Newell Scholar looks to impart an appreciation of indigenous sacred dance

Newell Scholar looks to impart an appreciation of indigenous sacred dance

T he love of dance runs deep for Dr. Carla Walter. It’s not only the aesthetic value of it she enjoys but how it allows people to express their feelings and emotions and connects them to the world around them.

“I have always loved dance,” said Walter. “From the time I was a young child, but also now, I love the spirituality of it.”

As the Martha Daniel Newell Visiting Scholar for the Spring 2022 semester, Walter will teach Global Perspectives of Indigenous Dance and Religious Histories.

Dr. Carla Walter.
Dr. Carla Walter.

“Students are going to learn to analyze a culture's sense of being as it’s related to indigenous dance,” said Walter. “We will look at locations from Egypt to Africa to Mesoamerica over to the Polynesian Islands and Australia, back up to India, Mongolia, Tibet, back over to Persia, and then the Andes. So, the students are going to get a worldview.”

Her career journey includes different fields and opportunities, but the thread that ties it all together for her is dance.

“Initially, I spent a lot of time developing my career in business, economics and finance,” said Walter. “At a certain point, the company I was working for was transitioning into a publicly traded corporation. That’s when I decided I wanted to go deeper into dance. I applied and got accepted to the doctoral program in dance history and theory at the University of California, Riverside with full fellowship.”

Just before completing her dissertation, she accepted a position as an assistant professor—but in the business department.

“My research started exploring the ways that dance can influence purchase behavior. I wrote and published books and articles in that area,” she said.

Students in Walter's class practice a movement routine.
Students in Walter's class practice a movement routine.

“One example of what we found through research was television commercials with dance in them increased respondents’ sense of connectedness and their sense of belonging, as well as, stimulated their feelings of awe and wonderment,” she said. “And these are important for impacting consumers through advertising.”

This research, she says, led her back “to the spirituality of dance.”

“Because when I was writing my book, ‘Dance Consumerism and Spirituality,’ I had the opportunity to review some of the emergent sources of biblical texts that were not included in some editions of the Bible,” she said.

What she found was that dance was often eliminated during the early translations of the Bible. This piqued her interest and led to more research.

All the while, she continued to take on new roles in higher education, but dance remained her passion and her research continued.

“The big religions have all tried, but dance is resurfacing because of the power that dance has for humanity, in terms of helping people with all kinds of human circumstances—transitioning and rituals, rites of passage and death, and questions about living.”
– Dr. Carla Walter

“I started looking at different cultures, and I found that a lot of these major religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism—most of them did a systematic silencing of sacred dance at different points in time,” said Walter.

“The big religions have all tried, but dance is resurfacing because of the power that dance has for humanity, in terms of helping people with all kinds of human circumstances—transitioning and rituals, rites of passage and death, and questions about living.”

Now serving as the Newell Scholar, she brings her research and experience to Georgia College students and the community.

She will host several presentations for the campus and community. The first takes place Tuesday, Jan. 25 a 7 p.m. in Peabody Auditorium of Kilpatrick Hall and is titled “Indigenous Sacred Dance and Religious Histories.” She will present some histories of indigenous sacred dance and religion from various points around the globe, dating before the Common Era. She says participants at the lecture may be inspired to join in simple choreography as they relate to particular indigenous peoples.

Two other presentations later in the spring semester will feature the work of her students. Those will be April 5 at 7 - 8 p.m. and April 26 at 7 - 8 p.m. Both take place in Ennis Hall 201.

Walter received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside in economics and a Master of Business Administration from California State University, San Bernardino. Her Doctor of Philosophy focuses on dance history and theory.

She has published several books including “Sacred Dance Meditations: 365 Globally Inspired Movement Practices Enhancing Awakening, Clarity, and Connection,” “Arts Management: An Entrepreneurial Approach” and “Dance, Consumerism, and Spirituality.”

The Martha Daniel Newell Visiting Scholar program was established in 2011 with an endowment from Georgia College alumna, Mrs. Martha Daniel Newell. The Newell Visiting Scholar program promotes the Georgia College liberal arts mission by bringing to campus eminent scholars from the arts, humanities, social sciences and physical sciences, the disciplines at the heart of our liberal arts mission. More information is available here.