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Iquail Shaheed MFA ’12 Breaks New Ground

Shaheed is the first Black male to earn a PhD in dance from Texas Woman’s University.

Already a highly accomplished dancer, Iquail Shaheed had always wanted to add one more credit to his resumé—a PhD.

“I always wanted one since I was a kid,” Shaheed said. “There is so much I can do in my community, being a Black person from Philly with a PhD. How it can teach the world in general, just different cultural connections, cultural contexts, document those works in various ways. To bring attention to the way my community has been working. But also to teach in academia. I’m still a professor. Now I also have the knowledge to conduct and write research to reach more people. The PhD was less about being a doctor and more about acquiring the skills that will allow me to communicate and document people’s works.” (Reports

Iquail is the founder and executive artistic director of Dance Iquail, which uses the art of dance as a conduit for combating issues of social injustice primarily experienced by the disadvantaged. Iquail experienced the injustice and politics in dance during his youth, and decided to make a stand by forming a company that would not only break such cultural and ethnic barriers but also provide a window of countless opportunities for aspiring dancers to be employed in a stable and secure environment. (

“I am a doctor of dance,” Shaheed says. “A doctor of joyous dance. I’m so excited, I can’t believe it. I guess the only word I can describe it is, joy.”

A native of Philadelphia, Iquail began training at the age of 13 when he was accepted to the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

He continued with the Philadelphia Dance Company’s (PHILADANCO) “Training & Instruction” program. While at Philadanco, he became a senior member of Danco II. Professionally, he has worked with internationally acclaimed companies such as Compagnie Thor (Brussels), The Sean Curran Company, Ronald K Brown/ Evidence, and The Fred Benjamin Dance Company. 

Currently, Shaheed is on faculty at The Ailey School, Steps on Broadway, and Harlem School for the Arts. He has taught at Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet School, Centre Stage, the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts High School, and Purchase. He enjoys frequent teaching engagements for master classes around the world.

Iquail Shaheed MFA '12