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The power of place

April 28, 2008

TEMPE, Ariz. – The Cross-Cultural Dance Resources Collection (CCDR) has found a new home in ASU Herberger College Dance due to the extraordinary generosity and vision of Elsie Dunin, a leading international dance scholar. The collection, which is internationally recognized as the most comprehensive dance resource center in the Southwest, is comprised of more than 15,000 books, letters, costumes, films, and 75 indigenous instruments representing dance cultures worldwide.

According to Pegge Vissicaro, Ph.D., president of CCDR and associate chair at ASU Herberger College Dance in Tempe, Ariz., this significant acquisition is not coincidental: Dunin’s decision to give $1.15 million to endow a curator and provide funding for the care and maintenance of the CCDR collection embodies a unique and meaningful convergence of time and place. This convergence honors the special importance of dance to Arizona’s native and immigrant populations.

Vissicaro notes that Dunin specifically wanted the CCDR collection, which currently is in Flagstaff, Ariz., moved to the ASU Tempe campus.

“I feel strongly that the best place for the collection is within Herberger College Dance because of its commitment to teaching students the importance of studying dance in the context of cross-cultural influences,” Dunin says. “The collection will better serve the greater population of the Southwest through the Herberger College and its Dance program, which is being spearheaded by enlightened leadership and vision. The department's development of advanced studies in dance reflect the importance of studying dance not only as a performance and contemporary art, but also with an understanding of dance movement in cultural contexts. In addition the collection will attract national and international dance scholars who through their future contacts and exposure to the department will in turn benefit the students. Just as studies of law, medicine, and architecture are already well served in academia with their libraries and archives, the CCDR collection will provide a unique body of knowledge for dance within the midst of a thriving dance program.”

Simon Dove, chair of ASU Herberger College Dance, shares Dunin’s vision of exploring resources and expanding awareness about the connection between cultural influences and contemporary dance forms.

“Ms. Dunin’s remarkable gift and her visionary decision to house the CCDR collection at ASU permanently will benefit all students and scholars of dance by bringing the collection to an academic environment that encourages research and creativity. In this time and place, enlightened and generous investment in future generations of dance artists will enable us to achieve our goal of nurturing a truly global perspective on this extraordinary art form,” he says.

It was the power of place that led to the birth of the CCDR in the early seventies, when dance and anthropology scholars gathered at the 1972 Congress on Research in Dance Conference (CORD) in Tucson, Ariz. to discuss theories and methods of dance cultural study. Elsie Dunin attended along with her colleague and conference co-coordinator, Allegra Fuller Snyder, from the University of California, Los Angeles, where the two women launched the first dance ethnology graduate curriculum. Conference co-coordinator, Dr. Joann Keali’inohomoku also played an integral role in this critical conference and was instrumental in shifting perspectives about dance research with her 1970 article, An anthropologist looks at ballet as a form of ethnic dance. Nine years after that decisive meeting in Tucson, Dr. Keali’inohomoku co-founded CCDR and began building the collection with materials from legendary dance ethnologists, including Dunin’s work.

For Dunin, the 1972 conference extended her journey of cross-cultural inquiry involving extensive travel to compare and to investigate historical influences on dance rituals performed within Yaqui communities in Arizona and Mexico. Thirty-four years later, this deep interest became the focus for a special event that looked at Yaqui ritual dances, held prior to the 2006 annual Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) conference in cooperation with the world famous Heard Museum. Dunin and Keali‘inohomoku, both members of the CCDR Executive Board of Directors along with Dr. Vissicaro, co-chaired the CORD conference with additional sponsorship by ASU Herberger College Dance, which was then under the interim leadership of Vissicaro. At the conference, Elsie Dunin and Allegra Snyder were honored by receiving the prestigious award for Outstanding Leadership in Dance Research. Notably, Dunin’s publications span over 40 years and her knowledge of southeastern European dance cultures is one of the most comprehensive worldwide.

The CORD conference was hosted at ASU and signifies a major benchmark in the dance cultural studies continuum. Symbolic of the conference was the commissioning of a pascola mask and rattle by pascola and Yaqui contemporary artist Merced Maldonaldo, who selected the theme of chivato for the mask. Chivato, the enchanted goat, is an inspiration for pascolas to become good dancers and through dreams and vision quests, pascolas connect to chivato. The rattle refers to plant life and the scattering of seeds as an act of renewal. Maldonaldo has a vested interest in CCDR and its collection because he understands that interaction with these materials is a path to knowledge and facilitates learning about how dance exemplifies those values and beliefs considered most significant by the people from whom the dance originates.

Notes Vissicaro, a natural association between the field of dance ethnology and the southwest locale long has attracted leading proponents in the field like Dunin and Keali’inohomoku and it is a strong reason that they envision the CCDR collection existing in ASU Herberger College Dance facilities. “The acquisition speaks to the power of place – here, close to the home of many indigenous and immigrant peoples – where dance is embedded in the life and culture of their communities,” she says.

The particular timing of Dunin’s gift is especially fortuitous since Vissicaro, who initiated an earlier community partnership that brought the CCDR business headquarters into ASU Herberger College Dance, is now in the position to direct the transition of this collection to its new location.

Dove believes that the opportunity to house the CCDR collection aligns perfectly with his department vision for broadening perspectives about dance practice and looks forward to interaction by students, faculty, artists, and scholars around the world with these materials to explore innovative paradigms for creating and researching dance. “I believe that this place is the optimum location for the CCDR collection, enabling Herberger College Dance, to provide locus and a magnet for generating new knowledge to advance the field,” he says.

Herberger College Dance is a division of the Herberger College of the Arts at Arizona State University. Dance Teacher magazine says, "the top-notch dance program graduates dancers who aren't merely accomplished technicians, but critical thinkers and socially conscious advocates of the art form as well." To learn more about Herberger College Dance, visit

The Katherine K. Herberger College of the Arts at Arizona State University was founded in 1964 and is comprised of four nationally ranked academic units: School of Art, School of Music, School of Theatre and Film, Department of Dance plus the Arts, Media and Engineering Program (AME) and the ASU Art Museum. Nearly 3,000 students attend the college, which has 224 faculty and 130 staff. To learn more about the college, visit

Media Contact:
Pegge Vissicaro
ASU Herberger College Dance 
Associate chair