Congratulations to Ph.D. Candidate Janet Schroeder for winning the Coca-Cola Critical Difference for Women Grant for Research on Women, Gender, and Gender Equality for her project, "Staging Appalachia, Maintaining Tradition: The Role of Female Choreographers in Representing Appalachian Step Dance on Stage." Janet summarizes her project below:
"This project investigates the role women play in maintaining and disseminating Appalachian dance practices, particularly through concert dance choreography. While media representations have often portrayed men as primary carriers of Appalachian music and dance traditions in social situations, my focus on Appalachian step dance in the concert dance setting reveals that, in this context, women are the principal creators. The research I propose to undertake with the support of the Critical Difference for Women Grant is one component of my dissertation project, which proposes the cultural values of innovation and ongoingness as aesthetic philosophies of tap dance and Appalachian step dance respectively and investigates the stage as a site where choreographers and performers negotiate intersecting and sometimes competing ethno-racial projects.
With this funding, I will focus on Appalachian step dance choreography by Livia Vanaver of Vanaver Caravan (NY), Eileen Carson of Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble (MD), and Sharon Leahy of Rhythm in Shoes (OH). Each of these women has directed her percussive step dance performance company for more than 20 years. As artistic directors, among other things, these women are responsible for devising new performance pieces and bringing them to realization on the stage. In this part of my project I aim to understand how the choreographers maintain the history and legacy of Appalachian step dance as a cultural practice even as they disseminate it through staged productions that are often created for audiences for whom that cultural knowledge is less familiar."