GATHERING AT THE DELTA
2021 COLLOQUIUM OF TRANSCULTURAL FUSION DANCE
February 27, 2021
Brittney Laleh Banaei – www.brittneybanaei.com
Liz Azi – https://www.lizazidance.com/
Donna Mejia – https://donnainthedance.com/
Joanna Ashleigh – https://www.joannaashleigh.com/
Glossary of Terms
The following terms will be important for our public conversation. We have constructed this list in support
of the idea that historical preservation of cultural expression and practices can coexist meaningfully with
innovation, fusion and creative development; both have inherent value but require an analysis of power
differentials and dynamics. We respectfully request you preview these terms to familiarize yourself with
their meaning specific to the 2021 Gathering at the Delta Colloquium on Saturday, February 27, 2021.
Please note that Gathering at the Delta is hosted by an English-speaking country and informed by a
U.S.A.-based university system. Reference terms listed here may have varied layers of meaning and
interpretation in different countries, cultures, world regions, ethnic histories, and educational systems. We
practice intellectual humility and remain open to learning how other educational systems define and term
these shared concepts.
We cordially welcome you to copy and share this document under a creative commons license as long as the
authors names are not removed, nor any graphics or copy are placed over it with the intent to alter or modify
the content and meaning. If you wish to suggest additional content to this community document, please contact
Donna Mejia at the website listed above. Thank you for helping to revolutionize and evolve our craft.
●BIPOC: an acronym summarizing the identities Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
●By-Stander Effect: Refers to a phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present for an act of
harm, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. People present have a tendency to wait for
someone else to jump in and disrupt the harm occurring. It is historically present in situations of ethnic and
racial descrimination, and requires one to find the conviction to intervene.
●Colorism/Pigmentocracy: The preferential and favorable treatment of classes of people due to the color of
their skin within a gradient spectrum of brownness. Historically, favorable treatment was showered on those
who possessed a lighter hue, because they were frequently the offspring of white colonizers and slaves,
whether through, rape, molestation, contractual agreement or (rarely) consensual partnership.
●Cultural Appropriation: “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or
artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another
culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s
most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or
exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
(Susan Scafidi, Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law).
●Cultural Assimilation: Refers to the choice to abandon or refrain from practices that would distinguish one
from a dominant cultural group. It is generally perceived to refer to one’s acquiescing response to external
pressures, or the imposition of forces outside of one’s own core culture and identity.
●Culture (definition posited by Donna Mejia): a categorical display of customs, attire, language, movement,
norms, and values signifying membership to a defined and recognizable group. Cultures can be grouped by
nationality and ethnicity, but additionally by self-selected membership to sub-cultures within nation states.
Many humans negotiate overlapping cultures and identities among several categories of belonging.
●Colonialism and Post-Colonial Studies: Colonialism refers to the historical practices of invasion and brutal
subjugation of peoples indigenous or established to a specific geographic area. In our current cycle of human
civilization, many cultures subjected to this inhumane treatment are experiencing hundreds of years of
disruption, and generations of trauma long after invaders may have relinquished their efforts to control or
inhabit a geographic region. Colonialism has also expanded into efforts to control through economic,
ideological and military means without an actual invasion of the material space. The study of this persistent
legacy of colonialism is called post-colonial studies. It became a field of research founded after the
publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978.
●Dance Anthropology: A sub-field of anthropology that focuses on the various meaningful and patterned
movement practices of humans. Unlike other social sciences, dance anthropologist consider participation and
social relationship with subjects to be strong methodology and ethical practice.
●Diaspora: A scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale. Historically, the word
diaspora was used to refer to the involuntary mass dispersion of a population from its indigenous territories.
●Diplomacy: the skill of managing relations in a sensitive and effective way. As a field of study, it includes
negotiation of material and cultural exchange, and attempts equitable resolution of conflict without resorting
to violence. It is an effort to engage all vested parties and minimize harm.
●Emotional Labor: the mental activity required to manage or perform routine tasks necessary for maintaining
relationships and ensuring smooth running of a household or social environment, typically regarded as an
unappreciated or unacknowledged burden borne disproportionately by marginalized identities.
●Fragility (Dr. Robin DiAngelo, 2011): “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial
stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display
of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the
stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. Racial stress
results from an interruption to what is racially familiar.” DiAngelo’s definition and theoretical application of
white fragility has been lauded and adopted into other critical theory systems such as gender studies (male
fragility) and more.
●“Fumble Forward”: We take an inquiry stance when encountering misunderstanding or disagreement. Be
curious. The idea of Fumble Forward(originated by Donna Mejia). seeks to promote exchange, and most
importantly, hit the pause button on conventional responses such as anger. To keep a space of inquiry open in
a charged subject matter, participants will preface their public commentary by saying “I’m about to fumble
with my words.” The community responds as a chorus with “Fumble Forward!” It is our social contract to let
confusion be a part of our discourse. Perhaps a student is unsure of the terminologies needed to join a
conversation. Perhaps they are unsure if their questions will be offensive. Perhaps they don’t have fully
formulated ideas and opinions yet. But for the next few minutes, we’ve all agreed to suspend judgement, lean
in, and help each other clarify through a process of corrective, delicate or clumsy verbal surgery. Fumble
Forward allows us to stay open and speak from the heart with diplomacy, even if our voices are trembling and
we can’t find confident, stable ground. Fumble Forward gives us a starting place to back away from
sounding off on each other. We can diplomatically move towards true listening and communication.
●Gatekeeping: A hegemonic social tool deployed by dominant cultural groups or individuals to prevent
questioning, defiance, innovation, and dissent by marginalized or minoritized identities.
○Acknowledgement of interconnectivity
○Acknowledgement of interdependence
○Acknowledgement of intersectionality
○Acknowledgement of stewardship of the environment and other lifeforms we share the planet with
○Acknowledgement that celebrating and learning about “others” does not erase, negate or vilify one’s
own culture; Tradition and innovation can coexists meaningfully
●Hegemony: Refers to the clustering of systemic tools and practices utilized to dominate another group
economically, culturally, politically, religiously, or ideologically. The practices, policies, ideologies, and
impositions of a dominant group in an effort to influence, govern, or control a non-dominant group. The
practices can be on the part of entire systems, specific organizations, or individuals.
●Homogeneity: No variation; sameness. In cultural studies, homogeneity refers to efforts to eradicate unique
differences between practitioners’ movements or attire. This effort at erasure must be analyzed for the degree
of benefit or harm it may create. This determination cannot be made without input from the cultural sources,
and an analysis of the dance’s signature values over time.
●Identity: The beliefs, values, cultural practices, ethnic lineage, gender identification, choice patterns and
preferences that makeup an individual’s lens through which they understand themselves and interact with the
●Intersectionality (Kimberly Crenshaw): a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s
social and political identities (e.g., gender, race, age, ethnicity, class, sexuality, ability, physical appearance,
height, etc.) combine and compound to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege.
●MENAHT: an acronym summarizing the identities Middle Eastern, North African, Helenistic, and Turkish.
●Microaggression or Aggression: A neglectful social act or communication that causes emotional harm to
someone. For example: consistently misgendering an individual by not using their requested, correct
●Orientalism: Coined by historian and philosopher Edward Said in 1978 in his book Orientalism. Said
critiqued European and subsequently the U.S.A. political, economic and military efforts to dominate other
cultures as an oppositional and hypocritical ideology that relied on the creating an imaginary enemy out of
the cultures they sought to exploit. In this way, the systematic villanization and dehumanization of these
peoples fostered the belief that they were subhuman or inferior cultures that deserved to be invaded by a
supposedly superior group. The racism of dominators took a particularly twisted approach to cultures of West
Asia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula… categorizing them all together as
“Orientals” and one-dimensionalising these distinct regions and cultures into a single, caricatured grouping.
This categorization was considered an acceptable scientific method until Edward Said’s writings created a
profound shock throughout universities and politics worldwide. He faced death threats and career sabotage
from many who refused to examine their racism. But he inspired leagues more to reexamine their scholarship
and perceptions, resulting in new fields of study and methodologies aimed towards dismantling the history of
European racism and domination.
●People of the Global Majority (PGM): This suggested phrase replaces the vernacular reference term
minorities.It reminds us that most members of the global population do not fall into categories of the social
construct of “whiteness” and are not truly “minorities.” Black, Indigenous, and people with brown skin
represent over 80% of the world’s population. (https://www.pgmone.org/)
●Positionality: The ways in which our identity situates us to a specific subject, either creating blind spots or
potential insights. This can be due to your socioeconomic placement, social indoctrination and upbringing,
age, gender expression, physical or neurological ability/different ability, sexual orientation, religious or belief
affiliation, and other aspects of your identity.
●Privilege: (Peggy McIntosh, 1970) How one’s signifiers of identity may lead to unearned advantages, and
requires a willingness and structural understanding to recognize racism as a default system that
institutionalizes an unequal distribution of resources and power. “Privilege does not mean you’re rich, a bad
person, have had everything handed to you or have never had challenges or struggles. Privilege just means
there are some challenges and struggles you won’t experience because of who you are.” –@Chescaleigh
●Racism: The categorical discrimination of an individual or a group of people based on aspects of their
identity. This prejudice can be based on culture, biology, sexual preference, gender expression, economic
class, profession, religion, ability/different ability, etc.
●Reverse Racism (evolved into usage in the U.S.A. during affirmative action lawsuits of the 1970’s) Used by
members of a dominant group to argue they are being discriminated against when they experience members
of a dominated group enacting resistance against their oppressors.
●Signature Values (as per Donna Mejia’s scholarship) The primary (and secondary) cultural characteristics
utilized to identify and express a cultural tradition or identity. These are commonly noted attributes or actions
that members of the source culture define as most important for a truthful representation of their heritage and
●Sovereignty: Self-ownership or the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the
exclusive controller of one’s own body and life.
●SWANATH: an acronym for South West Asia, North Africa, Turkey and Helenistic Cultures
●Systemic Racism (as defined by Glenn Harris) The complex interaction of culture, policy, and institutions
that holds in place the socioeconomic and sociopolitical outcomes we see in our lives.
●Tone Policing: criticizing a person from a marginalized group to dissuade them from using an emotionally
charged tone when speaking out about their lived experiences and/or oppression. Historically, tone policing
has been weaponized against marginalized identities to prevent their grief, anguish, anger, resentment and
pointed critique from being deployed in their defense. It has been identified as a hegemonic tool used by
dominators that reinforces white social codes and communication norms to deflect meaningful listening and
●Transcultural Fusion Dance (TcFD): An umbrella terminology for dancers and movers who deliberately
and conscientiously dialog a variety of cultural traditions and elements together in movement. Practitioners
seek common denominators between cultural elements, research the background, and contextualization of
traditions to avoid editorial harm, and treat artistic agency with care and respect for global citizenship.
Notably, TcFD practitioners have increased through fair trade cultural exchange, internet exchange, and have
been inspired by the vast library of human movement in the repository of digital media such as
YouTube.com. A dedicated effort is made to cite source inspirations, and engage in fair-trade cultural
exchange between all parties. This art movement grew out of millions of dancers who studied the dances of
the Arab Diaspora, North Africa, Persian and Turkish cultures, and began dialoguing these traditions with
American Hip Hop and American Concert Dance Forms in the 1980’s. Those who self-identify as TcFD
dance practitioners began a collective effort to reconcile the history of Orientalism, colonialism,
post-feminist studies, and slavery in their artistic expressions and explorations after 2006. The movement
gained global momentum in 2019 after blog and social media activities on the subject were initiated by artists
Donna Mejia and Amy Sigil. The form has grown to include many dance traditions beyond MENAHT/Hip
Hop/Western concert fusions as part of its dialogue, including Indian Classical dance forms, circus-based
movement traditions, Flamenco, gamer culture, gothic and metal culture, adult entertainment movement
●White Supremacy: the distorted belief that “white” people constitute a superior race and should therefore
dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other ethnic groups, in particular black,
brown-skinned or Jewish people. Whiteness is a constructed category and does not represent an actual
ethnicity, but rather membership to a perceived group of descendants of fair-skinned ethnicities of various
nations and cultures. Categories of whiteness have historically shifted to include or exclude categories of
people (such as Italians and Irish immigrants to the U.S.A.) based on the economic and political
manipulations advantaging their membership to whiteness. The construct of whiteness has always held close
connections to classism and politics. To understand this more in the U.S.A. please begin by reading White
Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg, and Caste: The Origins of Our
Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson.
●Worldview: a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world that is constructed of our cultural
indoctrinations, genetic and ethnic endowment, geographical origin, embodied experiences, and personal
perspectives. The acknowledgement of many world views validates the vast variety of human outlooks we
encounter as we collectively workshop our global citizenship.