Dancing Indigenous Worlds

Choreographies of Relation

2022
Author:

Jacqueline Shea Murphy

The vital role of dance in enacting the embodied experiences of Indigenous peoples

Jacqueline Shea Murphy brings contemporary Indigenous dance makers into the spotlight, putting critical dance studies and Indigenous studies in conversation with one another in fresh and exciting new ways. Exploring Indigenous dance from North America and Aotearoa (New Zealand), she shows how dance artists communicate Indigenous ways of being, and generate a political force, engaging Indigenous understandings and histories.

This remarkable text effectively establishes Indigenous dance studies as a vibrant time-based field of inquiry. Crafting theoretical models in direct relationship to repeated practices of witnessing and experiencing, Jacqueline Shea Murphy models a rich future for scholarship as a shared encounter among stakeholders to performance. Urgent, important, and written to endure as a document of continued creativity, Dancing Indigenous Worlds confirms the intellectual possibilities of translating gesture to text and of moving with care.

Thomas F. DeFrantz, Northwestern University

In Dancing Indigenous Worlds, Jacqueline Shea Murphy brings contemporary Indigenous dance makers into the spotlight, putting critical dance studies and Indigenous studies in conversation with one another in fresh and exciting new ways. Exploring Indigenous dance from North America and Aotearoa (New Zealand), she shows how dance artists communicate Indigenous ways of being, as well as generate a political force, engaging Indigenous understandings and histories.

Following specific dance works over time, Shea Murphy interweaves analysis, personal narrative, and written contributions from multiple dance artists, demonstrating dance’s crucial role in asserting and enacting Indigenous worldviews and the embodied experiences of Indigenous peoples. As Shea Murphy asserts, these dance-making practices not only disrupt the structures that European colonization feeds on and strives to maintain but they can also recalibrate contemporary dance.

Based on more than twenty years of relationship building and research, Shea Murphy’s work engages with growing, and largely underreported, discourses on decolonizing dance studies, and the geopolitical, gendered, racial, and relational meanings that dance theorizes and negotiates. She also includes discussions about the ethics of writing about Indigenous knowledge and peoples as a non-Indigenous scholar, and models approaches for doing so within structures of ongoing reciprocal, respectful, responsible action.

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Cover alt text: Backlit performer on a hazy stage, garbed minimally in white cloth, pulling a train of fabric, beneath a projected image of a curtain and clouds.

Jacqueline Shea Murphy is associate professor of dance at the University of California–Riverside. She is the author of The People Have Never Stopped Dancing: Native American Modern Dance Histories (Minnesota, 2007) and founder of the ICR (Indigenous Choreographers at Riverside) Gathering project.

This remarkable text effectively establishes Indigenous dance studies as a vibrant time-based field of inquiry. Crafting theoretical models in direct relationship to repeated practices of witnessing and experiencing, Jacqueline Shea Murphy models a rich future for scholarship as a shared encounter among stakeholders to performance. Urgent, important, and written to endure as a document of continued creativity, Dancing Indigenous Worlds confirms the intellectual possibilities of translating gesture to text and of moving with care.

Thomas F. DeFrantz, Northwestern University