Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary
Directory Page Title

Joan Gavaler

Professor of Dance

Email: [[jsgava]]
Office: Phi Beta Kappa Hall 204
Phone: (757) 221-2785
Webpage: {{}}

Areas of Specialization

Dance choreography and performance; Theatre direction and devising; Physical Theatre creation and performance; Contact Improvisation; AcroYoga; Alexander Technique

Courses Taught

Dance Composition Foundations, Dance Composition Solos, Duets, and Collaboration, Introduction to Physical Theatre, Mind-Body Unity in a Fractured World: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique, Modern I through IV, Ballet, Performance Ensemble, Dance Practicum, Independent Projects in Dance

Student Advising

Dance Minors, Interdisciplinary Studies Majors, Orchesis Dance Company, William & Mary Theatre


Joan Gavaler is a Professor of Dance and Artistic Director of Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre. The company is known for its innovative blend of dance, theatre, and acrobatics. Their work embodies the qualities of lightness (Aura), curiosity (Curi), and strength (Atlas) to find enchantment in ordinary situations presented in unusual ways.  Since 2014 Aura CuriAtlas has toured DREAM LOGIC, A Life With No Limits, and The Fool and The World to communities large and small in the Midwest, East Coast, and Southern United States. In pivoting during the Pandemic, the company offered free online guided movement workshops for a year and premiered a digital work, S L. Feemster's ConFront(ed). Moving in new directions, Joan Gavaler and Ada Hao created a Williamsburg-London digital performance collaboration of asathoughtfallsthroughthegapsoftranslation and premiered a new play, The Zombie Life: A Seminar for Humans Seeking Conversion. Her current project is a physical theatre piece inspired by Jill Bolte Taylor's book My Stroke of Insight.

As a choreographer and movement director, Professor Gavaler has created 85 original works and been a driving force behind four performing companies. She relishes collaborative discovery and has worked with poets, visual artists, composers, musicians, actors, directors, acrobats, and physicists on dance and theatre projects.  She has been invited by over 80 organizations to present and teach in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, including presentations on the Alexander Technique in Lugano, Switzerland, a dance residency at Beijing Normal University, performances for American Dance Guild showcases in New York City, and movement consulting for the Virginia Shakespeare Festival.

Her professional expertise is sought for external program and faculty reviews and performance adjudications. She served as Head of Dance from 2000-2009, as Department Chair for Theatre, Speech, and Dance from 2009-2014, and as Director of Dance from 2015-2017. She served as a Fellow in the Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation, 2021-22. She co-leads the W&M Dance Program with two faculty colleagues.