Miriam Phillips

Miriam Phillips
Dance Performance and Scholarship
Academic Rank: 
Assistant Professor
1941 Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

The journey of my scholarly research has paralleled my journey as a dancer. I start with movement itself as I believe that cultural knowledge is inherent within the body and contained in the compositional structures created by movers. My work as a dance ethnologist, Laban movement analyst and dance practitioner illuminates the notion of dance as embodied culture – that is, a people’s values and belief systems are embedded in their dances. Yet the process to discern these worldviews can be ambiguous since dance forms and the functions they serve in people’s lives transform across time and space in response to societal influences.

My work both explores and challenges assumptions of cultural values and meanings intrinsic in dance styles, performance spaces and the people who dance. I am engaged in three overlapping areas of investigation. First, my reflections on the kinesthetic and aesthetic comparisons between North Indian kathak and Spanish flamenco dance began when discovering similarities during years of practicing both forms. Second, performing in and working for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival led me to question the politics of representation and issues of hybridity in staged versions of traditional dance particularly in multicultural festival settings. Third, on invitation from the Yale University Art Gallery to join an interdisciplinary research project in Guinea, West Africa, I began to explore the cross-pollination process between dance in rural communities and their counterpart in nationalized staged versions, as well as the concept of performance as embodied cultural memory. In all three works I explore how dances metamorphosize into different styles, and meanings change as they traverse geographical and cultural spaces, move from one body to another, appear before one spectator to another, and in different performance contexts.  The journey continues; the work unfolds. Below is a sampling of recent word-based activities, with a few performances.


M.A. Dance, specialization in Dance Ethnology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1991.
C.M.A. (Certified Movement Analyst), Laban/ Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, 1990.
B.A. Dance, Mills College, 1981.
Flamenco and kathak dance training and research with several distinguished masters in Spain and India, most notably El Farruco and his family members Los Farrucos, and Birju Maharaj with Saswati Sen (1981-present).

Areas of Specialization/Interest:
Dance Ethnology/Anthropology of Dance; Flamenco, Kathak, Dance of Guinea; Laban Movement Studies. Nationalism; Hybridity; Festival; Politics of Representation; Dance as Embodied Culture; Performance as Cultural Memory; Dance Transmission.

Professional Affiliations:

Affiliate Faculty member, UMD Ethnomusicology 
Congress on Research in Dance (CORD)
Cross-Cultural Dance Resources (CCDR)
International Council of Traditional Music (ICTM) – Ethnochoreology Study Group
Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS)

Representative Publications/Research Activities:

Let’s do a TOROBAKA! "Reconstructing authenticity in the kathak-flamenco collaboration of Akram Khan and Israel Galván," conference presentation: Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) and Society for Dance History Scholars (SDHS): Pomona College, California, Nov 4, 2016.

ReImagining Choreometrics: Access to the World panel with K Bradley, S Wiesner, A Biddle, conference presentation, National Dance Educators Organization (NDEO), Washington, DC, Oct 8, 2016.

“Your Brain on Dance” explored closed-loop visual neurofeedback of evolving brain waves in action and context during flamenco and improvisation dance. Presented with Karen Bradley at the 2016 International Conference on Mobile Brain-Body Imaging and the Neuroscience of Art, Innovation and Creativity, Cancun, Mexico, July 24-27, 2016.

"Spectacle of Ethnicities: The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival" in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity, (Oxford University Press, ISBN: 9780199754281, Ch. 23, Feb 2016).

"Hopeful Futures and Nostalgic Pasts: Explorations into Kathak and Flamenco Dance Collaborations." In Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives, (McFarland Publishers, pp. 42–55, 2015).

"Nostalgic Narratives: Paths Between Kathak-Flamenco Collaborations." In Dance, Narratives, Heritage: 28th Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology (Zagreb, Croatia: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research; ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology, pp. 150–155, 2015).

CORD Awards Panel 2014: “Celebrating the Scholarship of Deidre Sklar—Can Sklar-Lore Be Brought to Its Senses?” Congress on Research in Dance Conference Proceedings, (Cambridge University Press, pp. 13-18, 2015).

Dancing Ireni: Reimaging and Reimagining Alan Lomax’s Choreometrics Project Symposium, (LOC and UMD)  Forrestine Paulay and Meriam Lobel in a conversation with Miriam Phillips, Library of Congress, Washington, DC April 16, 2015http://www.loc.gov/folklife/events/botkin-lectures.html#april16

Re-imaging and Re-imagining Alan Lomax’s Choreometrics, research report. 28th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) Study Group on Ethnochoreology, Korčula, Croatia. July 7-17, 2014. 

"Omnipresent D'mba: Celebrating Female Grace and Ancestral Memory in Baga Performance" in Dancing with D’mba: Icon of Beauty and Power in West Africa (Yale University Press, in process).

 “Beauty and the Beast: The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival’s Global Stage” in Dance and Place; Dance and Festival (Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland 2014).

Three essays: “The Kiss”; “The Straw”; “Flamenco” in Deutch, L. Writing from the Senses: 60 Exercises to Ignite Creativity and Revitalize Your Writing (Shambhala Publications, May 2014).

"Becoming the Floor/Breaking the Floor: Experiencing the Kathak-Flamenco Connection." Ethnomusicology (University of Illinois Press, Fall 2013).

"Ambos lados del espejo: kathak y flamenco frente a frente." [Both Sides of the Mirror: Kathak and Flamenco Revealed.] Centrífuga (Mexico City: Conaculta-Inba, Invierno 2012).

 “D’mba Lost and Found: the Discovery, Destruction, Construction and Reconstruction of Baga Masked Dance in Traditional Villages of Guinea, West Africa” in Dance, Gender and Meanings / Contemporizing Traditional Dance (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague Press 2012).

Foot, Floor, Footwork: Embodied Culture Through Kathak and Flamenco Foot Percussion,” conference presentation. Organized/Moderated panel: “Sounding the Floor: the Kin-aesthetics of Percussive Dance,” Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) and Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) (Philadelphia 2011).

 “La Fusión Sin La Confusion: A Movement Analysis Ethnographic Investigation into the Changing Nature of Flamenco Dance,” conference presentation European Association of Dance Historians (Seville, Spain 2010).

 “Circulating Moves: Guinea’s Baga D’mba Dance,” conference presentation American Anthropology Association (New Orleans 2010).

 “D’mba As Dance Event – an Ethnologist’s Perspective” in symposium: Woman, Fire, Ambition, and Desire: The Performance of the Great Baga, D’mba. Yale University (New Haven, CT); and Université de Conakry (Guinea), invited 2008).

Shared Rhythms, Sudden Stops: Revealing the Kathak-Flamenco Connection” in symposium: Close to the Floor a conference on percussive dance in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Riverdance, (New York University, invited 2005).

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Program Book and Website Researcher/Writer, 2003-2008.

Honors and Awards:

International Initiatives Award, UMD-TDPS, research in Seville, Spain. 
Directed Research Initiative Fund (DRIF), UMD-AHRU.
Research and Scholarship Award (RASA), UMD. 
Faculty Seed Grant for Developing Qualitative Research, UMD-Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity.
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), dance consultant on Interdisciplinary Collaboration grant for research in Guinea, West Africa (PI: Fredrick Lamp, Yale University).
Marin Arts Council, Career Development, Award.
Marin Arts Council, Choreography Award. 
American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), research in India. 
Del Amo Fellowship, research in Spain. 
Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, research in Spain, India, Middle East.

Select Performance Activities:

Choreographer/performer, Soleá de Edad, in collaboration with flamenco singer/guitarist Marija Temo. Dance Rhythm/Sound and Space, UMD Faculty Dance Concert, Clarice Smith for Performing Arts, College Park, MD: November 13-16, 2014. https://theclarice.umd.edu/events/2014/umd-faculty-dance-concert-dance-rhythmsound-and-space.

Choreographer/performer, Dances of Resistance at the Peace Ball, Arena Stage, Washington, DC, January 2013.

AZAFRÁN Flamenco (Artistic Director/Choreographer), San Francisco Bay Area http://www.azafranflamenco.com/

Flamenco Performer in: Los Flamencos de La Bodega; San Francisco; Ballet Español de Los Angeles; Linda Vega Danzas de España, Los Angeles. T.V. Commercials: Pedro Domecq; Pepsi-Cola (choreographer/performer).