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Dancing in the Fringe: Connections Forming An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance


This dissertation examines the development of experimental Middle Eastern dance in the United States. It focuses on terminology, ideas, and practices presented by six choreographers and their works performed at An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance (EEMED). In order to understand the emergence of experimental Middle Eastern dance, the dissertation analyzes discursive practices of genres and types of relationships choreographers produce between "traditional" and "experimental" Middle Eastern dance.

The data for this dissertation primarily comes from oral history interviews conducted with six core EEMED choreographers. In order to present their original and innovative contributions, the project factors in literature from two groups with which they frequently connect, including dance scholarship covering predominantly the fields of Middle Eastern dance, American modern dance, American post-modern dance, and the American Middle Eastern dance community. The project not only works to formulate theories that grow out of the core EEMED choreographers' practices but supports them with scholarly theories, including Judith Butler's gender construction, Edward Soja's Thirdspace, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's rhizome, Michel Foucault's discourse, and Amy Devitt's, John Frow's, and Carolyn Miller's genre construction.

This dissertation demonstrates that through citation and reiteration most traditional Middle Eastern dance genres conceal their construction and solidify over time into stable inner essences, naturalness, and identities. In this process, they push those who do not comply with rules and structures into the margins. However, the core EEMED choreographers expand and empower these margins. Their practices highlight uniqueness and hybridization over repetition and solidification and create fluid movement through porosity borders. By claiming their experimental Middle Eastern dance is a part of Middle Eastern dance, the core EEMED choreographers expand Middle Eastern dance's genre repertoire. Thereby, they create a new discourse of Middle Eastern dance.

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