Dunya Dianne McPherson

Dancemeditation, a way of self-knowledge which includes, rather than excludes, the body, movement, dance, breath, intuition, and moving into the Subtle, is certainly my calling and my passion. From the beginning I loved to dance—in the living room, twirling around and around. Despite high achievement in professional dance (Juilliard, NYC concert performance, NY Times kudos full bio), I felt alienated from myself and my body. I ached for something deeper. I needed to dance my way into the heart of mysticism. When I did, I knew I’d come home. I know I’m not alone. Many of us know that our evolution, awakening, and becoming fully human happen in the spirit and the flesh. Join me in the seeking and finding—plunging into our body, our original gift, the door to understanding who we are.

Dunya Dianne McPherson, BFA, MA, acclaimed authority and meditative leader, has an extensive background in mysticism and art (Juilliard School, Sufi Foundation of America.) She accomplished over 15,000 hours of meditation apprenticeship, personal practice, and teaching. Her literary memoir, Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh, chronicles her dynamic journey in embodied mysticism.

Her teaching credentials include academic faculties, artist-residencies, and academic department chairmanship (including Barnard, Princeton, Swarthmore, NYU, Hunter, Oberlin among others) as well as meditation centers (Netherlands Mystic Festival, Kripalu Center, Claudio Naranjo’s SAT Program.) She is a critically acclaimed dancer and NEA Choreography Fellow. She teaches in-depth meditation trainings nationally and internationally.

“Dear inspiring, spirit-filled human, thank you for creating Dancemeditation. Thank you for realizing others need and want it. Thank you for bringing it and you to me. Watching you move is a little talisman of experience in my mind. I pull it out and stroke it and it reminds me to reach for that same sort of center in myself.”
–Sherry S.

“I have experienced many types of inner development, but nothing so reliably returns me to my center as Dunya’s work. She has a rare capacity to create a space in which the inner self can find its own level and unfold through whatever channel of awareness––physical, emotional or spiritual––spontaneously beckons to us. Much of the subtle power of her process is in its effortless joining of the polarities of our experience: still and vibrant, playful and intense, immediate and transcendent. In their essence, Dunya’s workshops go beyond both dance and our common notions of meditation to create a new form, melding the natural delight of the body with the natural freedom of the spirit. ”

Press

“…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

Endorsements

“There are times when god stops the clock and I am suspended,  frozen in time. There is something about the suspension that provides a necessary contrast to the relentless motion of everyday life. Thank you for helping me be in stillness in motion, and watching the body’s intelligence emerge and communicate through the mind. These times are golden, as they are so hard to find, yet they tower over the details of everyday life, large and expansive.”  – Casita Negron Wild

from Kripalu Participants

“Dunya is amazing. She is a spiritual guide and one of the most grounded, down-to-earth people that I’ve met in a long time. The entire program was meaningful, buts it’s Dunya’s heart and soul that she puts into her work that touches each person individually making them feel special. Nothing can improve this fabulous program.”–Donna Ayer, IS Development Specialist, Boston MA

“As a student of Dunya’s, what was most meaningful was watching and hearing all the effortless learning, awakening, healing. Such a beautiful sight to be in the presence of this unfolding. Such a benefit to have the opportunity to be in the presence of such a true guide. She embodies the natural transmission of beauty, art, inner truth, meditation. A calm, spacious mind, open heart.”–Jane Schmidt, Yoga Teacher, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

“Most meaningful to me was the gentle leading, through movement, into the profound expression of grief I didn’t realize I’d been carrying. The experience took me places I didn’t know existed. It was very stirring, healing. I’m grateful.” –Jill Jacobsen, Marblehead, MA

“Dunya is an amazing, open-hearted teacher. She transmits her teaching to her students in a gentle and deep way. The program had a safe environment for us. This is a sacred and earthy program, with healing, empowering, and sensual components in the movement. The space Dunya held was spacious and allowing. There was trust in us. The whole learning process has been so natural and effective and deep. It is perfect as it is.” –Jovinna Chan, yoga teacher, MA

“What was most meaningful to me was accessing movement organically and sensually versus externally. The pace was phenomenal – luxuriously slow and full, with tremendous integrity in the transmission of heart and essence.”–anon

“Dunya’s teaching was a peak experience that will transform my life. She is extraordinary.”–Maya Lea, Curator, Madison, WI

“The ways Dunya guides us into/inside our bodies was revelatory in terms of how that informed movement as well as relationship to self and the Beyond.” –Healy Smith, MD, New York, NY

“Dunya was magnificent. All I can do is rave about her and her amazing program.” –Jane Knox, retired teacher, CT

“I love the space Dunya allows for personal process and the states I found in the spaces she opens.” –Kate Russel, Pilates instructor & dancer, London, UK

“I loved this course.” –Dana Bixby, architect, W. Stockbridge, MA

“I loved the sense of community, joy & respect. Dunya’s warmth exudes through every fiber.” –Wendy Courtney, LMY, Putnam Valley, NY

“Fantastic! Dunya’s style of teaching movement from the inside out is so effective. The most satisfying part of my Kripalu experience was the level of dance I got to in a five-day period and seeing the level of dance in my classmates. Inspiring!”–Anne Marie McDonald, educator, Weymouth. MA

“Dunya gave us a super excellent inner voyage! I loved going deeper and deeper while moving and dancing and connecting.”–anon

“Excellent, inspiring and fun!” –Jackie Perchard, PR, Boston, MA

“I really loved your performance at Jebon. I was shocked in a positive way. The impression you made on me that day is still vivid in my memory and sensory devices. When you dance you push the human, the space, the stage, and the mind boundaries. AND you are channeling something way over the physical body, over the judging mind.”
Anasma Vhong, dancer, teacher, choreographer, member of Bellyqueen

“I have experienced many types of inner development, but nothing so reliably returns me to my center as Dunya’s work. She has a rare capacity to create a space in which the inner self can find its own level and unfold through whatever channel of awareness––physical, emotional or spiritual––spontaneously beckons to us. Much of the subtle power of her process is in its effortless joining of the polarities of our experience: still and vibrant, playful and intense, immediate and transcendent. In their essence, Dunya’s workshops go beyond both dance and our common notions of meditation to create a new form, melding the natural delight of the body with the natural freedom of the spirit. ”
Tom Anderson, Ph.D., psychologist Austin, TX

“I used to think you led. Then I thought you facilitated. Now I know that what you truly do is reveal essence.”
Dr. Scott Elkin, physician, psychiatrist, personal trainer


“Dunya’s performance was so beautiful. I once went to hear Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman play. They played beginingless, endless improvisation – no songs, no preamble, no nothing. They just played until they stopped. They seemed to open a trap door into some ongoing musical stream that had existed before they started to play and continued to exist after they finished. They tapped into this endless river. It was thrilling. Dunya dances like that. The minute she begins to move, she is completely at one with the movement; she embodies it so fully that the dramatic unfolding of the journey becomes mesmerizing, and ineffably right. Mostly I watch other people dance and think, huh, I would have done that differently. When Dunya dances there is no room for that, becasue the viewer is caught up in the immediacy of her choices and the organic evolution of the sequences, emotions, and spatial shifts. Her complete involvement with the movement brings the viewer into complete involvement with the movement. It is thrilling.”

Alia Thabit,   Vermont Arts Council Juried Artist, NEST Roster Artist

Photo: Dunya by Daniel Falgerho

“Dear Dunya, Your workshop brought a new inner dimension to my life. It was not only the good healthy feeling from your exercises, breathing and dancing, not only the relaxation and the stress reduction, but the awareness of interior harmony. I enjoyed discovering the body movement coming from inside. The efficiency of your techniques, I believe, came mainly from the harmony between music, breathing, energy, meditation, and the moving. Thank you, and may many people benefit from your heavenly techniques. With deep gratitude,”
Mr. Sorin Costiner Dept. of Mathematics, Univ. of Pittsburgh

“Thank you once again for the opportunity to reconnect with you and all the lovely dancers. I love your work and how you create a safe space for us to explore and find our most beautiful selves. It takes me a while to get through the layers of crap to feel my beauty. I love this work because the fast way through all this stuff is non verbal. I have found my language and you and those who join you speak it too. It is nice to feel understood. I appreciate all your gifts to all of us.”
Wendy Bixby, Director, Hospice Austin
Austin, TX

“I wish I had found your work ten years ago. It would have saved me six treatments in drug rehab centers. Thank you!”
J.W., New York City

“These workshops have given me the ultimate gift of freedom––freedom to express myself in dance, freedom to feel the energy of the music, freedom to allow my body and my mind to connect without conscious control or inhibition––without Dunya ever having said a word.”
Adelia Ritchie, Ph.D. chemistry professor, Georgia Tech

“Thank you, Dunya, for thirteen years of inspired healing and teaching. Working and teaching Thai Yoga Massage in New York City requires a great deal of focused energy. My success in the work I do is a reflection of your silent meditation exercises. Your techniques allow me to return to that inner place of stillness and yet feel revitalized, energetic and creative. At home I practice your dance meditation videos and I continue to maintain the benefits of this unique work. I look forward to seeing you again. ”
Geri Ryan, Certified Massage Therapist New York, NY

“I just wanted to let you know what a wonderful time I had at your workshop in San Francisco this past weekend.. I was entranced by the non-verbal nature of your workshop––it really allowed me to focus more deeply on my movement…all the subtle shifts and whispers in my body that I wouldn’t have noticed if my head was full of language. I came back to Southern CA feeling completely rejuvenated and refreshed It came at a time when I really needed it. Your work is so inspiring, so beautiful. I feel lucky to have experienced it.”
Gayle Brandeis, author of Self Storage

“Dunya gave a workshop for us at L.A.C.C. It was such a successful occasion, for she shared with us, how it was she came to do this kind of relaxing movement after being a professional dancer. Her work is inspirational, innovating, and truly allows for the person to begin to discover a gentle and loving way to move and experience the beauty and joy of motion. It also allows us to connect with our own inner rhythms and vibrations in a manner that gives us permission to accept and honor ourselves. Through Dunya’s workshops, the joy of moving, the beauty of the dance, and a wonderful acceptance of ourselves as moving, living entities is experienced. I heartily recommend this workshop for anyone who wants to discover the joy of living and moving through dance. It is a healing experience that allows us to turn inward to the love and ecstasy experienced when we allow ourselves to just be. It opens an opportunity for us to have a dialogue with our bodies in a way that guides us to understand we have an intelligence in our body that is a profound knowing and desperately in these times needs to be heard and accepted. Dunya is a innovator in movement, as Candace Pert is in biochemistry. She represents the new paradigm of our times. To experience her movement, and be led through movement in her workshops with her expertise, is an unforgettable experience, that allows one to begin to explore the exciting reality of who we re ital living changing organism in motion. To experience such loving movement, is to experience the joy of life itself. Dunya is a unique master of movement, and the dance. Don’t miss the experience of her presence. It can be transforming.”
Laurienne Singer, M.A., Movement Specialist, Dance Therapist, LACC faculty Los Angeles, CA

“I am a physical being. I was never meant to be staring at a computer 10 hours a day, stuck to a chair and a telephone on one ear. This has been draining the life out of me. The weekend in Dancemeditation re-introduced me to myself. Thank you for helping rediscover my lost self. ”
Donna Felder, dental office manager Pittsburgh, PA

“In Dunya’s workshops, I remember how to be myself. My essence unfolds, and my soul stretches like a newly-born baby as I approach my inner point of perfect stillness. All through motion and breathing. Beyond verbalizing. Beyond rationalizing. Beyond Understanding. I heal….”
Dr. Monica Grace, psychotherapist Austin, TX

“During a vision facilitated by Dunya’s process I found my joy. I danced into my joy, slowly, becoming one with her. This joyous state had eluded me all my life but now I have lived in it ever since. My joy comes with me and my body everywhere we go. It’s just as wonderful as my wildest hopes.”
Celeste Roth, Electronics Engineer Instructor, FAA, EIT, MeD

Full Biography

Dunya Dianne McPherson is a writer/author, choreographer/dancer, Shattari Sufi adept,  and Founder of Dancemeditation™ specializing 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 memoir, Skin of Glass: Finding 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 Texas, New York University, Hunter College , Barnard College, Montclair State College, Mark Morris Dance Center, New York Open Center * Sufi Master: Mystic Festival in Netherlands, and SAT Conference, Colombia * Director & Spiritual Guide: Dervish Society of America

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. Choreographic Vitae

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; Midnight at the Crossroads: Has Bellydance Lost Its Soul?, Alia Thabit, 2018; Reckoning with Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance, Donnalee Dox, PhD, 2017; Conscious Dancer Magazine, Dancer Magazine, Contact Quarterly, 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.

photo: Dunya McPherson by Paul B. Goode

Choreographic Vitae

AWARDS
• 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)

PROFESSIONAL CHOREOGRAPHIC EXPERIENCE
• 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”

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