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Graduate Program in Communication & Culture

Faculty Profiles

Danielle Robinson

Media and Culture

University   York University
E-Mail Address
Phone Number   (416)-736-5137 ext. 22282
Office Location   325 Accolade East
Office Hours   TBA


B.S. (Vanderbilt); M.A. (Northwestern); Ph.D. (California, Riverside)


Professor Robinson, Ph.D. is a dance scholar who researches the cross-cultural movement of popular dances of the African Diaspora within the Americas. Her published articles and conference presentations have focused on ragtime, jazz, and swing dancing in the United States in relation to period cultural politics. Her book manuscript, Modern Moves: Blackness and American Ragtime Dancing, is in process and has been requested by Routledge’s American Popular History and Culture Series. Professor Robinson’s research has been honored with awards from the Society of Dance History Scholars, the Congress on Research in Dance, and the American Theatre focus group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Most recently, she is pursuing a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project on Samba de Roda in Bahia, Brazil--for which she has received a multi-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This project will culminate in a co-authored book, Roots Sambas: Collaborations and Conflicts in Dancing, Music, and Culture, that explores the potential for decolonizing cross-cultural research. This book has been accepted for publication with the Tubman Institute’s new Black Diaspora Series with Continuum Books in London.

Since 2005, she has been an assistant professor in York University’s Department of Dance in Toronto as well as a Visiting Professor in the School of Dance at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) in Salvador, Brazil where she team teaches a graduate course on dance cultural studies. She has also taught at the University of California, Riverside and University of Texas, Austin and guest lectured at Sonoma State University, U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Berkeley, University of Toronto, and Rutgers University.

Research Interests

Popular Dance Studies, Dance in the African Diaspora, Latin American Dance, Cross-cultural Research, and Cultural Politics

Selected Publications

2008 “Performing American: Ragtime Dancing as Embodied Minstrelsy” Accepted for Publication by Dance Chronicle
2006 “Oh, You Black Bottom!: Appropriation, Authenticity, and Opportunity in the Jazz Dance Teaching of 1920s New York,” Dance Research Journal. 38.1/2. (pp.19-42)
2002 “Swinging Out: Southern California’s Lindy Revival,” I SeeAmerica Dancing: Selected Readings, 1685-2000. With Juliet McMains. Maureen Needham, ed. University of Illinois Press. (pp.84-91)

Current research projects/journals:

Professor Robinson is currently writing two book manuscripts. Modern Moves: Blackness and American Ragtime Dancing, which grows out of her dissertation, asks how and why dancing “black” became a widespread recreational social practice in America during the opening decades of the twentieth century with the advent of ragtime and jazz dancing. It also examines how dance professionals were able to build careers teaching “black” dancing to the American public. The book approaches these topics through four overlapping case studies in New York City that cross race, class, and genre lines: the ragtime dancing of European immigrant youth between 1900 and 1920; the marketing of ragtime dancing as “refined” modern dancing by European-American dance professionals during the 1910s; the nineteenth-century round dancing of African-American elites between 1900 and 1930; and the selling of early jazz dancing by African-American dance teachers to white Broadway stars during the late 1920s. Its central argument suggests that the selling and practicing of “black” dances during the 1910s and 1920s reinforced whiteness as the ideal racial status in America through embodied and rhetorical engagements with period black stereotypes. At the same time, however, these very practices provided an important space for those seeking social mobility, for example new immigrants and African American professional dancers, to claim greater empowerment.

Her second book, Roots Sambas: Collaborations and Conflicts in Dancing, Music, and Culture, is an interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers from North and South America and Samba de Roda (a cousin of the North American Ring Shout) participants in Bahia, Brazil. It explores the potential for decolonizing research in which ethnographers partner with culture bearers throughout the fieldwork and writing process. Each section includes discrete essays by members of the research team and local sambadeiros on related topics that address not only the music and dance of samba de roda, but also the recent transformations of this complex of practices in the wake of UNESCO recognition, rapidly expanding cultural tourism, and “research” by scholars and media producers from around the world.



By Field of Study
























Harold [Innis] taught us how to use the bias of culture and communication as an instrument of research. By directing attention to the bias, or distorting power of the dominant imagery and technology of any culture, he showed us how to understand cultures.
~ Marshall McLuhan