Personal profile


Phoebe Rumsey is Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre and Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Musical Theater degree. She received her PhD from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and holds an MA in Performance Studies from NYU, an MA in Theatre from UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) and a BFA in Contemporary Dance from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. A scholar and practitioner, her research has been published in The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics, Studies in Musical Theatre, The Routledge Companion to the Contemporary Musical and in Reframing The Musical: Race, Culture, and Identity. She is the author of Embodied Nostalgia: Early Twentieth Century Social Dance and the Choreographing of Broadway Musical Theatre recently pubished by Routledge. Along with her engagement in academic studies Dr Rumsey has worked extensively as a performer and choreographer.


I moved here in January 2020 from New York City where I completed a PhD at CUNY, a Master’s at New York University in Performance Studies and worked in theatre and performance for the past 7 years. I hold dual citizenship with Canada and the U.S and have pursued creative projects and studies in both countries.

I grew up heavily involved in dance and completed an undergraduate program in contemporary dance at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Throughout my professional career as a dancer, I always had an interest in how movement can tell a story, so I began exploring more singing and acting, leading to a career in musical theatre as a performer and eventual choreographer and director.

My Master’s at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada involved the study ‘dream ballets’, which is a musical theatre convention where dance carries the plot of a show for some part of it, such as in Oklahoma! or the opening of West Side Story. Upon completion of that project and professional work as part of 8 different shows with Farrington Productions, I returned to Canada and was a choreographer for a further 10 years, specifically choreographing musicals including Hair, Working, I Love You Your Perfect, Now Change, Rocky Horror, The Hobbit and original works.

After many wonderful collaborative projects, I realised I wanted to look more academically at some of the theory behind musicals and the assumptions/stereotypes about the genre and felt the best path was to move to New York to pursue a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY, alongside continuing my dance training, research and performance.


Research Interests

My monograph Embodied Nostalgia: Early Twentieth Century Social Dance and the Choreographing of Broadway Musical Theatre (Routledge) was released in 2023. The project is about dance in musical theatre and what the body does on stage—what kind of moves characters are doing and why. I specifically connect those moves to social dance and investigate the communities where these dances originated. I look at a dozen different musicals and investigate the choreographic strategies used to explore past memories, historical situations and the cultural resonances therein.

My quest is always to try and demonstrate how important dance, movement and the body in motion is to musical theatre. On a broader scale, my aim is to continually uphold musical theatre as a fascinating area of study that can tell us a lot about ourselves, socially, politically, and culturally.

Teaching Responsibilities

I teach in the Musical Theatre course and across the Drama and Performance course, both of which are in the School Art, Design and Performance, part of the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries.

One of the modules I teach is ‘Movement for Performance’, which involves instruction in various dance techniques, choreography and physical theatre, along with a module called ‘Musical Theatre Skills’. I also teach lecture style modules on the history and theory of performance. Most of my students are first and second years, although I also mentor some of the third-year students’ ‘Major Academic Projects’. I also supervise one postgraduate student.

My goal is always to instil a sense of curiosity and confidence in the students. My hope is that by their third year, students will start taking on projects on their own, feeling that they have the skill set to move into a career musical theatre. More broadly, however, whether they pursue a career as an artist or a practitioner, scholar, theorist, or teacher, I hope they feel well poised to put forth creative projects of their own design.

Education/Academic qualification

Ph.D., Embodied Nostalgia: Early Twentieth Century Social Dance and U.S. Musical Theatre, City University of New York

25 Aug 201431 May 2019

Award Date: 11 Mar 2019

MPhil, City University of New York

25 Aug 201428 Feb 2017

Award Date: 28 Feb 2017

MA, Interview with Sondheim the Hard Way: The Precariousness of Letter Exchange as an Interview Modality and Research Method, New York University

7 Jun 201315 May 2014

Award Date: 15 May 2014

MA, Dance in the Contemporary Musical Theatre: What Has Become of the Dream Ballet, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

5 Sept 199814 May 2000

Award Date: 14 May 2000

BA (Hons), Simon Fraser University

5 Sept 199030 Apr 2030

Award Date: 30 Apr 1994

External positions

External Examiner, Bath Spa University

15 Jan 202315 Jan 2026

Editorial Board Member, Studies in Musical Theatre

1 Jan 20211 Jan 2026

Teaching Fellow, Adjunct, City University of New York


Writing Fellow, Borough of Manhattan Community College


  • NX Arts in general
  • Musical Theatre, Dance, Performing Arts, Choreography, Embodiment,


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