ICPSR Data Brunch Podcast Episode 2: Rhythm and Movement

Original Air Date: February 26, 2021



DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Welcome to Data Brunch with ICPSR! If you love data, this is gonna be food for thought. I’m Dory.




DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: We’re recording these episodes live from our remote offices, so please excuse cameos from canine colleagues, kids in class, and other unexpected moments.


ANNALEE SHELTON: In this episode we’ll talk about our excitement about Love Data Week, some awesome data about dance and the great Kathrine Dunham, and of course we’ll tell you about new data and more!


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: So yes, Love Data Week which is a really big deal around here, it was the week just before Valentine’s Day. And we had 85 events around the world showcasing data, with 22 participating institutions. There were 5 webinars from ICPSR with 230 webinar attendees. 


ICPSR runs this annual program during Love Data Week called Adopt a Dataset. This year we had 43 adopted datasets. And the most frequently adopted datasets were the 2015 US Transgender Survey and the Mathmatics Teaching in the 21st Century, and also the Study of Jazz Artists from 2001.


You can relive everything from Love Data Week by searching for #LoveData21 on your favorite social media platforms.


And also, save the date! Love Data Week 2022 is February 14-18. Find out more at icpsr.umich.edu or send us an email at LoveDataWeek@umich.edu. We will link to these in our show notes as well.


ANNALEE SHELTON: So next we want to talk about data and current events, and this is… this is a little less fun than the Love Data Week bit.


So, there have been some atrocious attacks on Asians during COVID-19, and a publication using ICPSR data finds that this is the latest result of the practice of “othering” - and I’m using air quotes here -  in the United States. 


So this paper, it’s titled, “Anti-Asian hate crime during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring the reproduction of inequality.” And this paper by Angela R. Gover, Shannon B. Harper & Lynn Langton, and it’s in the American Journal of Criminal Justice. And the authors outline how the perpetuation of racism and xenophobia has led to hate crimes and the abuse of Asian-Americans.


They use the Uniform Crime Reporting Program and the National Crime Victimization Survey, which they retrieved from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (known here as NACJD) which is housed at ICPSR, to find annual counts of racially-motivated hate crime that occurred between 2003 and 2018.


You can find links to this paper as well as the data behind it in the ICPSR Bibliography of Data-Related Literature.


And as well, in new and updated data, we have the Survey of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior for November and December 2016 which features respondent’s thoughts about purchasing houses and automobiles and computers, as well as other durable goods.


We also have an update to the Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, which is SHED, it’s known as SHED (that’s the acronym). And it was the April 2020 Supplemental Survey in the United States. So the 2019 complete survey was conducted in October 2019, and that offered a picture of personal finances prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And then to obtain updated information in the midst of the closures and the stay-at-home orders, there was a smaller supplemental survey was conducted in April 2020, which focused on labor market effects and households' overall financial circumstances at that time. So that’s what this update is.


Dory, over to you.


[Music playing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: I am here with ICPSR’s Ambyr Amen-Ra, who is a Senior Data Project Manager at ICPSR. And Ambyr is here to talk to us about the Dunham’s Data project, which if you haven’t heard about it before you are in for a treat. Ok, so Ambyr, how are you?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: I’m good, thanks for having me.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thank you so much for joining us. So I have to know, the first question for you is, how did the Dunham’s Data project come to ICPSR?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: It’s actually kind of a funny story. I had no idea that there was a conference called Collegium for African Diaspora Dance, CADD. It’s held at Duke every other year. And it focuses on scholars of Black dance. So anything academic where researchers have explored anything regarding Black dance, they meet at this conference. 


And I saw that this group was presenting on this Dunham’s Data. And I have been a lifelong follower of Ms. Dunham’s work, I’ve studied her techniques since I was little. So I was really excited to see what they had found and what kind of data they were producing. And unfortunately I missed their presentation because they presented the last day of the conference and I left early that morning. But I basically ran up to them and gave them an elevator pitch, because I’d perused their website and I realized they didn’t have anything about where the Dunham was gonna be housed… where the data was gonna be housed after they’d finished collecting it.


So I gave them like a three minute elevator pitch where I was like, hey, we have this great archive that would love to have your data, let’s talk more. Gave them my card. And then I reached out a couple days later and the rest is history. They are here, we have the data, and it’s very exciting for us.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: So you mentioned earlier that you were a lifelong fan of Kathrine Dunham’s choreography, tell us more about that.


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Yeah, so I’m actually currently in the certification process to teach her technique. But growing up my mom was studying her technique and she was certified way back in 1993… ooh she’s going to hate that I said, “way back.”




But way back in 1993… And while she was in St. Louis living in Ms. Dunham’s houses studying the technique and how to teach it and getting her certification, I went with her. I think I was about 11 years old. But that was my real introduction to Ms. Dunham. I knew who she was, but it wasn’t until that summer that she really knew who I was. And I used to just sit in her bedroom and listen to her stories, listen to her talk about her travels. 


And while my mom was getting certification, Ms. Dunham’s children’s company was rehearsing every day at her museum. So I got an opportunity to train with them. And that summer I actually performed in their summer concert. So I learned some of her choreography when I was younger.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: So my next question for you Ambyr is, so when you were this little eleven year old kid and you met Katherine Dunham, did you have any sense that you were talking to one of the most successful people with one of the most successful dance careers of African American and European theater of the twentieth century? Like, what was your realization of just the scope?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: I would have to say I did. So let me set the stage a little bit for how Ms. Dunham’s… I don’t want to call them followers, you know, that’s a popular term now, but we weren’t followers back then, but… the people who know about Ms. Dunham, and have seen her work and have taken her technique, they’re always enamoured by her. 


And one of the cool things about Ms. Dunham is that she knew how to make an entrance. So whenever she would teach a masterclass... she would have a yearly conference and people would come from all over the world to the conference. And whenever she would teach at the conference, it would be a huge deal that Ms. Dunham was coming. We would all gather in whatever large space we were getting ready to take the class, and someone would be on lookout basically telling the rest of us when she was coming.


[Music starts in the background]


And when she would enter the space, there would be a battery of drummers who would welcome her and just open the space up. And people would just be on their feet and in tears and clapping because we knew her importance.




There would just be an overwhelming feeling of excitement that you were getting ready to learn from a legend.


[Drumming comes to a stop]


And when I tell you those classes were three and four hours long, she would… it would be part lecture, it would be some self help in there, it would be a lot of movement. A lot of times she would be exploring movement. So still in her eighties and nineties she was creating new movement. 




AMBYR AMEN-RA: And she was still studying the dances from people all over the diaspora and bringing them back to her students. 


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Wow. Thank you for giving us a better idea of her impact on the dancers and the arts and the community you are part of.


I want to say a little bit about the PIs, the Principal Investigators, who were instrumental in bringing this project to ICPSR. So shoutout to Harmony Bench from Ohio State University and Kate Elswit from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.


And you recently had a webinar with them where we talked about these data and shared some of the really cool data visualizations with the ICPSR community. Can you talk about more of how the PIs measured the movement in this project?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Yeah, one of the really spectacular things about this project is that they’ve already developed so many visualizations that kind of help you conceptualize how you can view the data that they make available on their website, and that we link to on ours, so that you can see cool things like, who was in the company at the same time? Who joined the company where? So like you can see what members joined when she went to Philippines. Or who joined when her company performed in Brazil. And you can see kind of the way that her work kind of morphed.


So she may have been showing “L'ag'ya” which is one of her famous pieces, and “Shango” at the same time. But you get to see how maybe her program morphed, because she took great care in what she was presenting. She didn’t just throw pieces on stage and say, “here’s a performance.” She had rhyme or reason to why she had certain pieces performed at certain times.


And I didn’t give a great example of two that were largely connected, but you’ll be able to see that kind of throughout her work. You kind of see when she used, when she showed “Barrelhouse,” and… how those pieces, and some of her ballet, some of her larger works… how she fit some pieces in and took some pieces out where she thought that maybe it didn’t quite give the story that she was trying to give. So she made some really smart changes kind of while she was traveling and performing. So that certain audiences got a certain experience. And you’ll be able to see that kind of following some of their visualizations because they do a good job of connecting the dots.


I don’t know, did I share that Ms. Dunham gave me pneumonia? Did I share that story with them?


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: I don’t think you did!


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Ok, I’ll share this story with you quickly. So that summer I also got something else from Ms. Dunham. A great gift that she gave me, walking pneumonia. She had it and didn’t find out for awhile that she had it, and I had already gone back to Michigan. And I was actually on my way with my mom to visit another friend in Vermont. And the day before I had a really bad asthma attack, and they took me to the doctor and realized that I had pneumonia. And I caught that from Ms. Dunham.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Oh! But you both recovered?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Oh yeah. I barely had any symptoms. I was maybe sick like two or three days. And Ms. Dunham had, she just had an amazing constitution because she did a 47 day strike not long before that, back in 1992.




AMBYR AMEN-RA: A 47 day hunger strike to protest the president at the time, the first George Bush…




AMBYR AMEN-RA: Wasn’t allowing Haitian refugees into the country and was basically turning them away off the coast of Miami. And she thought that was horrible. And they were escaping political strife in Haiti. And she wondered why there were people from other countries who could come in for those same reasons.




AMBYR AMEN-RA: But our government was not letting Haitians in. So she protested by not eating. And she bounced back from that. And she was, you know, an older woman. So the fact that she was doing these things in her eighties and nineties, just says so much about her strength and who she was as a person. When she believed in something...




AMBYR AMEN-RA: She was definitely gonna fight for that.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Well we’re talking about dances used strategically during different times, do you remember the first dance that you yourself ever learned?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: When I was in the Children’s Company and performing with the Children’s Company, Los Indios was an amazing piece. And while I did not perform it as one of the lead dancers, I still got to learn the movement. And a dance that I had seen many times and thought was really good, and I loved the music, it was so cool to actually learn the movements both in class and actually have it staged where I got to run through the dance as if I was gonna perform it. 


So that gave me I think a better understanding of how her choreography worked, and the translation from what we learn in class in her technique and how she moved that into full pieces and full presentations of dance.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thank you. I ask you that to get your mind away from the data for a minute. [Laughing]


AMBYR AMEN-RA: [Laughing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: But now back to data. What sorts of projects or research can you see the Dunham’s data getting used for?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: So I think, one of the things that the researchers were trying to avoid was only having Ph.D. and dance followers find this data interesting. I think the type of data that they have provided gives kind of endless possibilities for the way that the data could be used. I think journalists could use the data, I think high school students could use the data. Undergraduate students in particular, I know that U of M’s dance department will be taking a look at including research assignments that will utilize the data to get, one, dancers used to also being data users, but also to help them kind of understand more about Ms. Dunham’s global impact. 


So I can see this data being used in many different ways by many different people. Not just by dancers who are interested in learning about Ms. Dunham, but dancers and just students who are curious about where she was, who was impacted by her, what was going on in the world at the time. 


Because Ms. Dunham was definitely a political activist. Her, her work did not stop at choreography and art. It went well beyond that. So I could see people from a lot of different areas finding use for her data.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: What do you think is the future of dance data itself?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Ooh. That’s tough. Give me a second. [Laughing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Mmhmm [laughing].


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Let’s see. I never back down from a challenge. Ok, so one of the cool things I learned about, at CADD, was that there are so many dance scholars doing all types of research with data and different types of data. So you have the quantitative, you have the qualitative, you have people reviewing video. You have people reviewing the news clippings when dances were performed. You have… there are people that analyze programs to see what kinds of dances were being performed at a certain period of time. I mean there are so many things that you can do with research and dance. And I think my eyes were really opened when I went to CADD because you had everyone from, you know, regular dancers off the street, to professors who teach dance, at this conference talking about their research.


One of the things that I think has lacked is having a database, having a place where the data is quantitative, that researchers can actually go and run computations and run some of the statistics that we’re running in other areas of research. And I think that this is probably going to be the spark that other researchers will need to develop their own databases. And if they’re already created, hopefully place them somewhere where other people can use them. Because I think one of the hardest things for researchers to do is to share their data. And they just don’t know that they can. So I think that by sharing this Dunham’s Data, that will get other researchers think about ways that they can make their data available as well.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Ok so I know you like a challenge. So… what is the one song someone could play at a party that gets you out on the floor no matter what you were doing before.


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Oooooh. [Laughing] Oh Dory. That’s a great question. Probably anything by Michael Jackson or Prince. Like literally anything. Yeah. And I will say this, I think Michael Jackson has done a lot for dance,




AMBYR AMEN-RA: Because his choreography was always front and center in all of his performances, all of his videos. So Michael Jackson for sure, anything by him I’m out on the floor.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Ok. Do you know any routines from Michael Jackson?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: I definitely know quite a few parts of Thriller. 




AMBYR AMEN-RA: And I would totally learn it if someone wanted me to do it at a wedding. [Laughing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Ok [laughing], fair enough. How can listeners find out more about Dunham’s Data or contact you?


AMBYR AMEN-RA: Oh there are so many ways. If they come to ICPSR’s website and they just put in Dunham’s Data they can find it that way. Dunham’s Data is Googleable. They’ll find our website as well as the Dunham Data project website which is DunhamsData.org. They can reach out to me, send me an email at AmbyrB@umich.edu. And I know Kate and Harmony are very open to having more dialogue about their research and answering any questions. So there are various ways. I know from our website you can actually reach out to them as well.


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thank you so much Ambyr for joining us, it’s just been an honor to talk to you about this amazing dataset. And thank you to everyone who was instrumental in bringing these data to the ICPSR community and just to the world. You know, for people to reuse in the years to come. 


[Music playing]


ANNALEE SHELTON: Oh my gosh. The Dunham data is some of my favorite stuff. I, I could listen to this forever. Thank you so much Ambyr for being here.


So in upcoming events, we have great news, we are hiring! As of the date of this podcast, we have four positions open. These positions are in IT, project management and more. And you can follow us on social media to get links to those position openings, and of course the links will be in the show notes as well.


And we also want to let you know that registration is now open for the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods. If you haven’t come to this training program it is incredible, you’ve absolutely got to come. The short workshops will start in May, and the four-week sessions start June 21st, 2021. And everything is virtual again for 2021, so all of those workshops, all of those classes, everything will be taking place virtually.


We want to give you a heads up that applications are due on March 22nd, 2021 for the IRIS workshop which is titled, “Joining the Data Revolution: Big Data in Education and Social Science Research.” This is a free workshop, and it is really popular and we’ve had a lot of applications so please get your applications in fast. There are instructions for applying for this workshop in our show notes as well.


And just so you know, the ICPSR Summer Program scholarship applications are due by March 29th.


And then we have another upcoming event, on April 1st we have “openICPSR: ICPSR's Self-Publishing Repository” a webinar. This is free and open to the public, please do share this widely. You can find the registration info at icpsr.umich.edu. 


And we want to note that if you are listening to this episode at a later date, you can always visit icpsr.umich.edu to see our current job listings and upcoming events and more. 


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Thank you so much Anna. And that brings us to the end of this episode. Thank you everyone for being with us!


ANNALEE SHELTON:: For links to data and everything else we talked about today, visit our show notes at icpsr.umich.edu


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: Coming up, we’ll talk about the US Transgender Survey and the 2008 National Transgender Discrimination Survey. If you aren’t already, subscribe now on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts!


ANNALEE SHELTON: And thank you as always to the ICPSR membership. This podcast would not be possible without the ICPSR members. 


[Music playing]


DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: You can get in touch with us by visiting our website, icpsr.umich.edu, or emailing us at ICPSR-podcast@umich.edu.



DORY KNIGHT-INGRAM: And I’m Dory. And thanks for joining us at ICPSR’s Data Brunch.