About the Organizers

2016 – 2018: Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh

rastovac_portraitHeather is the 2016 – 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities in the Department of Theater & Performance Studies at Stanford University. She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She received her B.A. from the University of Washington in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization (specializing in Persian language and literature) with minors in Dance and Anthropology. Heather’s research extends upon nearly two decades as a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director among diasporic Iranian communities in the U.S. Heather’s research engages in ethnography, performance analysis, and discourse analysis to investigate the racialized and gendered economies of Iranian performance in transnational art markets and among diasporic audiences in North America and France. Specifically, Heather examines diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists’ works in relation to Euro-American geopolitics and (neo)liberal discourses on immigration, citizenship, and the global war on terror, analyzing how these discourses implicate and are shaped by Iranian dancing/performing bodies. Heather further surveys representations of the Middle East and Islam in dance, performance, film, and popular culture. Her courses at Stanford include “Introduction to Dance Studies: Dancing Across Stages, Clubs, Screens, and Borders” (Fall 2017), “Dance on the Move: Migration, Border Zones, and Citizenship” (Spring 2017) and “Representations of the Middle East in Dance, Performance, and Popular Culture” (Winter 2017). At UC Berkeley, Heather developed and taught six semesters of undergraduate lecture and studio-based courses that draw from her interdisciplinary research interests, which include Critical Dance Studies, Performance Studies, Transnational and Postcolonial Feminist theories, Queer theories, Iranian & Middle Eastern Studies, Diaspora and Migration Studies, and Critical Ethnic Studies. Her forthcoming publications include a chapter in the Mellon Dance Studies anthology The Futures of Dance Studies, a chapter in Performing Iran: Cultural Identity and Theatrical Performance, and a commissioned book review in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

2017 – 2018 Co-curator: Usha Iyer

Usha Iyer

Usha Iyer is Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies, in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of cinema, performance, and gender studies, with a specific focus on dance, stardom, and gender in Indian cinema. Her current book project, “The Dancing Heroine: Choreographing Gender in Popular Hindi Cinema,” examines the role of dance in the construction of female stardom from the 1930s to the 1990s.

2015 – 2016: Rachel Carrico

rachelRachel Carrico is currently a Faculty Fellow in the Dance Department at the University of Oregon. In 2015-16, she was the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities at Stanford University. She holds a Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies from the University of California–Riverside and an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU. Her research explores the aesthetic, political, and social histories of second lining, an African diaspora dance form rooted in New Orleans’s black parading traditions. Carrico’s scholarship has been published in TDR: The Drama Review and TBS: The Black Scholar, awarded the Society of Dance History Scholars’ Selma Jeanne Cohen Award, and supported by grants from such entities as the UC President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship Program, the UC Center for New Racial Studies, and the Center for Gulf South Research at Tulane University. Also a practitioner, Carrico recently completed the Limón Institute’s teacher training. In 2008, she co-founded Goat in the Road Productions in New Orleans, with whom she has directed two international artist residencies and launched Play/Write, a youth playwriting festival, in New Orleans schools. She parades annually with the Ice Divas Social and Pleasure Club.

2014 – 2015: Joanna Dee Das

Joanna Dee Das, who was the 2014-15 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities at Stanford University, is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests include African diasporic dance, musical theater, and the politics of performance in the twentieth century. Her book manuscript, Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in May 2017. She has also published her research in the Journal of Urban History and TDR: The Drama Review (forthcoming). Before and during graduate school, she worked as a professional dancer and choreographer in New York City, where she performed at Dance Theater Workshop (now NYLA), the Cunningham Studio, WAXWorks, and DanceNow/NYC.