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Sarah Ashkin writes about the body, its cultural significance, and its movement through a complex world of injustices. Below are a sampling of texts that aim to make sense of the physical work in scholarly words.

WHITE WAYS OF KNOWING: A Written Accompaniment to the WWOK Performance or Fortify: The Protection and Propagation of Whiteness in Dance Education or White Dance: Hoarding Whiteness in the Dance Studies Classroom or Invisible Center: Attempts at Thwarting the White Scholarly Artifact ...


Sarah Ashkin was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She recently completed her tenure as a faculty member and administrator in the dance department at New Mexico School for the Arts. She attended Wesleyan University where she earned a double degree in Dance Performance & Composition and Environmental Studies. She also holds a certificate in Hybrid Performance Studies from Headlong Performance Institute in Philadelphia. Sarah Ashkin is currently working towards her Masters in Dance, Politics and Sociology from the University of Roehampton in London, UK....

Full Body Free Body: Somatic Cultural Praxis in United States Dance Forms

This paper focuses on what I have termed Somatic Cultural Praxis, meaning cultural phenomena that strives to cultivate and express the union of body, mind, and spirit.  The paper begins by offering a contextual history to how somatic being, or wholeness of self, came to be lost as a U.S. priority through the forces of capitalism and discrimination. It then describes the case studies of the embodied history of somatic oppression and resistance of United States women and African Americans.  Each case study describes the institutionalized somatic segmentation and discrimination against the group discussed, and then explores the resistive dance forms- or somatic cultural praxes- that fight to keep the body, mind, and spirit intact.  The dances discussed include the work of Anna Halprin and Steve Paxton, the slave era dance “The Ring Shout” and House dancing.  The paper’s main goal is to create awareness of those larger cultural forces that maybe inhibiting sensation, understanding, and peace within the self, and to advocate for wellness, interconnection, and acknowledgment of powers of the whole human being.

Disappeared Dances: Debunking the Culturelessness of Whiteness

Tracking Whiteness 1

In a recent phone call to my father, a third generation American of Eastern European Jewish heritage, I asked him, “Dad, do you know our dances? Like our cultural, ritual dances?” He answered, “You know, I don’t, Sarah… But I bet we are not the only ones.  Go ask your other white friends if they know their dances. I bet they won’t either.” I was not surprised by his answer.  I felt that this void of cultural specificity as Americans of European immigrant heritage was not unique to me or my family.  Nonetheless, I felt a loss, though intangible, that some people knew their cultural dances, were enfleshed in their dancing rituals, and I only carried a hole where that dance might have lived in me.  

The Proscenium Theater as a White Space: Phenomenologies and Architectures of Exclusion

A key line of inquiry within Critical Whiteness Studies has been to acknowledge and map ‘whiteness as a spatially situated phenomenon’ (Jackson 1999).  The term White Space has come into use to demarcate spaces  populated by almost entirely white bodies due to their social, historical, and structural capacity to keep people of color out.  One of the ways the White Space can be understood is as a literal extension of the white body.  In her essay A Phenomenology of Whiteness (2007), black feminist scholar Sara Ahmed argues: 

whiteness may function as a form of public comfort by allowing bodies to extend into spaces that have already taken their shape. Those spaces are lived as comfortable as they allow bodies to fit in; the surfaces of social space are already impressed upon by the shape of such bodies. We can think of the chair beside the table. It might acquire its shape by the repetition of some bodies inhabiting it: we can almost see the shape of bodies as ‘impressions’ on the surface. So spaces extend bodies and bodies extend spaces. 

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