Rowan McLelland

Research activity per year

Personal profile


I gained my BA (Hons) from Rambert School and danced professionally in ballet and contemporary companies in Europe, as well as on TV and in film. Sustaining an injury, I looked to other ways of being involved in dance and turned to teaching and academia. I have a MA (Dist) and a PhD in Dance Anthropology from the University of Roehampton. I have worked at The Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry Univeristy, University of Lincoln, Central School of Ballet and currently teach Contextual Studies at Rambert School.

An avid social dancer, I can be found dancing, teaching and choreographing swing dances (lindy hop, balboa and collegiate shag) around the world.

Research interests

I have interests in ballet is many facets; in its aesthetic and history, technical enquiries, and in issues concerning ballet (or dance more broadly) institutions and training, as well as how ballet is taught and performed cross culturally (with a particular concern with China). An interest in the sociology and anthropology of dance, and the use of ethnographic methods to explore all dances (theatrical, folk, social, urban etc.) within a cultural context, in 'the body', gender issues in dance, and the relationships of dance to social and political ideas and the interplay of power relations (Foucault, Bourdieu). In addition to ballet and contemporary dance, I also practices authentic jazz (jazz roots) dances; partnered and solo, from the early ragtime era to the 1950s, and am interested in the collaboration of lead/follow improvised dancing.

Research projects

My PhD research examined ballet as a relatively new genre in the People's Republic of China, exposing ideologies central to ballet itself, and those unique to its new Chinese situation. Under Chairman Mao's guideline, 'Make the Past Serve the Present and Foreign Things Serve China' (1956), ballet in China was reformed. 'Propaganda ballets' were staged, incorporating elements from Chinese classical dance and Beijing Opera, and Chinese terminology issued for the technique (Glasstone, 2007). Ballet in China has been radically altered in light of its cultural situation, providing an excellent space for examining how ballet is mediated through culture. The project creates ethnographies of balletic bodies, explore these bodies as carriers of symbolic value and investigate how ballet as both initially an 'alien' genre and, more recently, an indigenous culture, impacts on other dance practices in China, such as Chinese classical dance (Zhongguo gudianwu).

  • 2016 - AHRC International Placement - Shanghai Theatre Academy
  • 2015 - UCC London Award - Beijing Fieldwork
  • 2015 - Santander Travel and Mobility Award
  • 2013 - British Council & Manchester University - East China Normal University, Shanghai
  • 2005 - Rambert School Scholarship


  • Ballet (practice and theory)
  • Sociology of dance
  • Anthropology of dance
  • Popular, social and urban dance
  • BA/MA/PhD Supervision

External positions

Lecturer, University of Lincoln

13 Oct 2020 → …

Lecturer, Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance