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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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Conclusions 137


CONCLUSIONS s a way of concluding, I would like to return to my positio- nality and starting points from the introduction. As Huston Smith, Linda Alcoff, and Paul Knitter have claimed, stating a scholar’s starting point is essential for globally responsible dialogue. My positionality and starting point in researching Bharatanatyam, the kabuki onnagata, whirling dervishes, and Israeli folk dance is that of an outsider. My chosen faith tradition, my training as a dancer, and my background make me an outsider looking in on these spectacular, complex, and fascinating dancing faith traditions. Being an outsider can certainly hinder such research; cultural complexities could go overlooked, historical shifts could be misunderstood, and nuances of faith and technique could be neglected. Amidst the possibilities for error, I hope my outsider status has brought something unique to this project. As an outsider looking in, I have the fresh and unbiased privilege of attempted objectivity. My personal history is not invested in any of these dancing traditions, nor does my critique pose a personal attack. Rather, what the process of researching these dances has been like for me is a journey of wonder. It has been an opportunity to step outside of myself, outside of my own traditions and gaze into the extraordi- nary beauty and suffering of the feminine embedded in dances and faith traditions from India, Japan, Turkey, and Israel. It has been a reminder that people from myriad faith traditions dance in the grips of tremendous joy and in the face of...

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