Jessica Zeller is an Associate Professor of Dance in the TCU School for Classical & Contemporary Dance, where she teaches courses across the ballet curriculum and in dance histories, theories, and pedagogies. She holds a Ph.D. in Dance Studies and an MFA in Dance from The Ohio State University, and she received her B.S. in Dance/Arts Administration from Butler University. Zeller’s forthcoming book project, Critical Ballet Pedagogy: Teaching beyond the Ideal (Routledge), theorizes how ballet pedagogies develop and proposes praxis-based approaches for building humanistic, equitable teaching practices. Drawing from dialogues with teachers and students, it offers imperatives for the work of ballet pedagogy in the twenty-first century. Her 2016 book, Shapes of American Ballet: Teachers and Training before Balanchine (Oxford University Press), unearths the teachings of lesser-known European and Russian ballet pedagogues and situates them in the context of early twentieth century American Capitalism. Zeller’s most recent work appears in the anthologies (Re:)Claiming Ballet (Intellect, 2021) and Hybrid Teaching: Pedagogy, People, Politics (Hybrid Pedagogy, 2021). She facilitates pedagogy workshops for faculty, students, and administrators across higher education. From 2022-2024, she will serve as President of CORPS de Ballet International.
A New York native and student of Maggie Black, Rochelle Zide-Booth, and Jan Hanniford Goetz, Zeller’s studio teaching makes reference to their work and is complemented by her research on critical and progressive pedagogies. In performance, Zeller has danced several works from the ballet canon—most notably the role of Giselle, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Act I pas de trois and the Act II Cygnets pas de quatre in Swan Lake. She has danced in Bebe Miller’s work, as a guest artist with the Indianapolis Opera, with project-based companies in New York City, and at the American Cabaret Theatre, where she collaborated with singers, actors, dramaturges, and musicians. She was on the ballet faculty of the BalletMet Dance Academy in Columbus, Ohio, before joining the faculty at TCU.
Learn more about Jessica Zeller’s work at www.jessicazeller.net.
Forthcoming Monograph: Zeller, Jessica. Critical Ballet Pedagogy: Teaching beyond the Ideal. London: Routledge. Anticipated publication 2024.
Monograph: Zeller, Jessica. Shapes of American Ballet: Teachers and Training before Balanchine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Book Chapter. Zeller, Jessica. “‘Can you feel it?’: Pioneering Pedagogies that Challenge Ballet’s Authoritarian Traditions.” In (Re:) Claiming Ballet. Edited by Adesola Akinleye. 172-188. Chicago: Intellect Press, 2021.
Book Chapter. “Pedagogy as Protest: Reimagining the Center.” In Hybrid Teaching: Pedagogy, People, and Politics. Edited by Chris Friend. 117-120. Washington, D.C.: Hybrid Pedagogy, Inc., 2021. Also available as an open access ebook: https://hybridpedagogy.org/hybrid-teaching/.
Journal article: Zeller, Jessica. “Reflective Practice in the Ballet Class: Bringing Progressive Pedagogy to the Classical Tradition.” Journal of Dance Education 17.3 (2017): 99-105. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2017.1326052
Journal article: Zeller, Jessica. “On Dance Pedagogy and Embodiment.” Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies 38. Society of Dance History Scholars (2017): 17-20.
Journal article: Zeller, Jessica. “Luigi Albertieri: Bringing Italian Traditions to American Ballet.” Dance Chronicle 38.1 (2015): 55-80.
Zeller, Jessica. “(Un)Grading Ballet: Rethinking Evaluative Practices.” Refereed presentation at the MOBBallet Symposium/M.I.A. Scholar’s Course. Miami, FL. August 2022.
Zeller, Jessica. “Ungrading/Unmarking: Philosophies and Practices.” Invited presentation/discussion at the Rambert School, UK (virtual). March 2022.
Zeller, Jessica. “Facilitating Critical Thinking in Arts Disciplines: Pedagogies and Policy Designs.” Invited presentation/discussion at the University of Mississippi Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. University, MS (virtual). February 2022.
Zeller, Jessica. “Dialogues on Agency in Dance.” Invited presentation/discussion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dance. Madison, WI (virtual). April 2021.
Zeller, Jessica. “Grading Dancing: Fitting the Square Peg of Ballet into the Round Hole of University Assessment.” Paper presented at the CORPS de Ballet International Annual Conference. Virtual. July 2020.
Zeller, Jessica. “In the Liminal Space: Pedagogy at the Intersection of our Ideals and our Humanity.” Presented in the Colloquium Series in the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT), as part of the Scholar-in-Residence Program in the Department of Dance at Temple University. November 12, 2019. Philadelphia, PA.
Zeller, Jessica. “Fiery Tempers and Pocket Violins: Italian Ballet Pedagogues in Turn-of-the-Century America.” Panel presentation at the CORPS de Ballet, International annual conference. Florence, Italy. July 2018.
Zeller, Jessica. “Tradition and Innovation: Dance Manuals and Ballet Training in Early Twentieth Century America.” CORPS de Ballet, International annual conference, Provo, UT. June 2017.
Zeller, Jessica. Opening remarks at Maggie Black Memorial event (February 2016; New York City Center Studios; Maggie Black Memorial Planning Committee, sponsor).
Zeller, Jessica. “Destabilizing the Dance Studies Classroom with Constructivist Pedagogy OR Starting the Semester Without a Syllabus: My Experience Teaching ‘Dance Theory.’” CORPS de Ballet, International annual conference, Pittsburgh, PA. June 2014.
Member, CORPS de Ballet, International
Member, Dance Studies Association
Member, Society of Dance History Scholars (2007-2017)
President, CORPS de Ballet International, 2022-2024
President-Elect, CORPS de Ballet International, 2020-2022
Reviewer, Oxford University Press
Review Board, Journal of Dance Education, 2018-2022