Movers & Shapers: Dunya Dianne McPherson

By February 6, 2019Podcast



Dunya Dianne McPherson


Release Date: 2.6.19


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Dunya Dianne McPherson is a dancer, choreographer, author, and Shattari Sufi Master Teacher. As Founder and Principal Teacher of Dancemeditation™ she specializes in techniques that open the wonderment of deep, subtle, peaceful self-perception.

She holds a BFA in dance from the Juilliard School, MA in Writing from Lesley University, was an Artist Scholar at Columbia University, and trained extensively in yoga with Shri Dharma Mittra. Significant study with Master Dance Teachers whose work has influenced hers includes: Elena Lentini, Anahid Sofian, Janet Panetta and Alfredo Corvino. After 1001 days training in Sufism with Sufi Master Adnan Sarhan, Dunya received teaching permission. Her new memoirSkin of GlassFinding Spirit in the Flesh, chronicles her journey of dance & mysticsim.

Dunya’s extensive teaching credits include:
Department Chair
: Victorian College of the Arts, Australia * Faculty: Kripalu Center * Master Classes & Residencies: Princeton University, Swarthmore College, Amherst College, Oberlin College, Mt. Holyoke College, University of TexasNew York University, Hunter College , Barnard College, Montclair State College, Mark Morris Dance Center, New York Open Center * Shattari Sufi Master: Mystic Festival in Netherlands, and SAT Conferences in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, France  * Director & Spiritual Guide: Dervish Society of Americ

Dunya’s teachers include:

Juillard School:
Modern Dance: Hanya Holm, Helen McGeehee, Ethel Winter, Daniel Lewis, Libby Nye, Jennifer Scanlon. Kazuko Hirabayshi
Ballet: Alfredo Corvina, Hector Zaraspe, Genia Melikova
Later, in Middle Eastern dance:
Anahid Sofian, Elena Lentini

A National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellow, her choreographic commissions include Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Dance Uptown, High School of Performing Arts, Barnard College, Victorian College of the Arts, Santa Fe Performing Arts. She is the recipient of Massachusettes Arts Council grants, CETA Artists Grant, Texas Arts Council grants.

She has performed widely as both concert dancer and as a Middle Eastern dancer. Her whirling veil dance is featured in the film Dances of Ecstasy. She directed the film/dance work, Shafi, for NOLA’s 2007 Dramarama Festival.

Dunya and her Dancemeditation work are widely referenced and profiled in books and journalism including: Your Body Mandala, Mary Bond 2018; Bellydance Soul, Alia Thabit, 2018; Reckoning with Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance, Donnalee Dox, PhD, 2017; Conscious Dancer Magazine, Dancer Magazine, Contact Quarterly Magazine, Attitude Magazine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Austin American Statesman, Austin Chronicle, Innerchange Magazine, Spirit of Change Magazine, NYSpirit Magazine, XS Magazine Miami, Cape Cod Times, Whole Life Times LA, Body & Soul, and many others.


Press Quotes

“…a modern day Isadora Duncan…approached Ruth St. Denis as she slithered through an impudently sensuous belly dance…a vibrant performer…an unusual and talented choreographer.”
Jennifer Dunning, New York Times

“She knows how to put movement together…ingenious…adds up to good dancing and an original statement.”
New York Times

“…killer creative choreographer…the best belly dancer in the world…
Carman Moore, Village Voice

“I liked Dunya Dianne McPherson’s ‘Clan’ a lot. It was jaunty and it was breezy, but in very solid, unpretentious ways. Tidily structured but not tight-lipped.”
Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice

“Her pure, solid dancing has never seemed so welcome to me…I think I held my breath in delight through the entire dance…The works soundly structured, with all the details meticulously etched, revealed the full extent of McPherson’s talent.”
Dance Magazine

“…elegant, confident, sensual…”
Kerri Hikida, Whole Life Times, LA

“…she evoked something essentially female, essentially powerful…”
Elizabeth Zimmer, Dance Magazine

“She has the lithe and leggy body of a ballerina and the articulate arm and leg movement of a butoh performer.”
Marene Gustin, Austin-American Statesman

“I see Dunya’s dances floating like feather down to the center of her big, elaborately patterned carpet…They merge with her body, she processes them, and they dance themselves right back out…Dunya’s [performance] is a very clean space on a psychic/spiritual level, a natural resting spot for dances.”
Stephanie Beauchamp, Austin Chronicle

Choreographic Vitae

• National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowship (1995)
• Massachusetts Arts Council/LCC Grant (2000)
• City of Austin Grant (1996, 1997) under Texas Arts Council
• Cultural Council Foundation’s CETA Artist’s Project (1978-79)

ORIGINAL WORKS  (edited list)
• “Shafi”, collaborative film ‘wallpaper’ for dervish whirling; Drama-Rama, New Orleans, LA funded by NEA, LA State Arts Council, City of New Orleans (2007)
• Works funded by NEA, Texas State Arts Council & City of Austin Arts Council: “Turkish Songs” (1995-98); Palimpsest (1997); “Intimate/ Dances from Inside a Marriage” (1997); “Engaged: Dances Between Friends” (1998)
• Works Commissioned by Lincoln Center Outdoors:  “Secret/Bangalore” (1996)
• Works commissioned by Montclair State College, NJ: “The Visitation” (1986), “Rosedust and Wind” (1984),  “Her Heart Riding an Ocean Wave” (1983), “Divorce” (1981)
• Work commissioned by High School of Performing Arts, NYC: “The Journey of Jamila and the Seer” (1985)
• Work presented by Barnard Dance Ensemble: “Nocturne” (1985); “Nocturne with a Fan” (1985); “Danse Orientale” (1985); “Winter’s End” (1985) Premiered on Dance Uptown; “Remembrance” (1984); “Mideastern Descent” (1984); “Phantom” (1983) – solo works to the music of David Feinberg.  “Phantom”, “Remembrance” and “Mideastern Descent”
• Works commissioned by Grand Valley State Colleges, MI: Rapid Valley Dance” (1982), “Cross America” (1982).
• Works presented by Dianne McPherson & Dancers: “Sanctus, Benedictus” (1985, premiered on Dance Uptown, NYC); “Journal: August, September, October, November” (1981); “I was troubled with no correspondence” (1981); “Leaf” (1979); “Drift and Pierce” (1979, premiered on Dance Uptown); “Clan” (1979, presented on Dance Uptown); “Haunt” (1978, premiered on Dance Uptown. presented at Dance Theatre Workshop’s Choreographer’s Showcase); “The Vagabond” (1977); “Twone Verse” (1976, premiered on Dance Uptown. restaged for Dance Gallery, Northampton, MA); “Street Scene” (1975, restaged for Rondo Dance Theatre); “Sea Songs” (1975, premiered by the Kazuko Hirabayashi Dance Theatre restaged for the Juilliard Dance Ensemble Workshop, and for the Barnard Dance Ensemble)
• Works commissioned by the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia: “Flotsam” (1980), “Blues” (1980), “Summer House” (1980)
• Works commissioned by the Barnard Dance Ensemble and premiered on Dance Uptown: “Night Sail” (1980), “Miniatures” (1979)
• Work commissioned by Rondo Dance Theatre, presented by Barnard Dance Ensemble:  “Bach Suite #1 for Solo Viola” (1978)
• Work commissioned by Colgate University, NY: “Reticences” (1978)

• Renaissance Institute of Colgate University, Hamilton, NY (1978) – Choreographer for “La Pelligrina”, a 15th century celebration of the Medici wedding.
• Oberlin Music Theatre, Oberlin, Ohio (1973-74) – Choreographer for “Four Saints in Three Acts” and “The Gondaliers”
• Equity Library Theatre, New York, NY (1972) – Choreographic staging for Equity showcase production of “Oedipus at Colonus”
• College Light Opera Company, Cape Cod, MA (1971) – Resident Choreographer:  “The Merry Widow”, “Guys and Dolls”, “Finian’s Rainbow”, “Carousel”, “Babes in Arms”, “The Pajama Game”, “Can- Can”, “Desert Song”, “Weiner Blutt”, “The Pirates of Penzance”, “Iolanthe” and “HMS Pinafore”

• Dunyati Alembic, NY, NY (2004-2013) Director/Principal Choreographer
• Dianne McPherson & Dancers, NY, NY (1978-82) Director/Principal Choreographer
• Workwith Dancers Company, NY, NY (1975-78)  Co-founder /Co-director



Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Kurt Yooss

North Carolina School of the Arts

Bennington College Dance

“With My Red Fires” by Doris Humphrey

The Julliard School

Jose Limon

Kazuko Hirabayshi

Anna Sokolow

Hannah Kahn

Victorian College of the Arts

Montclair State University – Dance

Kazuo Ohno

Adnan Sarhan


Leslie University – Writing

“This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland” by Gretel Ehrlich



Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton
Theme Music: Adam Crawley whose music can be found at

This podcast episode is in partnership with JAM.  JAM is the home of dance entrepreneur Jessica Marino, providing artist management services and industry shopping., networking for dance and bringing ideas to the spotlight.