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VK Preston

Associate Professor, History

Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2407

VK Preston is a cultural historian of performance. Their areas of focus include the Early Modern period, improvisation, contemporary performance, sexuality, and historiography. Their research examines movement with particular interest in dance and research creation.

This research includes performing arts, pre-modern cultural forms, and artists’ interventions in the telling of history. Areas of focus include Atlantic-World histories (C.E. 1500–1800), ecological crisis, intersectional critical analysis, and contemporary interdisciplinary production.

VK is a 2024 Camargo Fellow in Cassis, France, working on their first book manuscript. Their recent writing appears in postmedieval, Theatre Journal, The Oxford Handbook of Dance and ReenactmentPerformance ResearchTDR/The Drama ReviewThe Oxford Handbook of Dance and TheatreCanadian Theatre Review, and History, Memory, Performance.

VK is also co-director of LeParc, the Performing Arts Research Cluster, at Milieux, with Lilia Mestre and Meghan Moe Beitiks. In dance studies and in research creation, VK works alongside artists as a practice of critical research ethics and methodology, investigating histories of the senses and embodiment through experiential, narrative approaches.

VK’s current writing projects include studies of art and performance entangled with the colonial invasion of the Americas, from baroque performance and the witch trials to contemporary visual and performance art. Their approaches engage with histories of the Atlantic world, and of Turtle Island, addressing genealogies of racial capitalism, decolonization, non-binary gender, historical memory, and translation.

In 2021, VK’s “Queer andIndigenous Art: Performing Ice Times in Climate Crisis” received an honourable mention from the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) for the Gerald Kahan Scholars' Prize. “Baroque Relations: Performing Gold and Silver in Daniel Rabel’s Ballets of the Americas” received the 2018 Gertrude Lippincott prizefor best English-language essay from the Dance Studies Association.

In 2014, Alanna Thain (McGill) and VK Preston won the Richard Plant award for best article in English on a topic in Canadian theatre and performance studies for “Tendering the Flesh: the ABC’s of Dave St-Pierre’s Contemporary Utopias” in TDR / The Drama Review. VK comes to performance scholarship by way of practice, following professional training in dance and theatre.

VK is a regular guest faculty member of the internationally situated MFA program in Dance at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia during their residencies at the International Centre for Choreography (ICI-CCN) in Montpellier, France. They work in collaboration with Caroline Gravel as dramaturg, and they serve on the editorial boards of Performascope: Lexique interdisciplinaire des performances et de la recherche-création (University of Grenoble) and Imagined Theatres: Writing for a Theoretical Stage.


Photo: VK Preston
Photo credit: Tristan Brand

Research activities

Grants and Fellowships

SSHRC-IDG: New Directions in Seventeenth-Century Performance Research: Intangible Baroques

Connaught New Faculty

Mellon Foundation-Stanford Dissertation Completion Fellowship

Canada Council for the Arts (Theatre)

Group Grants

New Frontiers in Research Fund (Exploration), PIs Re Mansbach and Claudine Gauthier, "The Sub-measurable is Not Unreal"

Teaching activities

Department of History

HIST 379                History through Visual Media and Material Culture      

HIST 306                History and the Public     

HIST 498/670         Montreal Performing Arts Archives and Histories       

HIST 281                Film in History                                                             

HIST 398                The Baroque  

HIST 398                Early Modern Atlantic World                                      

Humanities Ph.D. Program

HUMA 888             Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I

HUMA 889             Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II   



Selected Publications

Preston, VK. 2023. "Dancing the Kleptocene," postmedieval 14 (2-3), ed. Kathryn Dickason, 487-511.

Preston, VK. 2021. “Sitting on a Man's Head: Danspace Project, St. Mark's Church, New York, NY,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 43 (3), ed. Benjamin Gillespie, 39–42.

Preston, VK. 2020. “Queer and Indigenous Art: Performing Ice Times in Climate Crisis,” Theatre Journal 72 (2), ed. EJ Westlake,143-162. (Honourable mention: Gerald Kahan Scholar's Prize, ASTR)

Preston, VK. 2020. “Performance, Climate, and Critical Art,”Theatre Journal 72 (2), ed. Margherita Laera, E-7-E-13.

Preston, VK. 2020. “Convening Muses and Turning Tables: Reimagining a Danced Politics of Time in Jordan Bennett and Marc Lescarbot.” Futures of Dance Studies (Studies in Dance History). Eds. Susan Manning, Janice Ross, and Rebecca Schneider. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 269-285

Preston, VK. 2018. “Reproducing Witchcraft: Thou Shalt Not Perform a Witch to Live,” TDR / The Drama Review (62)1 (T237). Special issue: on reproduction. Ed., Rebecca Schneider. 143-159.

Preston, VK. 2017. “Baroque Relations: Performing Silver and Gold in Daniel Rabel’s Ballets of the Americas.” In The Oxford Handbook of Reenactment. Ed., Mark Franko. New York: Oxford University Press, 285-310. (Gertrude Lippincott Award for best essay from the Dance Studies Association)

Contributor to Imagined Theatres: Writing for a Theoretical Stage (2017), ed. Dan Sack. New York: Routledge.

Preston, VK. 2016. “A Dictionary in the Archives:Translating and Transcribing Silenced Histories in French and Wendat.” Performance Research 21(5), Trans/Performance, special issue, ed. Amelia Jones), 85-88.

Preston, VK. 2015. “How Do I Touch This Text?: Or, the Interdisciplines Between, Dance and Theatre in Early Modern Archives.” In The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater. Ed., Nadine George-Graves. New York: Oxford University Press, 56-89.

Thain, Alanna and VK Preston. 2013. “Tendering the Flesh:the ABC’s of Dave St-Pierre’s Contemporary Utopias,” TDR / The Drama Review57(4), 28-51.

Events and Public-Facing Work

"Dancing Dissent," Between, Across, and Throughpodcast hosted by Keven Lewis O'Neill and the Centre for Diaspora &Transnational Studies, University of Toronto

Indelible Refusal: Bodies, Performances, and WalkingResistance, with Stephanie Springgay (OISE)

Participation activities

Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute (MISHI)

Mellon Dance Studies in/and the Humanities

Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research

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