Catching up with Gillian Jakab, Fall 2017 Microgrant Recipient

We caught up with our Fall 2017 Microgrant Recipient, Gillian Jakab.Gillian Jakab Resized

Funding from the ARAD Microgrant supported Gillian’s participation in “Transmissions and Traces: Rendering Dance”, a joint conference held by the Congress on Research in Dance and Society of Dance History Scholars at The Ohio State University.


Describe the opportunity you participated in and how it aligns with your career aspirations.

I presented a paper at the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) and Congress in Research on Dance (CORD) joint conference “Transmissions and Traces: Rendering Dance,” marking the merger of the two renowned academic organizations into the Dance Studies Association (DSA). The conference was held at The Ohio State University and brought together hundreds of dance scholars from dozens of nations for a three-day event representing the largest gathering of its kind in the field.  The conference was an extraordinary opportunity to share my research on cultural diplomacy during the Cold War.  My research sprung from work I had begun last year as Professor Victoria Phillips’ student in the course “Cold War Public Diplomacy” within Columbia University’s History Department.  I examined the U.S. State Department’s repeated decisions declining the applications of avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham to become part of its overseas Cultural Presentations program in the 1950s and ’60s.  I analyzed the source materials, including the minutes of the State Department Dance Panel, as well as contemporaneous media accounts, and historical treatments to conclude that just as the State Department used the Dance Panel to further its hegemony in the world, so the Dance Panel members used the State Department to maintain their hegemony in the dance world.

More valuable than my own experience presenting as part of a panel, however, was the access to the three days of panels, talks, and workshops with leading scholars and professionals discussing critical issues and new pathways in the field.  The chance to spend quality time with those I know well—Professor Clare Croft of the University of Michigan as well as my colleagues from dance historian Lynn Garafola’s Columbia Dance Studies seminar—was surpassed only by the chance to meet and learn from so many new thinkers and doers.  Scholars and arts organizations have much to learn from one another and I hope to help facilitate that dialogue during my career .


GJakab- conf2What were the most important takeaways from your experience?

One panel I attended titled “Developing American Audiences” extended the concepts of the institutionalization of high culture that ARAD’s Dr. Gemma Mangione introduced in the course “Arts in Context.”  On this panel, Caroline Clark presented her paper “Highbrow Versus Lowbrow: Dance Transmission through Social Agendas in the United States.” Clark drew on the literature we had read of Paul DiMaggio and Lawrence Levine, framing the formation of aesthetic hierarchies within the specific context of dance, as did Judith Hamera in her keynote address “Rehearsal Problems: Gus Giordano’s The Rehearsal, Canonicity, and the Place of the Local in Dance Studies.” I was left with a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which classifications of taste have shaped the dance cannon we generally accept, study, and present.

Another presentation that resonated with my thesis research and topics I’ve encountered through my work at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy was Karima Borni’s paper “From Street to Studio: Muslimness and Masculinity in Moroccan Contemporary Dance Workshops.” In this presentation, Borni sifted through the layers of identity formation in contemporary Moroccan dance and illuminated the power dynamics between local dancers and the predominantly European choreographers who circulate through official performance channels.

GJakab- conf

How has the microgrant helped to enrich you professionally? 

The ARAD microgrant helped me participate in an invaluable weekend of conversations surrounding the theme of “transmitting dance”—a topic that spawned a wealth of presentations and workshops connected to my academic and professional interests.  As an aspiring arts professional, I valued the opportunity to meet and hear from others in the field and discuss the challenges of presenting and documenting dance and its history. The conference panels and workshops explored wide-ranging topics in relation to dance such as intellectual property and copyright, authorship/spectatorship, archival projects, education and audience engagement, as well as topics of identity and social justice in dance history and theory.

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