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Laurel Gray NTS Poster

REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture: Laurel Gray, "From Cultural Traditions to Concert Elegance: History of Women Defying Mortality in Showcasing Traditional Dances on Stage"

Event Type
REEEC; Iranian Heritage Foundation
306 Coble Hall (801 S. Wright St., Champaign, IL 61820)
Mar 8, 2024   12:00 pm  
Laurel Gray (Adjust Professor of Global Dance History, George Washington University; Director, Silk Road Dance Company)
Free and open to the public.
Originating Calendar
Russian, E. European & Eurasian Center: Speakers

Women’s Dance Traditions of Uzbekistan: Legacy of the Silk Road examines the three major regional styles of Uzbek women's dance – Ferghana, Khiva and Bukhara/Samarkand – and their broader Silk Road cultural connections, from folklore roots to contemporary stage dance.

This presentation focuses on the remarkable courage and creativity of women who shaped stage dance in Uzbekistan during the early years of the USSR, boldly challenging societal gender roles to perform in public. An examination of women’s regional traditions challenges assertions that these pioneers had “no dance culture,” basing their choreography on Russian ballet, while in actuality they drew from Central Asian folk dances, customs, gestures, and aesthetics.

An award-winning choreographer, costume designer, scholar, and performer, Laurel Victoria Gray combines her degrees in history with decades of field research and performance experience. She studied history at Occidental College (B.A.), the University of Waterloo (M.A), and the University of Washington (Doctoral Candidate) and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2009 from the Uzbekistan State Institute of Art and Culture. She has traveled to Uzbekistan 14 times, including 2 years at the invitation of Uzbekistan's State Academic Bolshoi Theater. In 1995, she founded the Silk Road Dance Company which performed at the first White House Nowruz celebration as well as in Uzbekistan, Qatar, Singapore, London, and Toronto. She was awarded the 2003 Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project Award and, in 2009, delivered the Fulbright Association’s Selma Jeanne Cohen International Dance Scholar Lecture

Gray’s new book, Women’s Dances of Uzbekistan: Legacy of the Silk Road, will be released by Bloomsbury Academic Press on April 18, 2024. She also contributed a chapter on Silk Road dance forms to Milestones in Dance History (2022). Her articles have appeared in the Oxford University Press International Encyclopedia of Dance, the Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theater: Asia, and the Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Culture. Gray is the 2021 recipient of Uzbekistan’s Xalqlar Do’stligi (Friendship of the Peoples) medal for her work in promulgating Uzbek culture.

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