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Chris Aiken

Professor of Dance & Chair of the Department of Dance

Chris Aiken


47 Belmont Avenue #301


Chris Aiken works as a dancer, performer, dancemaker and teacher. His research seeks to uncover the relations between dance, poetics, science, philosophy, ecology and design. For many years, he has been developing an eco-poetic model of creativity and ethical behavior that seeks to connect the poetic imagination with ecological awareness and resonance.

Aiken is internationally recognized for his work in dance improvisation performance and pedagogy, as well as within the field of contact improvisation, a partnered dance form created by Steve Paxton in 1972 that changed the field of post-modern and contemporary dance. He teaches and performs regularly throughout North America and Europe, as well as in Asia.

Aiken’s career has been defined by a number of significant long-term collaborations. His work with Angie Hauser has been commissioned and presented internationally, as has his work with Andrew Harwood (Montreal), Ray Chung (San Francisco), Kirstie Simson (Wales), Joerg Hassman (Berlin), Patrick Scully (Minneapolis), Cathy Young (Minneapolis) and Olivier Besson (Boston). In addition, he has engaged in collaborative projects with Steve Paxton, Nancy Stark Smith, Ming-Shen Ku, Ka Rustler and many others.

Aiken has received numerous awards for his artistic work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bush Foundation and the McKnight Foundation, and he has been commissioned by the National Performance Network, the Jerome Foundation, DanceLink, the Walker Art Center, Dance Theater Workshop and by many colleges and universities in the United States. He has been presented by Jacob’s Pillow, Dance Theater Workshop, the Bates Dance Festival, the Florida Dance Festival, the Seattle Festival of Dance and Improvisation, Impulstanz festival in Vienna, Circuit Est, Studio 303, Maison de Culture in Montreal and the Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.

At Smith, Aiken teaches contemporary technique, dance improvisation, contact improvisation, composition, choreography and design, and the scientific foundations of dance. He is an original member of the Design Thinking faculty advisory board and is currently a member of the Kahn faculty advisory board, the Committee on Sustainability, the Committee on Campus Planning and Priorities, and the Arts and Humanities Committee.

Aiken received his master’s in dance from the University of Illinois and his bachelor’s in English from Brandeis University. He is currently an associate professor at Smith College and the Five College Dance Department. Prior to coming to Smith, he was an associate professor at Ursinus College, where he co-created the dance department with Cathy Young.


M.F.A., University of Illinois-Urbana
B.A., Brandeis University