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 note that some of the materials do not align in viewpoints or theoretical approach. This is intentional, and I hope to encourage your intellectual hunger for locating your own perspectives within them. Please drop a line if you find something interesting that can be posted to this resource page.  Enjoy!

Suggested/Categorized Reading List

Compiled by Donna Mejia


History of Arabic Dance and Perspectives on Transnational Fusion

Transnational 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
  • Women between Submission and Freedom: An Interpretation of Social and Political Misogyny by Huda Sharawi
  • 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, Equity, Social Justice 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.

  • Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa
  • Blind Spot:  The Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
  • Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • The Racial Contract by Charles Mills
  • Understanding Critical Race Research Methods and Methodologies edited by Jessica T. CeCuir-Gumby, Thandeka K. Chapman and Paul Schutz
  • Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others by David Livingston Smith
  • Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne
  • 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
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality by Adam Rutherford
  • My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem
  • 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
  • Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism by Derrick Bell
  • BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People by Bill Eddy
  • An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States by Kyle T. Mays
  • Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom by Matthew R. Kay
  • The Heart of Whiteness:  Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege by Robert Jensen
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Lerner
  • Racism Without Racists: Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • 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
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You (Remixed) by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
  • Taking the War Out of Our Words by Sharon Strand Ellison
  • The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing by Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, LPC
  • Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity by Robert Jensen
  • The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby
  • 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
  • The New Multilateralism: Diplomacy, International Organizations, and Global Governance by James P. Muldoon Fr.
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
  •  Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices by Pauline Kerr
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Student Engagement in Higher Education : theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations / edited by Stephen John Quaye, Shaun R. Harper
  • (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
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations that Accelerate Change by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon
  • It’s Your World, So Change It by Tom Head
  • Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together for a Just and Sustainable Future by Linda Stout
  • Working Side by Side: Creating Alternative Breaks as Catalysts for Global Learning, Student Leadership, and Social Change by Shoshana Sumka
  • Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference. Facilitation and activity guide by Wendy Wagner
  • Interculturalism: the New Era of Cohesion and Diversity by Ted Cantle
  • Acting White?: Rethinking Race in “Post-Racial” America by Devon W. Carbado and Mitu Gulati
  • Diversity Conversations: Finding Common Ground by Eric M.
  • Promoting Diversity and Social Justice: Educating People From Privileged Groups by Diane J. Goodman
  • Engaging Social Justice: Critical Studies of 21st Century Social
  • Social justice. Opposing Viewpoints Series edited by David Haugen et al
  • The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections From Social Justice Educators edited by Lisa M. Landreman
  • Learning as a Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice by Stephen Preskill and Stephen D. Brookfield
  • What if ?: Short Stories to Spark Diversity Dialogue by Steve L. Robbins
  • The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them by Joseph E. Stiglitz
  • Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue
  • Understanding Transgender Diversity: A Sensible Explanation of Sexual and Gender Identities by Claire Ruth Winter
  • In it for the Long Haul: Overcoming Burnout and Passion Fatigue as Social Justice Change Agents by Kathy Obear
  • Turn the Tide: Rise Above Toxic, Difficult Situations in the Workplace by Kathy Obear
  • I Never Thought of It That Way by Monica Guzman
  • Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown
  • The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

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.

  • My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP
  • The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
  • Hakomi Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice by Haiko Weiss, Greg Johnson and Lorena Monda
  • Minding Bodies: How Physical Space, Sensation, and Movement Affect learning
  • Somatic Psychotherapy Toolbox by Manuela Mischke-Reeds
  • In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter Levine
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van Der Kolk M.D.
  • 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
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee
  • 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
  • The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar
  • Touching the Invisible: A Field Guide for Living by Jacqueline Westhead
  • How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
  • 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

Consiousness, Mindfulness, and Meditation

  • Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton
  • Moving Inward: The Journey to Meditation by Rolf Savik
  • Yoga of the Subtle Body: a Guide to the Physical and Energetic Anatomy of Yoga by Tias Little
  • Psychic Witch: a Metaphysical Guide to Meditation, Magick and Manifestation by Mat Auryn
  • Activation of Energy: Enlightening Reflections on Spiritual Energy by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • A Queer Dharma: Yoga and Meditations for Liberation by Jacoby Ballard
  • Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out by Ruth King
  • The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing ourselves and Transforming our Communities by Rhonda V. Magee
  • Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation & Awakened Clarity by Tracee Stanley
  • Consciousness and the Brain by Michael S.A. Groziano
  • How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

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 Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. by Daniel Coyle
    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

  • Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant RTeaching in Theory, Research and Practice by Nyama McCarthy-Brown
  • 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
  • Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incoporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation
  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks
  • Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson PsyD
  • 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
  • The Vulnerable Heart of Literacy: Centering Trauma as Powerful Pedagogy by Elizabeth Dutro

Summaries of Donna Mejia’s Keynote Lectures

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!

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

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!

Second Steps:  Courageous Conversations in the Middle of Cultural Collisions

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.

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.

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)

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 Transnational Fusion Dance 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, Transnational 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.

Dance in Cultural Perception and Expression

Dance is a ubiquitous practice found in all human cultures. This lecture examines the ways in which dance signifies, reinforces, subverts, challenges and transfers the norms, values, stories and ideals of a given culture.  For our purposes, we will define “culture” as a categorical display of customs, attire, language, norms and values signifying membership of a defined and recognizable group.  Hence, we will study cultures grouped by nationality, geographic proximity, ethnicity and self-selected membership (sub-cultures within nationalities).   We will survey critical ethnographic practices, always attending to our assumptions, positionality and agency during evaluation.   This lecture includes introductory exposure (primarily through films and experiential movement) to a range of dance traditions throughout the globe: classical and contemporary, urban and rural, secular and sacredly transcendental, performance-based and therapeutically oriented.  Participants will develop their observations with increasing sophistication and discernment for the complexities, varieties and functions of dance in the human experience.

Deconstructing Gender Norms

Let’s tackle our blind spots caused by scripted gender norms, expectations and social indoctrinations. Our discussion will explore important updates from the field of gender studies, and explore how our flawed assumptions about gender complicate and compound our power-differentials in the workplace and in life. Please bring your sense of humor and adventure for a lively conversation!

Deep Dive into the Art of Disagreement

Difficult/Painful Conversations: This fireside chat with Donna Mejia explores the art of disagreement. How do we disagree with supervisors, peers and family members all with different idiosyncrasies and temperaments? We’ll be looking at tools from the field of diplomacy, mediation, and surprisingly… animal companion training! As usual, please bring your sense of humor and adventure for a lively conversation. 

  1. Althea Aschmann

    OMG Donna Mejia, you just opened up a whole new world to me! Just checked out this website after meeting you at RAW Epiphany

  2. Thank you so much, Donna! Nara , Brazil

  1. Pingback: A Guide to Belly Dance Styles - Jen Belly Dance

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