School of Theatre & Dance

Merry Lynn Morris

Merry Lynn Morris, MFA, PhD, is the Assistant Director for the Dance Program and a full-time faculty member invested in teaching and research. She holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in dance performance and choreography from Florida State University and a PhD in Dance Studies from Texas Woman’s University. Dr. Morris has served on the faculty of the USF dance program since 1998 focusing in both teaching and research. Courses include: Dance Improvisation, Dance Kinesiology, Research in Dance, Laban Movement Analysis, Ballet Technique, and Dance Conditioning. Her background experience and training in dance includes extensive classical ballet training expanded by undergraduate (USF alum.) and graduate study in various modern dance techniques/styles and other dance forms. Dr. Morris's early professional performance background includes performance and study with the Tampa Ballet and Dance Theatre of Florida.

Dr. Morris seeks out interdisciplinary opportunities in which her movement background and expertise can be utilized and expanded. Her collaborative work crosses multiple disciplines including: Engineering, Physical Therapy, Architecture, Music, and Visual Art. She enjoys opportunities to utilize dance in diverse, integrative, and therapeutic ways. She began exploring the area of integrated/inclusive dance in 2002, and as caregiver to a disabled father over a 21 year period, her interest and awareness in disability needs has been ever-present. Dr. Morris serves on the board for VSA Florida, the statewide arts and disability organization. And, in the Tampa community, Dr. Morris teaches ballet and integrated dance for young children and adults (REVolutions Dance and choreographs regularly.

The intersections between dance, disability and assistive technology design are a prominent focus of Morris’s work. Much of her creative and scholarly work interrogates how assistive technologies can interface with the human body to facilitate artistic expression and healthful mobility. She has worked collaboratively across the domains of dance and engineering to invent new mobility devices for use in and outside of dance.Dr. Morris’ Rolling Dance Chair Project ( involves approaching wheelchair design from a dance performance perspective to increase mobility options and expand perceptions about disability.The project has received national and international recognition and several patented chair prototypes have been built. Dr. Morris has been featured/interviewed on NPR’s Science Friday, the Katie Couric show, MSNBC, PBS, CNN, as well as in the Reader’s Digest and the Inventor’s Digest (cover story), Dance Teacher Magazine, and the Dancing Times (UK). Her invention has been featured at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, where she has also been a guest speaker. Dr. Morris’ publications include: five U.S. Patents and over 25 scholarly (print) publications, including conference proceedings and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Dr. Morris’ other research-related projects include the Dance Wellness Program at USF: a collaboration with the School of Physical Therapy to help support the physical fitness and health needs of USF dance majors, and teaching for the Arts in Health program with the Contemporary Art Museum Additionally, Dr. Morris serves a lead role in the USF Performing Arts Medicine Collaborative (USF-PAM), an interprofessional organization based at USF dedicated to the health and wellness of performing artists and making linkages between medicine and the arts.

Dr. Morris is a member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the Florida Dance Education Organization (FDEO), CORPS de Ballet International, and the Society for Disability Studies (SDS). She is also an American Ballet Theatre® National Training Curriculum certified teacher. Dr. Morris continues to pursue research and study in the area of dance medicine/kinesiology and she is also a member and regular presenter at the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS).

For more information also see her personal website: as well as


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