Theses Doctoral

Las Nepantleras: Teaching Artists Committed to Decolonizing and Humanizing Pedagogies for Dancing Latinx Bodies at Ballet Hispánico

Parkins, Michelle

European and Global North perspectives have historically dominated the fields of dance, education, and human research, ignoring, erasing, oppressing, and exoticizing the Latinx dancing body. A lack of visibility prevents Latinx students from envisioning themselves in these predominantly non-Latinx spaces, creating barriers to their success in dance and education.

While Latinx dance organizations exist dedicated to celebrating and visibilizing Latinx identity and cultural practices in k-12 dance programs, a gap regarding these practices exists in dance education scholarship. Ballet Hispánico provides a premiere example of such an organization through its Community Arts Partnership program (CAP), which focuses on what I propose can be described as culturally responsive-sustaining dance pedagogy (CRSDP). My proposed CRSDP draws on scholarship from culturally responsive therapy for Latinx populations, Latina/Chicana feminism, and progressive pedagogies to prescribe a dance teaching practice centering on Latinx students’ heritage and local cultural practices while aiming toward decolonization and humanization through the study of non-dominant dance forms.

This case study explores the lifelong experiences of teaching artists who worked in the CAP programs to provide a concrete example of CRSDP, privileging participants’ stories and pressing against dominant Eurocentric and Global North perspectives in research. Teaching artists’ ancestral lineages represented Afro Caribbean, Indigenous, and Latinx Peoples. Research methods included individual interviews, classroom observations, follow-up pláticas, and an asynchronous embodied testimonio project. Pláticas and embodied testimonios were culturally sensitive and specific methods countering dominant perspectives in research that disconnect from the Latinx experience.

Findings are presented in a magical realism novela and include a short, embedded dance video, making them more accessible to a general population within a format grounded in the Latinx dance experience. Earlier and subsequent chapters are unconventionally labeled foreword, preface, process, and epilogue to privilege the novela and participant stories. The novela shares experiences along CAP teaching artists’ lifelong journeys as dancers and educators that have led to their commitments to teaching within a CRSDP framework. Emerging from the novela, I argue that (a) decolonizing and humanizing dance pedagogy for Latinx students should incorporate universal themes and shared sociopolitical histories while recognizing the intersectionality of diverse Latinx identities, and (b) that research conducted within Latinx communities should incorporate culturally sensitive and specific methods.

Geographic Areas


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2024-05-17.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Henley, Matthew Kenney
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023