Your  Account:

Karen Schaffman, Ph.D.

Program Director, Dance

karen dancing

Dancing for me is a transformative, transgressive and gravitational force for self-awareness, historiography, political change and social connectivity.  I love dance in everyday and spectacular ways and in various spaces, from the street to the sea, in studios and on the screen. I value collaboration, imagination and mindfulness as life skills for creating a better world.  

I earned a BA in Dance and Literature at UMASS Amherst, and an equivalent degree in Experimental Dance at the European Dance Development Center (The Netherlands). I completed my PhD In Critical Dance Studies at UC Riverside. In 2016, I completed a 4-year certification in The Feldenkrais Method at The Feldenkrais Institute in San Diego. I discovered “dance” on a community playground and then trained formally in jazz, modern dance and ballet. My focus for the last several decades has been on somatics, perceptual improvisation, contact improvisation, performance and cultural theory. 

Since 2001, I have been cultivating Dance Studies at CSUSM.  

Research and Teaching Interests: 

  • Dance and Identity 
  • Social Somatics 
  • Improvisation and Performance 
  • Writing and Dancing 

Articles/Chapters Published in: 

  • Contact Quarterly 
  • Taken By Surprise: An Improvisation Reader (Wesleyan Univ Press, 2003) 
  • Encounters with Contact Improvisation (Oberlin, 2010) 
  • Performance and curation in collaboration with: Veronika Blumstein, Anya Cloud, Kristine Diekman, Eric Geiger, Angela Guerreiro, Deborah Hay, Lower Left, Nina Martin, PADL West, Mary Peterson, Peter Pleyer, Sara Shelton Mann, Leslie Seiters, Nancy Stark Smith, Sushi Performance & Visual Art. 

Additional Teaching: 

  • Festivals and workshops in Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Russia, and The Netherlands.  
  • On faculty at TuT, School for Clown and New Dance, in Hannover, Germany. 
  • Instructor at UMass, UC Davis and UC Riverside.  


Contact Information

Office: ARTS 307
(760) 750-8009