Jill Flanders Crosby is a Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, University of Alaska Anchorage and holds an Ed.M and Ed.D from Teachers College Columbia University. Her research interests include the religious dances of the Ewe people of West Africa and those of the Arará people who are descendants of the Ewe living in Cuba as a result of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. She is has long been curious with the similarities and intersections of art-making and ethnographic methodology and practice. As a result of this curiosity, she spearheaded a collaborative arts-based research project and subsequent multi-media contemporary art installation merging art and ethnography. Entitled Secrets Under the Skin, the installation is comprised of performance-based videos, photographic assemblages, visual, conceptual and performance art offering layers of artistic exploration grounded in ethnographic inquiry. The installation aims to evoke the experiences of embodied sensational forms as practice and as performance. Deeply rooted in oral history interviews, Secrets Under the Skin also references the experience of the research team dancing alongside members of all communities during religious ceremonies and their participation in accompanying rituals that preceded the dance and music infused events.
Her work on Secrets under the Skin has been published in the journals Material Religion and Southern Quarterly and in the edited book Making Caribbean Dance. The project itself is captured at http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/spotlight/secretsundertheskin She is currently working in collaboration with Secret’s contributing artists and a creative non-fiction writer involved in the project on a book designed to capture the research and installation work in written narrative that merges multiple literary strategies ranging from memoir, to magical realism, to performance and ethnographic theory.
Dr. Flanders Crosby also researches jazz expression, the folklorization of “traditional” dance and the ways in which people mobilize the term “traditional” and “authenticity.”