Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dancing down the floor: Experiences of 'community' in a West African dance class in Philadelphia
by Johnson, Julie B., Ph.D., Temple University, 2016, 247; 10144390
Abstract (Summary)

'Community' is a multivalent concept, subject to a plurality of contexts and constructs that can alter and shift its meaning. As a dance artist, I have encountered myriad understandings and manifestations of 'community' through dance practice, and perceive an intrinsic relationship between dance and 'community.' A 'West African' dance class in Philadelphia — designated as a 'community-based' class by the instructor — provides a rich opportunity to excavate this relationship. The class, one of several offered throughout the city, is located in West Philadelphia. It is an intergenerational class attended by a diverse demographic of participants (race/ethnicity, gender, profession, class, age, ability, etc.) with an array of motivations and goals for participating in class (as made evident through conversations and interviews). All are welcome to attend, regardless of previous experience or skill level in 'West African' dance.

My dissertation is a qualitative research study that examines participant experiences and interpretations of 'community,' with attention paid to the socio-cultural/political context of 'West African' dance in the United States, specifically in Philadelphia. Methodologically, this study is situated in sensory ethnography, philosophically oriented in community based participatory research, and draws from phenomenological strategies towards gathering lived experience data. Lived experiences of 'community' are placed in conversation with literature concerned with theories and constructions of 'community' from a range of disciplines, as well as texts that interrogate the historical, sociocultural and political contexts which frame 'West African' dance within the United States. As a member of this particular 'West African' dance class, I situate my own experiences within that of the collective, migrating inward and outward between personal reflection and participant narratives. As such this investigation lies at the intersection of subjective, intersubjective, and cultural knowledge.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Welsh, Kariamu
Commitee: Bond, Karen, Melzer, Patricia, Welsh, Kariamu, Williams-Witherspoon, Kimmika
School: Temple University
Department: Dance
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 77/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Dance
Keywords: Community, Dance, Philadelphia, West African dance
Publication Number: 10144390
ISBN: 978-1-339-99552-6
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