Resources

I receive many requests for suggested readings, films, music, etc.  This list contains resources that are related to the catalog of keynote lectures I give around the world.  I’ve listed resources available to the general public, and do not require a university-based pass code for access in library databases.  It will be updated frequently.  Please drop a line if you find something interesting that can be posted to this resource page.  Enjoy!

Keynote Lecture:

Spotlight on Hyper-sexuality: Historical Perspectives, Projections, Gender Expectations, and Our Choices

(© 2009)

Historically, “belly dance” and Near Eastern dance has frequently been categorized as licentious, unrefined, artless—and in cases of extreme misunderstanding—vulgar. Yet despite this regrettable labeling and caricatured imaging, the dance form persists in attracting practitioners from all communities and walks of life. Near Eastern dance movements are the oldest to survive industrialization. For that reason alone the dance deserves careful examination, study and reflection on its continued relevancy and ongoing transformations throughout the ages. In this presentation, Donna Mejia will provide an overview of the historical, social, legal and religious influences that continue to perpetuate discriminatory views of Near Eastern dance as hypersexualized. She then highlights developments in gender studies that challenge our coding of what society presumes to be masculine and feminine, or “inherent” in gender differences. With her usual candor and humor, Donna will address the very controversial issues we have all encountered… at one time or another… in our love for, and dedication to, this genre. As a special treat, Donna’s presentation includes rare film footage and a recommended reading list for further study. Notebooks and pens are highly encouraged!

 

Keynote Lecture:

Integrity in Ethnic/Global Dance Fusion

(© 2008)

Cultural misappropriation has an unfortunate and extensive history in popular dance.   The exploration of ethnic/cultural dance fusion mandates that artists reconcile the values of indigenous dance traditions with agendas of the entertainment world. This presentation explores the inevitable transformation of old and new dance traditions in performance, and seeks to define what responsibility choreographers and performers have as cultural ambassadors in a “cut and paste” environment. Topics include film and discussions on

  • Defining traditionalism, cultural context and purism
  • Examining perceptual boundaries between cultural fusion and cultural pollution
  • Awareness of contextual parameters in theatrical presentation versus community assembly
  • Evaluating the effects of popular novelty on vanishing cultures
  • Identifying the driving forces that influence political correctness, honor and morality in the presentation of fusion dance forms
  • Examining levels of personal compliance/resistance to social systems through art

 

 

Keynote Lecture:

First Steps:  Understanding the Hidden Privileges in our Practices

When trying to understand cultural appropriation, there are some very elegant and profound questions that serve as insightful first steps.  Learning to situate ourselves within our dance practice inevitably requires we dialog with the attached history of Orientalist projections, caricature, gender norms, and standards of attractiveness.  Or perhaps these issues have been thrust upon you by others?  In this facilitated discussion Donna invites participants to investigate and share thoughts about what hidden values and messages are perpetuated by our dance industry. Hidden biases my surprise you, as we are all afflicted with them.  In addition to learning about the agency we have in artmaking, we will also investigate strategies to interrupt questionable practices and construct new possibilities for ourselves.  Tough questions will lead us to courageous conversations… please come share your thoughts!

Keynote Lecture:

Second Steps:  Being an Ally and Moving Beyond By-stander Syndrome

Ally-ship to fellow humans takes many forms and is never a one-size fits all solution.  Yet each courageous act of fellowship, no matter how large or small, is meaningful.   Please don’t underestimate how your choices disrupt social bias and can tip the scales for a fellow human whom may feel demoralized and disenfranchised.  Interestingly, you may find that you always get back more than you give.   This workshop will explore definitive steps to move beyond “paralyzed empathy;”  becoming effective as a listener, and thoughtful in our support of comrades.  The inevitability of our global citizenship mandates we set a seat at our table for other world-views and voices.  Do you really wish to make a difference?  Please come join a conversation that is already in progress on an international level.  Your contributions and thoughts will make it better for all.

 

Keynote Lecture:

Fact versus Fiction:  Dance, Drums and Women in the Pre-Islamic and Pre-Christian World

(© 2010)

The dance community has long asserted that ‘bellydance’ has historical associations with birth rituals, goddess traditions and sexual rites.  In 2010/2011 Donna Mejia researched these connections at Smith College under the guidance of a prominent ethnomusicologist to confirm what is known versus unknown about our Eastern dance and music history.  Donna will summarize her findings after reaching back into the Neolithic period (4,000-8,000 B.C.E.) to review evidence found in historical texts, architectural reliefs, epigraphs, sixth-century poetry, and archaeological findings.  Donna approaches the topic, and its controversies, through the lenses of cultural-sociological, post-colonial and feminist theories.  She presents a full analysis of present factors inhibiting study, and elucidates the ways in which women, power, and dance have been suppressed, exploited, mythologized, and enshrined in dance history.

 

Keynote Lecture:

Digital Diasporas and Transnational Dance Communities:

Looking at the Formation of Identity and Collective Cultural Memory in the Age of the Internet

(© 2011, Winner of the Fulbright Association Selma Jeanne Cohen

Endowed Lecture in International Dance Scholarship Honor)

Cultural fusion is as old as contact between peoples, but the subject is now being approached with regard for the Internet as a novel mode of information transmission. The Internet has grown to become supra-national in its scope and influence, eluding government regulation and attempts to control the norms of usage.  The digital commons has become a self-selecting, self-regulating, and transnational community through which Tribal Fusion participants deliberately search out influences beyond their home culture or borders.  As a community, they formulate a fast-moving global exchange of music, dance and expressive artistry that possesses a distinctly pluralistic approach to art-making.  As early pioneers of a new visual and movement culture, tribal fusion participants are now undertaking efforts to collaboratively workshop a theoretical foundation for their art, and define their own signature values. Collectively, netizens are also questioning how using machines for human exchange may dehumanize and pathologize some of our behaviors. How has Internet Technology transformed and impacted the way humans formulate individual identity, collective cultural values, and the expression of meaningful traditions such as dance? These issues will be examined with surprising and often amusing insights about our digital connectivity and emerging global citizenship.

 

 

 

Suggested/Categorized Reading List Compiled by Donna Mejia

 

History of Arabic Dance and Perspectives on Tribal Fusion

Tribal Fusion is an evolving genre reflecting common denominators between North African, Arab, Persian and Turkish secular dance traditions. These classical dance traditions reflect the aesthetic of dances and movements dating back over 3,000 years, and has credible connections to practices of Neolithic and Bronze Age matriarchal traditions. The dance is presently transforming through interactions with new technology in world music, cultural dialogue between the East and West, and intense international interest in American hip hop and electronic music. The resulting movement values a nominal use of space, percussive hip work, lyrical arm and torso work, and emphasizes musical interpretation over movement bravado. As participants in this global dance phenomenon, we must acknowledge the form was developed in the U.S.A. by referencing (and sometimes pillaging) the influences and movement vocabulary outside of the country… thus it is steeped in much controversy and political conflict. At some point, all dancers must reconcile some of these discrepancies for themselves. Here are some worthy readings to help you make informed decisions. In addition to these texts, many worthy articles can be found on academic library bases such as “J Store”. Please note that some titles are from academic sources (thus receiving peer review and industry critique for methodology) and others are from recreational enthusiasts. All materials should be received with a discerning mind… never on blind faith.

  • Serpent of the Nile: Woman and Dance in the Arab World by Wendy Buonaventura (new edition issued 2009, some discretion advisable due to flawed methodologies)
  • Bellydance: Orientalism, Transnationalism and Harem Fantasy Edited by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young
  • Tribal Bible by Kajira Djoumana (first recording of genre’s early history)
  • Harem: The World Behind the Veil by Alev Lytle Croutier
  • When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm by Layne Redmond (sources not cited properly with unfounded assertions, but still interesting to consider.       *Out of print 2010)
  • A Trade Like Any Other:  Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt by Karin Van Nieuwkerk
  • Dancing Fear and Desire:  Race, Sexuality, & Imperial Politics in Middle Eastern Dance by Stavros Stavrou Karayanni
  • Reel Bad Arabs:  How Hollywood Vilifies a People by Jack G. Shaheen
  • Beyond the Veil:  Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society by Fatima Mernissi
  • The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam by Fatima Mernissi
  • The Arab World Handbook by James Peters
  • The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives by Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon
  • Belly Dance Around the World:  New Communities, Performance and Identity edited by Caitlin E. McDonald and Barbara Sellers-Young
  • Before They Were Belly Dancers:  European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760 – 1870 by Kathleen W. Fraser
  • You Asked Aunt Rocky:  Answers and Advice About Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi by Morocco (C. Varga Dinicu)

Learning about Patriarchy, Orientalism

and Imperialist Agency in the West

“Belly dance” is a form deeply influenced by commercialism, imperialism and the highly motivated agendas of the male gaze. Unwittingly, dancers may script themselves to be agents in the complicit perpetuation of their own manipulation. The readings below can assist dancers in reclaiming sovereignty in the genre, and chose how their own dancing bodies communicate meaning to others.

  • The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler
  • In Search of the Lost Feminine: Decoding the Myths That Radically Reshaped Civilization by Craig S. Barnes
  • The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege in America by Robert Jensen
  • The Centerfold Syndrome: How Men Can Overcome Objectification and Achieve Intimacy with Women by Gary Brooks
  • Dear White America: A Letter to the New Minority by Tim Wise
  • Dancing Across Borders: America’s Fascination with Exotic Dance Forms by Anthony Shay
  • Researching Dance: Evolving Modes of Inquiry edited by Sondra Horton Fraleigh and Penelope Hanstein
  • Androgyny: The Opposites Within by June Singer
  • Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing edited by Margot Badran and Miriam Cooke
  • The Good Tourist: An Ethical Traveler’s Guide by Lucy Popescu
  • Orientalism by Edward Said
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
  • Women and Gender in Islam by Leila Ahmed

Learning About Hidden Bias, Privilege,

Historical Trauma and Allyship

Much of the developing body of literature about biases has been generated within a binary of African Americaness and European Americaness, but ALL of us can learn from these conversation starters.  Learning to build stamina for discomfort and persevering towards understanding is a responsibility all of us share in light of our global citizenship.

  • Blind Spot:  The Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
  • Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict by Donna Hicks Ph.D and Desmond Tutu
  • Difficult Conversations:  How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone
  • Courageous Conversations About Race:  A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools by Glenn E. Singleton and Curtis W. Wallace Linton
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria:  And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • The Heart of Whiteness:  Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege by Robert Jensen
  • Breaking Cycles of Repetition:  A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizel
  • The Ethics of Remembering and the Consequences of Forgetting:  Essays on Trauma, History and Memory by Michael O’Loughlin and Claude Barbre
  • Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity by Robert Jensen
  • Whistling Vivaldi:  How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele
  • The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Teaching Critical Thinking by Bell Hooks
  • Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone
  • White Like Me:  Reflections on Race by a Privileged Son by Tim Wise
  • Dear White America:   Letter to a New Minority by Tim Wise
  • (Article) Nothing to add: A Challenge to White Silence in Racial Discussions by Robin DiAngelo
  • (Article) Calling In: Strategies for Cultivating Humility and Critical Thinking in Antiracism Education by Robin DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy
  • (Article) White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy MacIntosh
  • (Article) White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • (Article)  Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • (Article) A Note on Call-Out Culture by Asam Ahmad
  • (Article) No, We Won’t Calm Down-Tone Policing is Just Another Way to Protect Privilege by Robot Hugs/Everyday Feminism
  • (Article) So You Call Yourself an Ally:  10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know

Learning About Somatic Intelligence,

Embodiment and Alignment

It’s easy to spot a well-trained and practiced dancer. Cultivating subtlety, nuance, precision and polish in one’s dancing can be a fascinating and rewarding journey if a productive training approach is used. The benefits of an intelligent body not only affect dance, but also enhance your general well-being and comfort throughout life. The body IS intelligent: the heart beats, food is digested, cells renew, hair grows, your entire body has turned itself over anew with the generation of new cells every 7 years–all without our conscious monitoring.   In fact, the body cannot lie and is incapable of deception. When it no longer has the resources to fulfill the functions requested of it, unbalance is revealed with undeniable physical symptoms. Rather than suppressing this communication from the body, we can open our awareness to this inherent intelligence. Our body then becomes a companion in life, rather than an inconvenient burden we are subjected to. Inhabiting the body may not always be comfortable, but we will no longer perceive ourselves as victims of the body’s unfolding and maturing. For those who dance, this intelligence has an added dimension with an ever-quickening dialogue. It is fertile ground for endless creative play.

 

  • Sensing, Feeling and Action by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Guests
  • A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
  • Science of Flexibility by Michael J. Alter
  • Wisdom of the Body Moving: An Introduction to Body-Mind Centering by Linda Hartley
  • Caught Falling:  The Confluence of Contact Improvisation by Nancy Stark Smith
  • Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology by Karen Sue Clippinger
  • Relax Your Neck, Liberate Your Shoulders by Eric Franklin
  • Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery by Eric Franklin
  • Women’s Strength Training Anatomy by Frédéric Delavier
  • Illustrated Atlas of Musculoskeletal Anatomy by Dr. Patrick Barron
  • Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health by Thomas Hanna
  • Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit by Donna Farhi
  • The Breathing Book: Vitality and Good Health Through Essential Breath Work by Donna Farhi
  • The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice by George Feuerstein and Ken Wilbur
  • Journey Into Power: How to Sculpt Your Ideal Body, Free Your True Self, and Transform Your Life With Yoga by Baron Baptiste
  • Anatomy for Hatha Yoga: a Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners by H. David Coulter
  • The Yoga Matrix (Audio Lecture Series) by Richard Freeman
  • Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists by Thomas Meyers
  • The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation and Commentary by George Feuerstein
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  • Body Movement/Coping with the Environment by Andrea Olsen
  • Taking Root to Fly by Irene Dowd
  • Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais
  • The Mirror of Yoga:  Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind by Richard Freeman

Transnationalism and the Impact of Information Technology in Dance Arts

  • Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality by Elias Aboujaoude
  • Sharing the World by Luce Inigary
  • Worlding Dance edited by Susan Leigh Foster
  • Performance, Ethics and Spectatorship in a Global Age (Studies in International Peformance) by Helena Grehan
  • Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet by Lisa Nakamura
  • Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement by Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff
  • Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World edited by Trevor J. Blank
  • The Sociology of Globalization by Luke Martell
  • Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance & Cultural Studies by Jane Desmond
  • Dance in a World of Change: Reflections on Globalization and Cultural Difference edited by Sherry B Shapiro
  • The Other History of Intercultural Performance by Coco Fusco
  • Diasporas in the new Media Age: Identity, Politics and Community edited by Andoni Alonso and Pedro J. Oiarzabal
  • The Truth About Truth Edited by Walter Truett Anderson
  • Practices of Looking:  And Introduction to Visual Culture by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright

 

Artistic Inspiration, Composition, Creativity

and Related Musical Considerations

  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • The Intimate Act of Choreography by Lynne Anne Blom
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Creativity:  the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszemtmihalyi
  • Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People by Robert S. Root-Bernstein and Michele M. Root-Bernstein
  • Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel C. Dennett
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko
  • Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and The Arts by Stephen Nachmanovitch
  • Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner
  • Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip Hop by Joseph G. Schloss
  • The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., and Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Recommended Reading for Instructors/Performers

  • Dancers Talking Dance: Critical Evaluation in the Choreography Class by Larry Lavender
  • Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process:  A Method for Getting Useful Feedback on Anything You Make, From Dance to Desserty by Liz Lerman and John Borstel
  • Dance Injuries: Their Prevention and Care by Daniel D. Arnheim
  • Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader edited by Ann Dils and Ann Cooper Albright
  • Looking Out: Perspectives on Dance and Criticism in a Multicultural World edited by David Gere
  • Researching Dance: Evolving Modes of Inquiry edited by Sondra Horton Fraleigh and Penelope Hanstein
  • Cultural Bodies: Ethnography and Theory edited by Helen Thomas and Jamilah Ahmed
  • The Handbook of Emotion Regulation edited by James J. Gross
  • Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
  • We Cant’ Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools by Gary R. Howard
  • Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn E. Singleton and Curtis Linton

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