Why We Dance cover

Ever wonder why humans dance?

In Why We Dance, I argue that dance is a vital art — vital not just for our physical selves, but for our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves. For our humanity.

In making this argument, I draw on the work of researchers from across disciplines who are discovering the fundamental role that bodily movement plays in the process of becoming human. Along the way, I articulate a movement-based philosophy of bodily becoming that retells the story of what it means to be human from the perspective of dance.

Why We Dance was the inspiration for a new film by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation — also called WHY WE DANCE — directed by Nathalie Bibeau. For more information about the film, please visit: WHY WE DANCE. Also check out my blog post about the project.

For more about the book, see this interview with Joanna Harcourt Smith. BORN TO MOVE. Also, check out my Author Interview on the Columbia University Press Blog.



A History of Theory and Method in the Study of Religion and Dance: Rhythms of Bodily Becoming. Brill Research Perspectives. October 2018. 

Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming. Columbia University Press, April 7, 2015. 

Family Planting: A farm-fed philosophy of human relations. UK: Changemakers, O Books, June 2011.

What a Body Knows: Finding Wisdom in Desire. UK: Changemakers, O Books, April 2009.

Nietzsche’s Dancers: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and the Revaluation of Christian Values. Palgrave MacMillan, February 2006. Paperback, 2011.

Between Dancing and Writing: The Practice of Religious Studies. Fordham University Press, November 2004.


Journal of Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities, Special Issue: Dancing on Earth, co-editors, Kimerer LaMothe, Yvonne Daniel, Sally Hess, DMAS 4.2, 2017.


“Dancing Immanence: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming,” In Immanent Religiosities, New Materialisms, and Planetary Thinking. Edited by Karen Bray, Heather Eaton, and Whitney Bauman. New York: Fordham University Press, forthcoming 2022.

“Does Your God Dance? The Role of Rhythmic Bodily Movement in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Revaluation of Values,” in Dance as a Third Space. Interreligious, Intercultural, and Interdisciplinary Debates on Dance and Religion(s), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, December 2021.

“Writing Why We Dance: The Predicaments, Pitfalls, and Promises of Writing about Dance and Spirituality,” in Spiritual HerStories: Call of the Soul in Dance Research, ed. Amanda Williamson. Intellect, 2020.

“As the Earth Dances: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming,” in Back to the Dance Itself: Phenomenologies of the Body in Performance, ed. Sondra Fraleigh. University of Illinois Press, Fall 2018, pp. 123-140.

“Dancing on Earth: The Healing Dance of Kalahari Bushmen and the Native American Ghost Dance Religion,” in Dance and the Quality of Life, ed. Karen Bond. Springer, 2019, pp. 117-134.

“Phenomenology,” in Religion: Embodied Religion. Ed. Kent L. Brintnall. Part of the Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Religion series. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2016.

“Becoming a Bodily Self,” in Movement Matters: New Materialism and Religious Experience, eds. Joerg Rieger and Ed Waggoner, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015.

“Can They Dance? Towards a philosophy of bodily becoming,” Dance, Somatics, and Spiritualities: Contemporary Sacred Narratives. Eds. Amanda Williamson, Glenna Batson, and Sarah Whatley, Intellect Press, 2015, pp. 131-150.

“I am the Dance: Towards an Earthed Christianity,” in Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture: Conversations with the Work of David Brown. Eds. Robert MacSwain and Tracey Worley. Oxford University Press, 2012, 131-44.

“Expressing Life: Dancing towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion,” in The Subjective Eye: Essays on Art, Religion and Gender in Honor of Margaret Miles. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006.


Dance, Religion, and the Legacy of European Colonialism.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Oxford University Press, 2014—. Article published May 26, 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.776., 12,000 words.

“Ruth St. Denis,” “Ted Shawn,” Leonide Massine,” “Jose Limon,” and “Kurt Joos,” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Supplement 2011, Vol. 2.

“Play,” in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Postmodernism: Disciplines, Terms and Figures. Eds. Victor E. Taylor and Charles E. Winquist, London: Routledge, 2001.


“For Nietzsche, life’s ultimate question was: Does it dance?” AEON, March 2020.

Dancing the Possible: An Extended Review of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers in The Faith Project/ The Door,” Journal of Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities, Volume 5, Number 2, 1 September 2018, pp. 165-181(17).

“The Dancing Species: How Moving Together in Time Helps Make Us Human,” AEON, June 2019.

“Let’s Keep Dancing,” in The Immanent Frame, February 15, 2018.

Enlivening Spirits: Shaker Dance Ritual as TheopraxisThéologiques 25/1, 2017, pp. 87-108.

“Introduction” and “When Arguments Are Not Enough: An Aesthetic Intervention” in Journal of Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities, Special Issue: Dancing on Earth, co-editors, Kimerer LaMothe, Yvonne Daniel, Sally Hess, DMAS 4.2, 2017.

“Dance: The Art of Affirmation,” Nietzsche Circle Journal, Spring 2017.

“Transformation: An ecokinetic approach to the study of ritual dance,” in Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities, 1:1, January 2014, pp. 57-72.

“What Bodies Know About Religion and the Study of It,” in Journal of the American Academy of Religion. September 2008, Vol. 76, No. 3, 573-601.

“Why Dance?: Towards a Theory of Religion as Practice and Performance.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion. 17(2): 101-133.

“A God Dances Through Me: Isadora Duncan on Friedrich Nietzsche’s Revaluation of Values,” The Journal of Religion. April 2005, 241-266.  WINNER 2006 Lippincott Award, Society of Dance History Scholars.

“Reason, Religion, and Sexual Difference: Resources for a Feminist Philosophy of Religion in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit,” Hypatia: Journal of Feminist Philosophy. Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 2005, 120-149.

“Giving Birth to a Dancing Star: Reading Nietzsche’s Maternal Rhetoric via Isadora Duncan’s Dance,” Soundings 86.3-4. Fall/Winter 2003, 501-23.

“Sacred Dance: A Glimpse Around the World,” Dance Magazine. December 2001.

“Why Dance Religion? The Case of Martha Graham,” Radcliffe Quarterly. Winter 2001.

“Passionate Madonna: The Christian Turn of American Dancer Ruth St. Denis,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 66/4. Winter 1998, 747-769.


“What a Body Knows,” over 100 posts on topics related to dance, movement, health, farming, family, philosophy, religion, and recent scientific research at Psychology Today, September 2009 to March 2020.

1 thought on “Writing

  1. Ellen Gardiner

    Hi: Just wanted to say hello as a fellow P2P member and to express my admiration for your body of work.
    –Ellen Gardiner


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