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Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions


Angela M. Yarber

Dances that embody the «feminine» teach the dancer and the observers inside and outside the faith tradition about women’s experiences, expressions, and understandings within their respective faith traditions. In Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions, the author immerses herself in four dance traditions and explores what their dance teaches about women’s experiences in their faith tradition. Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance stemming from the devadasi system; kabuki onnagata are Japanese male enactors of «female-likeness»; the Mevlevi Order of America allows women to train as «whirling dervishes»; and Gurit Kadman created folk dances for Jewish women and men.


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Foreword ix


FOREWORD variety of scholars in world religions highlight the impor- tance of clearly stating your “starting point” when beginning a book such as this.1 Like them, I think it is only fair to explain what brought me to this research and why it is important to me personally. I cannot claim complete objectivity when explaining dances and faiths so vastly different than my own, no matter how hard I try. As much as I aim to be an objective observer and removed scholar, I find it also essential to name what I bring to the texts, research, and dances consciously and unconsciously. Taking a cue from Paul Knitter, Huston Smith, and Linda Alcoff, I aim to be a globally responsible scholar by stating my positionality. My starting points are three: minister, dancer, and woman. First, I am an ordained Baptist minister who has served in local churches since 1999. I am both unapologetically Baptist and feminist. Accor- dingly, my entry point into religious studies was through my own Christian tradition. Though I was raised in a home that did not ascribe to any particular faith tradition, my own ordination and study is clearly in Christianity. My entry point into faith traditions outside of my own came through my work as a dancer. I have danced for over twenty-five years and professionally for over ten. While my own bodily training stems from a fusion of contemporary Western styles, my interest in global dances piqued while I traveled throughout the Middle East...

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