Photo Credit: Tami Javine Photography

The Gilded Serpent presents...

Dr. Renée Rothman

Tracing My Steps in Dance

From 1975-1986 I studied, performed, and taught modern dance in the greater Hartford, Connecticut and New York City areas. In New York City, I studied regularly at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and Luigi Jazz Center. In Hartford, CT, I studied at Hartford Ballet, Hartford Conservatory of Music, and Trinity College. I performed with modern dance groups under the direction of Evan Williams (Limon technique) and Truda Kaschmann (Laban and Graham techniques) and co-directed a dance company of my own.

After “retiring” from modern dance, I went back to college and graduated Summa cum laude from Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts. In 2000, I received my doctorate in cultural anthropology from University of California, Santa Cruz. I conducted my fieldwork in Santa Cruz at North Bay Aikido dojo. My doctoral dissertation, Aikido Sensibilities,* examines the tactile and kinesthetic experiences embedded in aikido techniques and how those experiences are guided by aikido’s ethical principles. I describe how the very physicality of aikido combines with its principles of “loving protection” and non-competitiveness to produce a sense of group solidarity or community.

I began teaching courses in the anthropology of world dance in 2001 at both San Jose State University and UCSC. In these courses, the students and I explored the historical, cultural, and political effects of dance on the lives of individuals and on whole cultural groups of practitioners. We studied vernacular and social dance, and theatrical and classical dance traditions. Our discussions were shaped by national, ethnic, religious, and gendered identity studies as well as by the tension between tradition and innovation. I can honestly say that most of what I know about world cultures and histories I learned while preparing my lectures for these courses and, even more-so, while reading research papers written by my very diverse students. It was a blessing to share and inspire a love of dance with all of them.

Contributor to the Belly Dance Reader Volumn 1

I began my study of bellydancing in 2001 as a student of Palika Bender and Helené Stakem in Santa Cruz, CA. I performed for a short while with Helené’s Sister’s of the Desert Sky and occasionally perform as a soloist at local gigs. I love studying all variety of bellydancing: American Tribal Style, Egyptian cabaret and cane, Turkish kashlima, Moroccan schikhatt, Saudi Arabian kheliji, and Tunisian and Algerian folkloric. I am a member of a dance trio called Mountain Tribal and while we rarely perform, we meet weekly (well, as weekly as three busy adults can manage) to practice our ATS improvisation or to choreography tribal-style dances.

In 2009, I created my own blog—Dance Doc’s Think Tank—in order to continue sharing and deepening my knowledge of dance and to provide my readers with a new perspective on the pan-human activity of dance. Writing about dance in film and television, writing reviews of local dance events, and trying to express my own experiences dancing also allowed me to hone my chops as a writer. In the process, I discovered my own voice.

I am currently hard at work conducting fieldwork and writing a book about the Santa Cruz bellydance culture—its structures, ethics, and friendships. I am examining how these women (and men) build a sense of community through the sensory activities of bellydance.

*“Aikido Sensibilities: The Sociosomatics of Connection and its Role in the Constitution of Community at North Bay Aikido in Santa Cruz, California” University of California, Santa Cruz, 2000 (supervisor Olga Nájera-Ramírez). See link on my blog for the complete dissertation.

Articles on Gilded Serpent by Renee