Society of Dance History Scholars
Awards Announcement — May, 2015

The Society of Dance History Scholars is pleased to announce its annual awards for 2015. These prestigious awards support the work of dance scholars at various stages of their careers. The Selma Jeanne Cohen Award, Graduate Student Travel Grants, Gertrude Lippincott Award, and The de la Torre Bueno Prize will be awarded at a special ceremony during the joint conference (co-produced with CORD, The Congress on Research in Dance), “Cut & Paste: Dance Advocacy in the Age of Austerity” Athens, Greece. All awards will be presented during the joint SDHS/CORD membership luncheon on Saturday, June 6th, 2015.

The de la Torre Bueno Prize

This year’s winner of The de la Torre Bueno Prize® is Prarthana Purkayastha, Plymouth University, UK, for Indian Modern Dance, Feminism and Transnationalism, in New World Choreographies series, eds. Rachel Fensham & Peter M. Boenisch (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Rebecca Rossen of the University of Texas-Austin, USA, receives a Special Citation for her book Dancing Jewish: Jewish Identity in American Modern and Postmodern Dance (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Since 1973 SDHS has annually awarded The de la Torre Bueno Prize® to the year’s most distinguished book of dance scholarship. Named after José Rollins de la Torre Bueno, the first university press editor to develop a list in dance studies, the Bueno Prize has set the standard for scholarly excellence in the field for more than thirty years. This year’s committee members: Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt, Susan Cook, and Sarah Davies Cordova.

  • Prarthana Purkayastha, Indian Modern Dance, Feminism and Transnationalism. Prarthana Purkayastha’s eminently readable study traces the emergence of five Indian modern dance-makers whose works between 1900 and 2000 are characterised by experimentation in modernism and politics in response to the Indian subcontinent’s colonial, national and transnational positions throughout the twentieth century. Expanding on established perceptions of Indian dance, these carefully researched five case studies reveal Tagore, Shankar, Bardhan and the Sircars as artists that share Bengali lineage and use Bengali cultural experiences to make dance(s) that reflect upon and embody gendered strategic political moves under British imperial rule and thereafter. Purkayastha draws upon her extensive understanding of the century’s history, her archival documentation, letters, rarely seen photographs, dance film footage, and oral histories to contextualise and analyse the practices, the gendered political counter-praxis to colonial Empire, and the dancing itself in performance and training. In following the creations of five dancers and choreographers from Bengal, this study establishes a genealogy of Modern Indian dance that complicates established narratives of Indian dance.Informed by western/northern hemispheric dance research, feminist theoretical and danced approaches, colonial and post-colonial theory of diasporic Indian dance and dance in India as well as her embodied practice and training, Purkayastha delineates significant webs of interconnections between these artists whose works are in dialogue with the modernity of twentieth-century international dance.

  • Rebecca Rossen, Dancing Jewish: Jewish Identity in American Modern and Postmodern Dance. Rebecca Rossen traces a rich history of American Jewish choreographers from 1930 to 2005, exploring how, by “dancing Jewish,” they navigate issues related to identity and gender, advance social and political agendas, and have established themselves as key contributors to American modern and postmodern dance. The well crafted text is the result of much archival work, numerous performer interviews, and rich movement descriptions, enhanced by more than 50 images as well as a companion web site that provides access to 51 clips from 15 dances. Overall, the book’s dialogic quality and its multifaceted nature combine to intervene significantly in determining the contributions of Jewish dancing bodies to dance and to Jewish cultural history.

Gertrude Lippincott Award

Sherril Dodds, Professor of Dance, Temple University, receives the esteemed Gertrude Lippincott Award this year for “The Choreographic Interface: Dancing Facial Expression in Hip-Hop and Neo-Burlesque Striptease” (Dance Research Journal 46:Special Issue 02, pp. 39–56). The Lippincott is awarded annually to the best English-language article published in dance studies. Named in honor of its donor, a dedicated teacher of modern dance in the midwestern United States and mentor for many students, it was established to recognize excellence in the field of dance scholarship. The award carries a cash purse of $500. The award committee members were Clare Parfitt-Brown, Cindy Garcia, and Lisa Uytterhoeven.

  • In her article, Professor Dodds issues a call to arms, or rather, a call to the face. Using a direct and arresting writing style, Dodds identifies the face as a blind spot in dance research, and urges dance scholars to join her in reclaiming the face as an integral part of the dancing body that, nevertheless, has a distinct role in the production of meaning. The article is grounded in a critical engagement with Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of faciality, as well as Darwinian universalism, Richard Schechner’s perspectives on acting, J.L Austin and Judith Butler’s concepts of performativity and Phillip Auslander’s “guitar face.” From this discussion, Dodds develops the notion of the choreographic inter/face/, foregrounding interactions between the face, other body parts and other dancing faces. The usefulness of this concept is demonstrated through two popular dance examples, the hip-hop dancer Virgil “Lil O” Gadson, and a performance by neo-burlesque striptease artist Darlinda Just Darlinda. Dodds’s article exemplifies how attention to popular dance practices can reveal and challenge the assumptions underlying dance studies methodologies and ways of seeing constructed around “art dance.” Her argument has implications not just for popular dance studies, but also for dance studies more broadly, performances studies and beyond. It this broad contribution to scholarship, as well as the article’s eloquence and clarity, that renders the article deserving of the highest recognition.

Selma Jeanne Cohen Award

Naomi Bragin of the University of California, Berkeley and Brianna Figueroa of the University of Texas at Austin were awarded the 2015 Selma Jeanne Cohen awards. This award is of special significance as it recognizes outstanding English-language papers by graduate students who demonstrate excellence in dance scholarship. Named in recognition of Selma Jeanne Cohen’s great contributions to dance history, SDHS inaugurated an award in her name at the 1995 conference to encourage graduate student involvement in SDHS and the larger dance studies community. This award includes an invitation to present a paper at the 2015 conference, waiver of the registration fee for that conference, and a grant to help defray costs of attending the conference. Awards are based on the originality of the research, the rigor of the argument, and the clarity of the writing. The award committee members were Kathrina Farrugia-Kriel, Anusha Kedhar, and Victoria Fortuna.

  • Naomi Bragin (PhD Candidate, Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA). In her paper “Global Street Dance and Libidinal Economy,” Naomi Bragin offers a sophisticated analysis of global street dance. She presents a compelling argument around how street dance circulates within the libidinal economy of black performance. The theoretical intervention within her writing offers compelling reading and the concept of choreo-centricity evokes an original contribution to the field that will shape future work on street dance in global context. Bragin’s work moves across a breadth of examples and methods/methodologies, including ethnography, close reading, and embodied knowledge of author. The adjudicating panel recognised Bragin’s work as an examplar of excellence in graduate work.

  • Brianna Figueroa (PhD Candidate, Department of Theatre and Dance, University of Texas at Austin,USA). In “Economies of The Flesh: Scripting Puerto Rican Colonial History Through Dance,” Brianna Figueroa offers an exemplary conference paper that elicits a well-paced and cogently-shaped argument. Her work draws out an embodied dance, the Puertorriqueño body, as a unique site for recuperating silenced cultural memory. The writing engages an undeveloped area of dance studies (Latina/o concert dance) and Figueroa reminds her audience and her reader that (post)colonialism is/was a process carried out through bodies. Poignant questions aide to motivate and articulate the line of enquiry and Figeuroa’s work eloquently weaves together shards of theories, memories and analyses of bodies that move through contemporary political contexts. These specific qualities illustrate excellence in Figueroa’s graduate work.

Graduate Student Travel Grants

Graduate Student Travel Grants for the 2015 SDHS/CORD conference, “Cut & Paste: Dance Advocacy in the Age of Austerity,” have been awarded to Celena Monteiro (University of Chichester), “Screening Subjects: Transnational Dancehall Queen Culture in a Social Media Age,” Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh (University of California, Berkeley), “Does Iranian Dance Need Saving? The Politics of Preservation in the 1st International Iranian Dance Conference,” and Maria Eugenia Cadus (Buenos Aires University, Argentina), “Electra (1950): Argentine Ballet and Welfare Democratization in a Mass Public Event of First Peronism.” Committee members were Chiayi Seetoo, Michael Bodel, and Jasmine Johnson.

  • Among a wide field of applicants, Monteiro, Rastovac Akbarzadeh, and Cadus stood out for their compelling and cohesive proposals, which evidenced strong scholarship and contextualization within this year’s conference, as well clear rationale for attendance. The clarity and conceptual rigor behind these three proposals will add to the conference’s critical dialogue on globalization, nationality, evolving identities, and dance’s ability to represent and resist political agenda. The committee has made the decision based on 1) coherence and strength of application in relation to the conference theme, 2) need for funds, and 3) the extent to which the attendance of the conference furthers their research. We commend these three scholars and look forward to their future contributions to the field.

SDHS publications

Studies in Dance History SDHS’s monograph series, published by University of Wisconsin Press, answers a growing demand for works that provide fresh analytical perspectives on dancing, dancers, and dances in a global context. Read more...

[cover of 2015 Conversations] Issued yearly in early spring generally, Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies reflects the dynamic and diverse membership of SDHS. We seek to bring you themes and debates current in the field of dance studies and the profession, alongside news from the international community of scholars in dance and related disciplines. Read more...

  • 2018 DSA Inaugural Conference
    Contra: Dance & Conflict
    July 5-8, 2018
    The University of Malta, Valetta, Malta
    Click here for the Call for Proposals

SDHS announces this year’s award recipients. Awards will be presented at the SDHS/CORD conference.

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