February 23-25, 2018

Donna Mejia

Donna Mejia (Assistant Professor, CU Boulder Theatre and Dance Department)  is a choreographer, scholar, instructor, and performer specializing in contemporary dance, traditions of the African and Arab Diaspora, and emerging fusion traditions in Transnational Electronica.  This genre provides a rich arena for the study of cultural imperialism, gender representation and electronic/digital globalization. Donna is also an authorized instructor of the Brazilian Silvestre Modern Dance Technique and is a lauded representative of this esoteric study of dance after 20 years of practice.

For 10 years she was a faculty member at Colorado College and Director of the Colorado College International Summer Dance Festival. For twelve years she served as Managing Director of the award-winning Harambee African Dance Ensemble of CU-Boulder under the amazing leadership of Instructor Emerita Letitia Williams. The Harambee ensemble was awarded the prestigious El Pomar Foundation grant, was featured in the March 1996 issue of Dance Magazine, performed for President Bill Clinton and Nobel Laureate Archbiship Desmond Tutu, is part of the Denver International Airport time capsule, and was hailed as the “Best of Boulder” for 3 years.

Donna was the Guest Artist in Residence for Smith College Dance 2006 – 2009, and has been awarded residencies at the Naropa Institute, University of South Florida, Mt. Holyoke College, Hampshire College, University of Northern Colorado, Taipei National University of the Arts, Bucknell University, Earth Dance, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (three years) and the Bates Dance Festival (three years). She was nominated for a Pikes Peak Area Artist award in 2005.

In October of 2011 she was selected by the Fulbright Association to present the Selma Jeanne Cohen Endowed Lecture for International Dance Scholarship in Dance, notably for her paper “Digital Diasporas and Transnational Dance Communities: The Effects of the Internet on Identity Formation and Collective Cultural Memory.” Her research was also the featured keynote of Syracuse University’s 2012 Symposium on Public Diplomacy.  In 2014 Donna directed the first Viral Dance Colloquium; an interdisciplinary gathering of scholars and artists to discuss the impact of Internet usage on human affairs.  The digital archive for this event can be found athttp://cuboulderdance.wordpress.com/.  More recently she collaborated with poet Andrea Assaf in performances for the venerable La Mama Theatre in Manhattan, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and with vocalist Mankwe Ndosi for the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY.

Donna’s current projects include directing the philanthropic performance group The Sovereign Collective, and working as part of the research and development team of Kenji Williams’ Bella Gaia/Origin Stories/Beautiful Earth Education Initiative.

Donna completed her undergraduate degree in Business Administration at CU-Boulder, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree on full fellowship from Smith College. She joined the University of Colorado at Boulder as an Assistant Professor of Dance in 2012. She is the first professor of tribal/transnational fusion globally. Donna balances her time teaching and touring throughout the U.S. and abroad.   Her choreographic commissions and performances continue to generate outstanding critical reviews from print and digital media.

Classes with Donna Mejia:

Keynote Lecture:

The Cultural Applications of Dance (Digging into Dance Anthropology)

This lecture and discussion examines the ways in which dance signifies, reinforces, subverts, challenges and transfers the norms, values, stories and ideals of a given culture.  For our purposes, we will define “culture” as a categorical display of customs, attire, language, norms and values signifying membership of a defined and recognizable group.  Hence, we will study cultures grouped by nationality, geographic proximity, ethnicity and self-selected membership (sub-cultures within nationalities).  Through film and discussions we will survey critical ethnographic practices, always attending to our assumptions, positionality and agency during evaluation.   This lecture includes introductory exposure (primarily through films) to a range of dance traditions found throughout the globe: classical and contemporary, urban and rural, secular and transcendental, performance-based and therapeutically oriented.


How important is your core alignment and musculature to your dancing? It is unequivocally and absolutely critical to an intelligent and coherent approach to any movement in any genre of dance. Donna Mejia has managed to maintain an active dance practice through multiple abdominal surgeries, pregnancy and more... all through a focus on core abdominal strength. In this workshop, Donna offers an array of exercises and practices intended to raise the intelligence of your lower back/lumbar region and abdominal wall. Please note that we will be utilizing a yoga mat for these investigations. Donna will illustrate how to use other common household items to further your training anywhere, regardless of whether or not you have access to a gym or dance studio. The integration of breath is the final "Jedi training" clincher to these transformative practices. Our goal is not a flat stomach; it is a formidably strong core that will support your grandest and most virtuosic possibilities. The good news is that this training has beneficial applications beyond your dance practice, so please bring a yoga mat, a notebook, your questions... and let’s dig in deeply!

Movement Invention in Hip & Torso Work:

After drilling foundation hip work and shimmies, we will plunge deeply into learning a variety of pelvic and torso articulations born from Donna’s adventurous imagination: wave-drops, whip-lash body undulations, quaking circles, black-ice slides, spiraling undulations, elastic vine drops, rebounding figure 8’s, and many more concoctions. This workshop is most beneficial for dancers with a confident and well-practiced foundation in hip work already. Please bring a yoga mat for warm-up.

Club Donna:

Set your alarm and come ready to move to thick, pulverizing, chunky beats from international electronic and hip hop music from the underground Arab, Persian, Turkish, Parisian, North African and American communities. Donna’s nonstop class is designed to transport you to new heights while in the company of the moon... you will forget that old bed was ever waiting for you! Be prepared for ballistic beats and spirited movement. Bare feet and athletic clothing will work best. Public Notice: This class will feature the best underground funk, international hip hop and electronica in the known universe. You have been warned.

Open Format:

After a thorough and refining warm-up, Donna will offer detailed coaching for the purpose shifting your physical capacities to new dimensions. Common pitfalls and not-so-masterful dance moments are the most potent opportunities to grow as dancers. This workshop is for movers who love to dig into their perceived “weak links” with curiosity and humor... tinkering with possibilities until solutions become apparent. Donna has been coaching professional collegiate dancers for 17 years, and possesses a remarkable library of somatic knowledge for this kind of problem solving. In this workshop, Donna has requested the freedom to asses the needs of the participants and offer an open-format class pulling on all varieties of her international dance research. This is your perfect opportunity to experiment with new movement capacities and choices. The primary objective of this course is to enable new physical capacity in a safe and intelligent way. Increased stamina, speed, variation and complexity will be the focus, and foundation bellydance/tribal fusion vocabulary will not be covered. For that reason, this workshop is best suited for experienced dancers who wish to refresh their personal practice with new challenge. Special training topics such as acrobalance, improvisation, musicality, inversions, floorwork, partnering, turning technique, are all on the table for your consumption, and Donna is ready to take your special requests on the fly! Please bring a yoga mat.

Broken Glass on the Path:

Developing a Movement Practice When Impacted or Compromised
Requirements: folding chairs, yoga mats, tennis balls, a belt or strap, a towel

Injury, discomfort, chronic illness and physical compromise do not have to “bench” dancers from practicing. This workshop welcomes dancers who have experienced some level of neurological, chemical, cognitive or physical impact interfering with their dance aspirations. We will have a surprisingly vigorous, whole body Tribal Fusion practice from a chair, learning to identify safe ranges of motion and support bodily regions that may not have full capacity. The idea is not to grieve what is impacted, but to ignite curiosity for what we can feel, because there are inevitable gifts to be harvested from any kind of movement. Whether you identify yourself as an enthusiast, recreationalist, or professional, pursuing somatic ease and growth doesn’t have to wait for the “ideal” body to arrive. Let’s get to work with what we have going for us right now.

REQUIRED: A sense of adventure complimented in equal parts by a sense of humor. Please bring your questions and notebooks.