Paula Facci, a visiting scholar at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding during the fall 2016 semester, talks with participants in a dance workshop she offered as part of research for a doctoral degree from University Jaume I (Castellón, Spain). Facci is one of several scholars and practitioners with expertise in arts-based peacebuilding who have inspired university faculty to investigate the potential for a Master of Fine Arts graduate program in arts-based peacebuilding. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

Visiting scholar researches peace through dance, as EMU explores MFA program in arts, media and peacebuilding

Whether a dancer is trained or untrained, the action of dancing itself creates “contact with different sources of knowledge,” says Paula Ditzel Facci, who spent the fall 2016 semester as a visiting scholar at Eastern Mennonite University. The knowledge, which can be “intellectual, intuitive, bodily and emotional,” provides opportunities for internal and interpersonal peace.

Facci, the author of On Human Potential: Peace and Conflict Transformation Fostered Through Dance (LIT Verlag, 2011), came to EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding on a recommendation from CJP co-founder and well-known conflict transformation pioneer John Paul Lederach, now professor of international peacebuilding at University of Notre Dame.

Here, she continued her research towards a doctorate in peace and conflict studies at University Jaume I (Castellón, Spain).

Her presence also helped EMU move towards further exploration of a potential Master of Fine Arts program focusing on the arts and media in peacebuilding and justice advocacy work.

Arts-based peacebuilding has strong foundation at EMU

Paula Facci is a visiting scholar in residence during the fall 2016 semester.
The Discipleship Center becomes a dance studio for Paula Facci’s workshops.

“Hearing about Paula’s research and practical work helped us think about the challenges and potential benefits of developing this MFA,” said Academic Programs Director Jayne Docherty. “We give priority to visitors who are doing innovative work that matches our own growing edges. In this regard, Paula was a great visitor, because we have been exploring the role of arts in peacebuilding and justice-promoting activities for a number of years.”

The prospective MFA program, which would be lodged in the Visual and Communication Arts and Theater department, would also benefit from CJP’s rich history of peacebuilding practitioners who use and share arts-based approaches.

Facci’s focus on dance also connected with the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience program where Director Katie Mansfield is also working on a doctorate with an emphasis on body movement and trauma/resilience work, Docherty said.

Movement can transform conflict

During the semester, Facci led weekly arts-based participatory research on “dance as a method to elicit conflict transformation” with a group of students, faculty and staff.

“The proposal was to facilitate a space where we could explore movement and its potential to elicit transformation and unfold peace, through exercises based on dance, guided breathing and imagery, meditation and theater,” she says.

Then Facci collected reflective interviews from the dancers to inform her doctoral research.

Facci’s scholarly work is rooted in her own training in meditation, as well as arts-based movement for social change, such as Theater of the Oppressed and Theater for Living, as well as Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms dance.

Paula Facci is a visiting scholar in residence during the fall 2016 semester.
A Brazilian native, Facci has worked in arts-based movement for social change with organizations around around the world.

The Brazilian native has also studied peace and conflict, international relations, nonprofit organizations, foreign languages, and human rights; taught these subjects in various universities and schools; and worked for Brazil’s Fundação Fé e Alegria (Faith and Joy Foundation), a movement for integral popular education and social promotion for children and youth.

But before all this, she danced. Starting with folk dances at school and family parties, Facci then began taking formal lessons at age seven. Since then, she has studied ballet, jazz, contemporary and folk dance.

While at EMU, Facci also audited courses in psychosocial trauma, identity and dignity and circle processes; took a STAR training; and gave a presentation about her research.

Professor Johonna Turner served as a mentor for this “impressive scholar, innovative practitioner, and incredibly humble, loving and joyful person,” and says that watching Facci work has provided “a great example for me on the possibilities of rooting our scholarship and practice right here on our campus so that it can enhance our student body and broader campus community.”

Discussion on “Visiting scholar researches peace through dance, as EMU explores MFA program in arts, media and peacebuilding

  1. EMU continues to push the envelope in amazing ways! An MFA program in arts, media, and peacebuilding would be absolutely fabulous! I’m continually inspired by EMU’s vision for new possibilities and the impact it has around the world.

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