoral research, particularly in the following areas:

  • Popular dance practices (historical or contemporary; on street, stage or screen)
  • Dance and cultural memory
  • Dance and cultural identities (e.g. gender, race, class, nationality, etc.)
  • Dance in transnational, colonial and postcolonial contexts

This list is not comprehensive, so please contact Clare to discuss your idea.

Current Research and Scholarship Activities (selected)

  • Chair of the UK committee of PoP Moves, an international network to develop the emerging research area of popular performance (collaborating universities include: Temple University, Philadelphia, US; York University, Toronto, Canada; Royal Holloway, University of London; Roehampton University; University of East London; Kingston University; University of Chichester) (2015-).
  • Elected member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS – US-based international dance research organisation) (2012-).

Consultancy and Peer Review

  • Nominator for the 2015 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy
  • Member of the AHRC Peer Review College                                                                                          
  • Peer-reviewer for Oxford University Press and Routledge                                                     
  • Peer-reviewer for the journals Dance Research Journal and Research in Dance Education                                 


  • PhD Dance Studies - University of Surrey, Roehampton (2008)
  • MA Dance Studies with distinction - University of Surrey (2002)
  • BA (Hons) and MA (cantab) Archaeology and Anthropology – Pembroke College, Cambridge University (2000)


Sole-authored Book

Parfitt, C. (Forthcoming) Remembering the Cancan: Popular Dance and Cultural Memory. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press (Under Contract)

Book chapters

Parfitt-Brown, C. (Forthcoming 2015) ‘Movements of freedom: performing popular liberty in the early cancan’, in Midgelow, Vida (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Improvisation in Dance. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Parfitt-Brown, C. (2014) ‘An Australian in Paris: techno-choreographic bohemianism in Moulin Rouge!’, in Blanco Borelli, Melissa (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-40

Parfitt-Brown, C. (2013) ‘The Problem of Popularity: the cancan between the French and digital revolutions’, in Cook, Susan and Dodds, Sherril (eds.) Bodies of Sound: Studies Across Popular Music and Dance. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 9-24

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Parfitt-Brown, C. (2010) ‘Popular Past, Popular Present, Post-Popular?’ in Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies, Special Issue on Dancing the Popular guest-edited by Danielle Robinson, Vol. XXXI, pp. 18-20

Parfitt, C. (2009) ‘‘Like a Butterfly Under Glass’: the cancan, Loïe Fuller, and cinema’, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, Special Issue on Dance on Screen guest-edited by Sherril Dodds, Vol. 5, No. 2-3, December, pp. 107-120

Parfitt, C. (2005) ‘The Spectator's Dancing Gaze in Moulin Rouge!’, Research in Dance Education, Vol. 6, No. 1-2, April-December, pp. 97-110

Co-authored Books

Williams, K., Bethell, E., Lawton, J., Parfitt-Brown, C., Richardson, M., Rowe, V. (2011) Completing Your PhD, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Williams, K., Bethell, E., Lawton, J., Parfitt, C., Richardson, M., Rowe, V. (2010) Planning Your PhD, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Journal Article

Parfitt, C. (2009) ‘Cyborg Cinema: (dis)embodying cultural memory in the digital age’, The Korean Journal of Dance, Vol. 61, pp. 403-418

Encyclopaedia Entry

Forthcoming: Parfitt-Brown, C. ‘Cancan’ in Ross, Stephen (ed.) Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. New York and London: Routledge

Book Reviews

Parfitt-Brown, C. (2013) ‘Society Dancing: Fashionable Bodies in England, 1870-1920, by Theresa JillBuckland’, Dance Research Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, August, pp. 148-150

Parfitt, C. (2009) ‘Dance in a World of Change: Reflections on Globalization and Cultural Difference, edited by Sherry B. Shapiro’, Research in Dance Education, Vol. 10, No. 2, June, pp. 143-147

Seminar and Conference Papers (selected)

Guest Seminar Presentations

2015 ‘Protean memory: dancing around oblivion in post-Revolutionary Paris’ to be presented at the University Seminar for Cultural Memory, Columbia University, New York, US, 14th October

2015 ‘Bodies of Memory: identity politics in the early cancan’, presented in the Dance Studies Colloquium, Temple University, Philadelphia, US, 24th February. Live streamed and archived here:

2011 ‘An American in Paris: Race, Nationality and the Moulin Rouge as Liberal Space’, presented in the Film and Television Seminar Series, London Metropolitan University, 13th December

International Conference Papers

2016 ‘ “I breathed on their dust”: Protean Memory and Tactile Media’, presented as part of the Roundtable ‘Mediated Moves: Popular Dance, Cultural Memory, and Modernity’ at Beyond Authenticity and Appropriation: Bodies, Authorship and Choreographies of Transmission, Society of Dance History Scholars and Congress on Research in Dance Conference, Pomona College, California, 4th-6th November

2014 ‘Cancan vs. the State: archival traces of the battle for Parisian bodies’, presented as part of the Roundtable on ‘Sourcing Popular Dance: Danced Archives from the Cancan to Ragtime’ at Writing Dancing/Dancing Writing, Society of Dance History Scholars Conference, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 12th-16th November

2012 ‘Paris Dansant? Improvising across urban, racial and international geographies in the early cancan’, presented at Dance and the Social City, Society of Dance History Scholars Conference, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, 14th-17th June

2011 Invited Roundtable Panellist ‘First Kicks: translating early sources on the cancan’, presented as part of the Roundtable on ‘Current Problems and Methods in Dance Reconstruction: Focus on Cross-Cultural and Social Dance Reconstruction’, at Dance Dramaturgy: Catalyst, Perspective, Memory, Society of Dance History Scholars Conference, York University, Toronto, 23rd-26th June. Published in the Proceedings of Dance Dramaturgy: Catalyst, Perspective, Memory

2009 ‘From Fairground Site to Website: the dancing body and visual technology in early film and YouTube’, presented at Topographies: Sites, Bodies and Technologies, Society of Dance History Scholars Conference, Stanford University and San Francisco, California, 19th-22nd June. Published in the Proceedings of Topographies: Sites, Bodies and Technologies, p. 180-184

2008 Invited Speaker ‘Cyborg Cinema: (dis)embodying cultural memory in the digital age’, presented at Dance and Culture, The 23rd International Academic Symposium of the Korean Society of Dance, Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea, 7th November (simultaneous translation into Korean). Published in the Proceedings of Dance and Culture, pp. 52-64 (English), pp. 39-51 (Korean translation)

2007 ‘Chahut: The Mediation of Rationalism and the Unruly Body in the Cancan’, presented at Re-thinking Practice and Theory, Congress on Research in Dance/Society for Dance History Scholars Conference, Centre Nationale de la Danse, Paris, 21st-24th June. Published in the Proceedings of Re-thinking Practice and Theory, pp. 34-37

National Conference Papers

2016 ‘Dancing in Tight Places: power and pleasure in the early cancan’, presented at High and Low Culture: Elite and Popular Constructions, 30th Annual Conference for the Society for the Study of French History, University of Chichester, 3rd-5th July

2015 ‘ “Islamic veil + French tradition = Corancan?”: an image-based discussion’, presented at Dancing (trans)national memories, Senate House, University of London, 20th June

2014 ‘Performances of Protest, Power and Pleasure: improvising liberty in the early cancan’, presented at Dancing the Politics of the Popular, PoP Moves annual conference, Royal Holloway, University of London, 18th October

2011 ‘Americans in Paris: re-choreographing memories in post-war cancan films’, presented at Not Just Fred and Ginger: Camaraderie, Collusion and Collisions Between Dance and Film, The Annual Conference of the European Association of Dance Historians, London, 14th-16th October

2010 Invited Speaker ‘Firing the Canon: integrating popular dance into the dance curriculum’, presented at Teaching Popular Dance in Higher Education, Palatine (Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Dance, Drama and Music) Symposium, Institute for Performing Arts Development Dance Centre (Trinity Buoy Wharf), University of East London, 26th January

2008 Keynote Address ‘Revolutionary Moves: ‘the popular’ between the French and digital revolutions’, presented at Popular Dance and Music Matters Symposium, University of Surrey, 25th October

2008 ‘The contredanse, the quadrille, and the cancan: dancing around democracy in post-revolutionary Paris’. presented at The Established Scholars Conference, Society for Dance Research, Roehampton University, London, 15 March


Module Leadership:

  • MA:  Performing Politics, Reflective Practice       

  • Year 3: Dance Dissertation, Body Politics        

  • Year 2: Popular Dance: Street, Stage and Screen, Performance and Identity       

  • Year 1: Dance Theatre Heritage, Modernism/Dancing Modern Histories

Links page

Roehampton University research page (including link to PhD thesis)

PoP Moves

Dancing with Memory


ChiPrints Repository