Dr. Kelli Sharp to Be the Next Chair in Dance

Dr. Kelli Sharp (Photo: Emily Zheng/UCI)

The focus will be on general well-being for both her students and faculty

By Mia Hammett

The UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA) has named Dr. Kelli Sharp, associate professor of dance science, the next department chair of the Department of Dance. Her term will begin on July 1, 2023.

“I am excited to develop new opportunities for Dance students and faculty - and to support students in following their passion of art making with an understanding of well-being,” said Sharp.

Sharp has a doctorate and over 20 years of research experience focused on enhancing functional movement strategies. Her work integrates the application of clinical neuroscience to the study of dance and, conversely, uses dance as a therapeutic tool in the rehabilitation of human disease/injury with an emphasis on well-being across all disciplines.

“I use movement as a modulator for people with brain injuries—different movement patterns and strategies,” said Sharp.

Sharp began her work at UCI in 1999 as a lab assistant at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center (RIRC) at UCI, where the main research focus was understanding regenerative mechanisms for enhanced function after spinal cord injuries. After earning her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chapman University in 2008, she transitioned to centering her work on clinical studies aimed at enhancing functional movement for various neurodivergent populations. Her expertise of a traditional science research perspective and blending innovative methodological systems to serve dance provide an excellent platform for her continued support of the well-being for future dancers.

Sharp joined the CTSA’s Department of Dance in 2014 as an associate professor of Dance Science. Sharp found teaching dancers and continuing her journey of studying movement in the arts as rewarding as working in the clinical research realm. She currently leads wellness classes from a distinctly interdisciplinary perspective—operating at the intersection of neuroscience, well-being, and movement.

“I’m teaching them about their body and how they can make small changes in their life to make huge differences,” said Sharp. “Above all, I give them tools for well-being—that’s really what I do.”

In addition to teaching and her research, Sharp currently serves as the co-director of iMove at UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center (SCRC) and Vice Chair for Research for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the UCI School of Medicine.

As chair, Sharp will act as a facilitator between students, faculty, and the community. In addition to supporting her fellow faculty, she will oversee the implementation of class curriculum, support extended student and faculty opportunities, and create new scaffolding for the development of the school.

Sharp is excited to forge a collective community among students, staff and faculty. In keeping with her research and advocacy in wellness, Sharp is also interested in creating (and maintaining) conduits for well-being across all student and staff populations.

“The general well-being of all parties is a focus for me,” said Sharp. “Really exploring what getting a dance education at UCI looks like in 2023. The school has so much breadth, and my job is to maintain that breadth and keep it moving forward,” she added. Moreover, “I think my research and connections across campus are extremely valuable. That connection is already a pillar of communication across disciplines, which is important.”

Learn more about the Department of Dance at dance.arts.uci.edu.

About the Claire Trevor School of the Arts: As UCI’s creative engine, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts has proven itself to be a national leader in training future generations of artists and scholars who go on to inspire audiences in theaters, galleries and concert halls – as well as in entertainment and technology-related venues throughout the world. CTSA combines artistic training with a top-ranked liberal arts education. It is home to the departments of art, dance, drama and music, offering 15 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and two minors. CTSA is currently ranked No. 1 in affordable fine arts, drama/theater and music degrees by the College Affordability Guide. Courses include extensive studio, workshop and performance experiences; theoretical and historical studies; and arts and technology practices. CTSA’s nationally ranked programs begin with training but culminate in original invention. The distinguished, international faculty work across a wide variety of art forms and forge interdisciplinary partnerships with others across the campus. For more information, visit www.arts.uci.edu. 

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.