Seth Stewart Williams

Assistant Professor

Seth Stewart Williams studies the interrelation of dance and literature, especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His research and teaching interests include the history and theory of dance and theater; dance in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries; book history, performance theory, and narrative theory; dance and theories of rights and race; embodiments of lyric verse; and animation. In addition to his appointment in dance studies, Williams is an affiliate of the English department and of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at Barnard, and of the Ph.D. program in Theatre and the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at Columbia.

He is currently at work on a monograph entitled Virtual Motion: Dance and Mobility in Early Modern English Literature, which studies the use of dance to both embody and figure processes of political upheaval in which patterns of exchange and migration predominate, from the spread of new religious denominations, to colonization of the New World, to the emergence of political factions across the British Civil War. Recent support for this project includes a 2019-20 Long-term Fellowship from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Other fellowships in support of this work have come from Columbia University's Heyman Center for the Humanities and from New York University's Center for Ballet and the Arts. From July 21-27, 2019, Williams will be a Scholar-in-Residence at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, facilitating public events surrounding performances by the Mark Morris Dance Group.

During his performance career, Williams worked extensively with Sean Curran and Donald McKayle, whose choreography he has set, and was for several years a supplemental dancer to the Mark Morris Dance Group. As a member of The New York Baroque Dance Company, he reconstructed early ballets from Feuillet notation.

Williams received his Ph.D., M.Phil., and M.A. in English literature from Columbia University, and bachelor's degrees in dance and comparative literature from the University of California at Irvine. He joined the Barnard faculty in 2017.

Academic Focus: 

Dance history and theory

Renaissance literature

Performance studies

Book history

Narrative theory



Lecture Courses

DNCE 2565: World Dance History

DNCE 3000: From Page to Stage: Interactions of Literature and Choreography

DNCE 3001: Western Theatrical Dance from the Renaissance to the 1960s

DNCE 3002: Choreographing Race in America

DNCE 3580: History of Social Dancing: Dance Crazes from the Waltz to Flash Mobs


Seminar Courses

DNCE 3591: Senior Seminar in Dance

Professional Affiliations: 

Dance Studies Association
Shakespeare Association of America
Renaissance Society of America
American Society of Theatre Research

Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

"Print as Motion Capture." Center for Renaissance Studies, Newberry Library. April 5, 2019.

"'The Country-Round': Dance, Race, and the Emergence of England's Political Parties." Stony Brook University Humanities Institute, 2019.

"The Queer Faith of English Recusants." Working group on "Arousing the Bodies of Pre-1850 Performance" at the American Society for Theatre Research. San Diego, 2018.

"Equivocal Bodies: English Recusants, Gesture, and Dance” at Truth and Truthiness: Belief, Authenticity, Rhetoric and Spin in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Barnard College of Columbia University, 2018.

"Gestural Excess and the Hypergesture of Satire." Shakespeare Association of America, Los Angeles, 2018.

"Race as Historiography: 'Gypsy' Dance in Seventeeth-Century English Manuscripts." Dance Studies Association, Columbus, 2017.

"Danced Verse and Temporal Vagrancy." Shakespeare Association of America, Atlanta, 2017.

"Highland Scots, Virginian Indians, and the ‘Savage’ Dances of Colonial Virginia." Society of Dance History Scholars / Congress on Research in Dance, Pomona, 2016.

“Choreographing Conquest: William Davenant and the Motions of History.” Shakespeare Association of America, New Orleans, 2016.

“Disturbed Sport: Shakespeare and Sexual Violence.” City College of New York, 2016.

“Colonizing Dances: New World Dance on the Early Modern English Stage,” Society of Dance History Scholars / Congress on Research in Dance, Athens, Greece, 2015.

“Edmund Spenser’s Kinetic Verse.” Shakespeare Association of America, Vancouver, Canada, 2015.

Zarabandas from Mexico City to London." Guest lecture, New York University, 2015.

“Molière and Baroque Choreography.” Guest lecture, The New School, 2015.

“Narratology and 'Pure Dance' in Balanchine, Cunningham, and Morris." Unscripted: A Symposium on the Study of Performance, Columbia University, 2013.

"The Dance of Death in A Larum for London." Early Modern Violence conference, University of Michigan, 2013.

“How Lully Choreographed the Fronde Rebellion.” Guest lecture, Columbia University, 2011.


"[They Dance]: Collaborative Authorship and Dance in Macbeth,” in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance, eds. Lynsey McCulloch and Brandon Shaw (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019)

"Mark Morris, Musician," in the curated essay series Men in Dance, ed. Sydney Skybetter (Jacob's Pillow Interactive, 2019)

"Review Essay: Jacques Rancière, Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime in Art (London: Verso, 2013), and Gabriele Brandstetter and Gabriele Klein, eds. Dance [and] Theory (Bielefeld: Transcript-Verlag, 2013)." Dance Research Journal 47.1 (2015): 96-101.

"Review Essay: Karen Eliot and Melanie Bales, eds. Dance on Its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies (Oxford University Press, 2013)." Dance Research Journal 46.1 (2014): 155-160.

Office Hours: 

307 Barnard Hall
*On leave 2019-20*


Ph.D., M.Phil., and M.A.

English Literature

Columbia University


B.A., Dance

B.A., Comparative Literature

University of California at Irvine

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