Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Mitchell Kossak

Second Advisor

Vivien Marcow Speiser

Third Advisor

Nisha L. Sajnani


Embodied Digital Storytelling with Ancestral Legacy is a study of one's ancestral legacy with a diverse group of professional dancers who were asked to engage in an embodied inquiry. Research questions were: What is the experience of creating embodied digital storytelling when exploring one’s ancestral legacy? What can be learned from identity, sense of belonging, and resilience through this process? The study included an interview about each dancer's ancestral story, the creation of embodied digital storytelling (EDS), a final interview, and a group member checking meeting for the purpose of confirming the transcripts and findings. This meeting also served as a space to watch the EDS films and for an open group discussion where the participants expressed their thoughts of the method and shared their experience. The process of creating an EDS included the dancers creating a choreography through a movement-based gestalt dialogue with the ancestor of their choice. After that, the dancer recorded a dance in a place that supported their connection to their ancestor. The researcher then helped the dancer edit the film, and the dancer created a narrative to go with what they saw in the film. The result of this exploration of ancestral legacy through storytelling and dance resulted in the themes: transgenerational trauma and resilience; place attachment, home, and culture; embodiment with ancestral repair and ancestral support; identity through one's ancestral artifacts and name. All seven participants felt that the EDS process helped them connect to ancestors while engaging with strong emotions and unlocking their creativity. This research provides a model for art-based research using embodied digital storytelling. Furthermore, this research was conducted during the COVID 19 pandemic and had some insights in finding resilience during stressful times.


Art-Based Research, film, voice, storytelling, and dance created an opportunity to see expressive arts therapy in a multidisciplinary exploration of the self in relationship to ancestral legacy.

Number of Pages





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