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DANCE 250 A: Cross-Cultural Dance Studies

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Juliet McMains
Juliet McMains

Syllabus Description:

Download full syllabus:syllabus250_16.docx

Dance 250

Cross-Cultural Dance Studies

Winter 2016

Course Time: MWF 2:30–4:20

Course Location: Savery 156 (MW), Meany 267 (F)

Instructor: Dr. Juliet McMains


Office: Meany 260

Office Hours: Thursdays 10-11am and by apt


COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will introduce students to a wide range of dance forms from around the world. We will engage in cross-cultural analysis on two levels. First, our efforts to make sense of dances’ meanings will often require stretching beyond our own cultural frames of reference. Secondly, we will also strive to compare dance forms from different parts of the world to each other, noting ways in which divergent cultures have points of convergence. Given such a vast range of possible dance styles, we will be limited to only a small selection of dance practices, although our scope will be broad, spanning several continents. I have chosen to exclude ballet and modern dance from our subjects of study because other courses offered in this department focus on the history of those traditions. My choices were based on availability of resources as well as an attempt to balance a variety of forms from differing geographic regions, serving varying social, religious, and political functions. The dance forms we will examine and experience are not necessarily the most popular or most important dance forms of the world, but I hope they will introduce you to the diversity of rich and varied movement practices around the globe. We will look at each dance phenomenon we study through three analytical lenses: close movement analysis, historical analysis, and cultural/social analysis.

In addition to readings, lectures, discussions, and viewings about dance forms, we will be learning about many dance practices through physical experience. Whenever possible, we will have a dance practicum (movement class) in the form we are studying. The point of these classes will not be to master the movement forms introduced but to have some physical experience of the movement, even if only at the very beginning level. Please come to class with appropriate attire (flexible exercise clothes, unless otherwise specified) for each dance practicum.


Learning Objectives:

Students who successfully engage with course material should:

  • Learn about a variety of world dance forms and the social, historical, and political contexts in which they are practiced
  • Develop awareness and sensitivity to cross-cultural differences
  • Improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills
  • Develop observational, descriptive, and analytical skills in relation to dance
  • Become familiar with world dance resources in the Seattle community and build connections that may extend into the future


Participation: A majority of learning in this course will happen in the classroom. Each class will offer a combination of lectures, viewings, discussions, and embodied experiences that cannot be learned without your physical presence in the classroom. You are expected to come to class having studied the day’s reading assignments. Class participation is 10% of your final grade, so think carefully about the assignments prior to class so that you have something to contribute. Credit will be awarded for active listening in class discussion, although if you hope to receive more than a 90% for class participation, you will need to verbally contribute to the discussion on a regular basis. Active participation in each dance practicum is expected. You will not be graded on your dance ability, only on your effort in class. Missing more than three classes during the quarter will negatively affect your class participation grade. Each additional missed class will reduce your participation grade by 5%.


Readings: Readings can be found Course Reader available for purchase at RAMS Copy Center, 4144 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105. (206) 632-6630.You are expected to do the readings prior to the class for which they are assigned.


Reading Response Questions: A reading guide with a list of discussion questions to answer in writing before class will be posted online for each day’s reading assignments. Please download the reading guide and answer the questions (may be either hand written or typed). You can either submit your typed responses online before class, or bring them with you to show at the beginning of class. Reading responses will be graded as follows:

10 points for each completed on-time reading response

5 points for each completed late reading response

Incomplete readings responses may be given fewer points

I will drop your lowest two reading response scores


Reading Response Paper: Each student is expected to complete one formal response paper in reaction to one of the readings the first week of the quarter. Please see canvas for response paper guidelines.


Close Movement Analysis Paper: Students will be required to attend the Dance Faculty Concert in Meany Studio Theatre on one of the following dates:

January 20, 21, 22, 23                        7:30PM

January 24                              2:00PM


Student tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the UW Arts Ticket Office, 1313 NE 41st Street, 206-543-4880. Students are responsible for purchasing their own tickets. After attending the concert, students will write a short (1 page) close movement analysis of a section of the concert. Please see canvas for paper guidelines.


Mid-term Exam: There will be an in-class mid-term exam on Wednesday, February 3 worth 15% of your final grade.


Final Exam: There will be a final exam at 2:30pm on Tuesday, March 15 worth 13% of your final grade.


Dance 250 Research Project:

You will be conducting a research project on a dance practice of your own choosing. The project will involve some library research as well as some ethnographic research in a dance class, performance or social dance. The research project will be divided into six sections, some of which you will complete with a partner and some on your own. Please refer to the guidelines posted on the course website for detailed instructions for each stage of the project, but the basic outline is listed below.


Stage I:     Form a group (2 people) and choose a dance form to study.

Stage II:    Attend at least one class or event at which this dance form is practiced and take fieldnotes about the experience. Fieldwork should consist of observation, participation, and interviews.

Stage III:   Find two scholarly articles written about the dance form you have chosen to study and write response papers on these articles.

Stage IV:   Develop research questions and identify sources for your final paper.

Stage V:   Develop a thesis and write a 3–4 page paper using examples from your research to prove the thesis

Stage VI:   Each group will prepare a 10-minute oral presentation to present some aspect of the research to the rest of the class.


Optional W-Credit: If you would like to receive W-credit for this class, you will need to do the following:

  • Write a longer (8–10 pages) paper for stage V
  • Turn in a first draft of your final paper by February 29
  • Revise and turn in a final draft of your paper by March 11


Due Dates: Please take note of the following due dates.

Response Paper I: Friday, January 8

Project Stage I – Group and Topic: Friday, January 15

Project Stage II – Fieldnotes: Friday, January 22

Close Movement Analysis Study: Wednesday, January 27

Mid-term Exam – Wednesday, February 3

Project Stage III – Scholarly Article Response: Friday, February 12

Project Stage IV – Research Question & Sources: Friday, February 19

Project Stage V – Tentative Thesis: Wednesday, March 2

Project Stage V – Paper: Friday, March 11

Project Stage VI – Oral Presentations: March 7 & 9

Final Exam – Tuesday, March 15 at 2:30pm



Final Grades will be determined based on the following percentages:


Reading Question Responses         10%

Response paper                              5%

Class participation                         10%

Close Movement Analysis Study  7%

Stage II: Fieldnotes                         10%

Stage III: Article Response     10%

Stage V: Final Paper                10%

Stage VI: Oral Presentation     10%

Midterm Exam                        15%

Final Exam                              13%




Week 1

Monday January 4 – Tools for Close Movement Analysis


Wednesday, January 6 – African Dance

READING: Asante, Kariamu Welsh. “Commonalities in African Dance: An Aesthetic Foundation.” In Moving History/ Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader, edited by Ann Dils & Ann Cooper Albright, 144–151. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

READING: Gottschild, Brenda Dixon. “Stripping the Emperor: The Africanist Presence in American Concert Dance.” In Moving History/ Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader, edited by Ann Dils & Ann Cooper Albright, 332–341. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

READING: Smith, Phylisé. “African American Women Gender Identity and West African Dance.” Choreography and Dance, 5.1 (1998): 7178


Friday, January 8 – African Dance Practicum with guest Etienne Cakpo

ÞResponse Paper Due: Asante, Gottschild, or Smith



Week 2

Monday, January 11 – Tap

READING: Sommer, Sally. “Feet, Talk to me! Tap Dance and How it Got That Way.” Dance Magazine. September 1988. 56–60.


READING: Valis Hill, Constance. “Stepping, Stealing, Sharing, and Daring: Improvisation and the Tap Dance Challenge.” In Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, edited by Ann Cooper Albright and David Gere, 89–102. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.


Wednesday January 13 – Capoeira

READING: Browning, Barbara. “Headspin: Capoeira’s Ironic Inversions.” In Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America, edited by Celeste Fraser Delgado and José Esteban Muñoz, 65–92. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997.


Friday, January 15 – Dance Practicum in Capoeira with guest Professor Mangangáof Seattle Capoeira Center

ÞProject Stage I: Topic and Group Due


Week 3

Monday, January 18 – No class due to MLK Holiday


Wednesday, January 20 Dances of the Cuban Orishas

READING: Daniel, Yvonne. “A Cuban Yoruba Ritual, 1987.” Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomblé. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005. 14–28.


Friday, January 22 – Dance Practicum in Afro-Cuban Dance with guest Reiner Valdes

ÞProject Stage II: Ethnographic Research

January 21­–24: Dance Faculty Concert in Meany Studio Theatre


Week 4

Monday, January 25 – Swing

READING: McMains, Juliet & Danielle Robinson. “Swinging Out: Southern California's Lindy Revival (2000).” In I See America Dancing: Selected Readings, 1685-2000, edited by Maureen Needham, 84–91. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002.


VIEWING: Frankie Manning: Never Stop Swinging


Wednesday, January 27 – Salsa

READING: McMains, Juliet. “Hot Latin Dance: Ethnic Identity and Stereotype.” In The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity, edited by Anthony Shay. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

ÞClose Movement Analysis Study Due

Friday, January 29 – Dance Practicum in Salsa


Week 5

Monday, February 2 – Dance Practicum in Swing


Wednesday, February 3 – Midterm Exam


Friday, February 5 – Dance Practicum in Bollywood


Week 6

Monday, February 8 – Bharatanatyam & Bollywood

READING: Shresthova, Sangita. “More Indian than India? Bollywood Dance in Los Angeles.” Chapter 5 in Is It All About Hips? : Around the World with Bollywood Dance. New Delhi: Sage, 2011.


Wednesday, February 10 – Flamenco

READING: Hayes, Michelle Heffner. “Desiring Narratives: Flamenco in History and Film.” (Excerpt, 29–43) Chapter 1 in Flamenco: Conflicting Histories of the Dance. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.


READING: Hayes, Michelle Heffner. “‘Somos Anti-Guapas’ – Against Beauty in Contemporary Flamenco.” Chapter 7 in Flamenco: Conflicting Histories of the Dance. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.


Friday, February 12 – Dance Practicum in Flamenco with guest Belén Maya

ÞProject Stage III: Library Research Response Papers Due


Week 7

Monday, February 15 – No Class due to President’s Day Holiday


Wednesday, February 17 – Belly Dance

READING: Adra, Najwa. “Belly Dance: an Urban Folk Genre.” In Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy, edited by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young, 28–50. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2005.


READING: Sellers-Young, Barbara. “Body, Image, Identity: American Tribal Belly Dance.” In Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy, edited by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young, 276–302. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2005.


Friday, February 19 – Dance Practicum in Belly Dance with guest Nadira

ÞProject Stage IV: Research Questions & Sources Due


Week 8

Monday, February 22 – Chinese Folk & Classical Dance

Choose one of the following two articles to read:


READING: Wilcox, Hui. “Movement in Spaces of Liminality: Chinese Dance and Immigrant Identities.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 34, no. 2 (2011): 314–332.


READING: Wilcox, Emily. “Han-Tang Zhongguo Gudianwu and the Problem of Chineseness in Contemporary Chinese Dance: Sixty Years of Creation and Controversy.” Asian Theatre Journal, 29, no. 1 (2012): 206–232.


Wednesday February 24 – Butoh

READING: Crump, Juliette. “ ‘One Who Hears Their Cries’: The Buddhist Ethic of Compassion in Japanese Butoh.” Dance Research Journal 38, no. 1/2 (2006):61–73.


Friday, February 26 – Dance Practicum in Butoh with guest Diana Garcia Snyder

Week 9

Monday, February 29 – Hula

READING: Rowe, Sharon Māhealani Row. “We Dance for Knowledge.” Dance Research Journal 40, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 31–44.


READING: Desmond, Jane. “Let’s Lū’au.” Chap. 1 in Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Weikiki to Seaworld. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Þ Final Paper draft due for students seeking W-credit


Wednesday, March 2 – Writing and Oral Presentation Skills Workshop

VIEWING: Watch an example student oral presentation and of at least one other public speech (such as a TED talk) and note why you think it was successful.

ÞProject Stage V part 1: Tentative Thesis Due


Friday, March 4 – Dance Practicum in Chinese Dance with Hengda Li


Week 10


Monday, March 7 – Oral Presentations (Project Stage VI)


Wednesday, March 9 – Oral Presentations (Project Stage VI)


Friday, March 11 – Dance Practicum in Hula with guest Auntie JoanMarie

ÞProject Stage V, part 2: Final Paper Due


Final Exam: Tuesday, March 15 2:30 pm in Savery 156

Catalog Description: 
Offers a cross-cultural examination of theatrical, social, and sacred dance forms from different Afro-diasporic, Latin, Asian, American, and European cultures. Students compare how racial, ethnic, national, and gender identity are expressed and contested through specific dance practices. Offered: AW.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:13pm