Melanie George

Educator, Choreographer, Dramaturg, Scholar


I have great interest in upsetting traditional hierarchies in dance on the stage and the page. Each creative project I undertake involves a three-pronged approach to inquiry - pedagogy, choreography, and research. My work supports my belief that growth in the dance field requires documentation, reflection, and questioning of what we know, value and create.

Photo by Gracie Corapi

Melanie George is a dance educator, choreographer, dramaturg and scholar.  She is the founder and director of Jazz Is… Dance Project, and Dramaturg and Audience Educator at Lumberyard (formerly American Dance Institute). 

As an institutional and freelance dramaturg, she works closely with internationally recognized contemporary performing artists in the incubation of new works for the stage. For Lumberyard, she has contributed to projects by Susan Marshall & Company, Raja Feather Kelly, Bebe Miller, Urban Bush Women, Kimberly Bartosik/daelaZviDance and Kathy Westwater, among others. As a freelance dramaturg and performance coach, she has worked with Morgan Thorson, Alice Sheppard/Kinetic Light, Maria Bauman-Morales, and Caleb Teicher & Company. Current projects include new works by Helen Simoneau Danse and David Neumann/Advanced Beginning Group. She is honored to be among the dramaturgs affiliated with Urban Bush Women’s Choreographic Center.

In 2012, Melanie founded Jazz Is… Dance Project (Jazz Is...). She is a highly sought after teacher and choreographer, staging neo-jazz works on dancers throughout the United States. Her choreography spans concert dance, theatre, and vocal staging. Choreography commissions include works for Arizona State University, University of Idaho, Western Michigan University, Ursinus College, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Salve Regina University, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (2016 Helen Hayes Award Nominee for Outstanding Choreography).

Under the umbrella of Jazz Is…, she founded Jazz Dance Direct, a directory website devoted exclusively to the promotion and visibility of jazz dance companies, publications, events, organizations, and college programs. She has presented her research on jazz dance improvisation and pedagogy throughout the U.S., Canada and Scotland. Publications include “Jazz Dance, Pop Culture, and the Music Video Era” for Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches (University Press of Florida) and “Imbed/In Bed: Two Perspectives on Dance and Collaboration” with Joan Meggitt for Working Together in Qualitative Research (Sense Publishers). Melanie is featured in the upcoming documentary on jazz dance, Transmission: Roots to Branches.            

Melanie has an extensive teaching history, bringing 25 years of experience to students and audiences. Past teaching positions include the Washington School of Ballet, The Roeper School for the Gifted and Talented, and Assistant Professor of Dance and Dance Education Program Coordinator at Kent State University. From 2008-2016, she directed the dance program at American University (AU). During her time at AU, she founded the American University Dance Company, created the Dr. Naima Prevots Guest Artist Fund, and facilitated partnerships with DC-based embassies and arts organizations, leading to multiple artist residencies and master classes with nationally and internationally recognized artists. Currently, Melanie is on the MFA faculty at Wilson College, and directs Lumberyard’s Young Performers program.

She has worked as a consultant in the arts for over a decade, applying her expertise in scholarship and education to assist artists and arts organizations in articulating language and facilitating the development of creative work. In addition to her work with independent choreographers and dance educators, Melanie has provided professional services for American College Dance Association, Jacob’s Pillow, The Joyce TheatreThe Guggenheim Museum, BAM, Stephen Petronio Company, Dance Institute of Washington, Human Kinetics, and The Journal of Dance Education, among others.

She has served on the boards of the National Dance Education Organization and Dance Metro DC, and committees for the National Endowment for the Arts, MAP Fund, the Society of Dance History Scholars, VelocityDC Dance Festival, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Ohio Board of Regents.

She holds a BA in dance from Western Michigan University, an MA in dance and Graduate Certificate in Secondary Teaching from American University, and movement analysis certification from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York. Melanie is the 2017 recipient of the Western Michigan University Department of Dance Distinguished Alumni Award.