About Jan Erkert
Jan Erkert is an advocate for creative approaches to living through her lifetime work in the fields of leadership and embodied practices. She is an author, dance-maker, teacher and served as Professor and Head of the Department of Dance at University of Illinois. from 2006-2022.
Through her writings and workshops, Ms. Erkert has become a national voice on embodied leadership publishing numerous Op-Eds in national press such as CNN, the Chicago Sun-Times and Visible Magazine. In May 2020, she was awarded the Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award from the University of Illinois for her effective academic leadership and vision. She was also awarded a Public Voices Fellowship in 2020 as part of the national OpEd Project, which aims to “…dramatically increase the public impact of our nation’s top underrepresented thinkers.” She has been a guest speaker on leadership at the Illinois Gies College of Business, Leadershape, and numerous dance conferences. She is currently writing a book titled Everybody has a Body full of Wisdom: Stories of Leadership and Life.
As Head of the Department of Dance at the University of Illinois, she has led a transformation of the department that the New York Times described as a “…hotbed of choreographic innovation.” Through a rigorous investigation of Departmental practices and curriculum, Erkert championed ethical, anti-racist, and progressive practices. In 2014, she received the Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award for Leadership in Diversity. She is currently a Resource Trainer for the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
Ms. Erkert has been a national leader in dance, having served as the President of the Council of Dance Administrators (CODA), a coalition of some of the top schools of dance in the USA. She was a commissioner for the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), and has been a frequent consultant and reviewer of dance programs. In 2014-15 she was an Academic Leadership Fellow for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.
Throughout her career Ms. Erkert has devoted much of her energy to advancing teaching and learning. She has been a master teacher at universities and colleges throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe and Asia, and is the author of Harnessing the Wind: The Art of Teaching Modern Dance, published in 2003 by Human Kinetics. As a professor of dance at Columbia College Chicago from 1990-2006, she garnered many awards including the 1999 Excellence in Teaching Award, and a nominee for the U.S. Professor of the Year sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation.
As Artistic Director of Jan Erkert & Dancers from 1979 – 2000, she created over 70 works, critically acclaimed for their lush, evocative imagery. Ms. Erkert’s work has been seen throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Asia, the Middle-East and South America. Ms. Erkert and the company were honored with numerous awards including a Fulbright Scholar Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council.
- B.F.A. University of Utah
Research and publications
Ongoing and upcoming research
- Every Body has a Body full of Wisdom: Stories of Leadership and Life. Manuscript complete. Currently seeking publication. Manuscript is based on leadership as a creative and embodied practice.
- Harnessing the Wind, The Art of Teaching Modern Dance, Human Kinetics, 2003.
- Engaging the Body in Diversity Education, The Hill Reporter. 4-11-2021
- A Word about Spineless from a Dancer, Medium.com. 2-7-2021
- What we can all learn from Biden’s refusal to feed the troll, CNN Opinion, 12-19-20.
- Open Letter to Dr. Fauci, Chicago Sun Times, 12-7-20.
- All Systems Go – Go Vote!, Thrive Global, 10-19-20.
- What It Means to Trust the Body During the Time of Trump, Visible Magazine, 9-29-20.