Percussive Roots : Cross-Cultural Connections and Honoring Heritage

Date of Award


Document Type

MSU-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


College of the Arts


Theatre and Dance

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Kathleen Kelley

Committee Member

Claire Porter

Committee Member

Karen Love


Tap dance, a cultural dance form native to the United States, has continually evolved and drawn influence and inspiration from surrounding cultural dance forms. Through seeing parallels between tap dance’s cultural history and my own family’s history, this MFA thesis project was a staged production that investigated and presented cultural dance forms. The show’s narrative followed a student discussing her ancestral roots with her mother and father. As the parents introduced each ancestor and details about the ancestor’s life, a dancer representing this ancestor stepped on stage. The dancer demonstrated his or her percussive traditions, accompanied by supporting dancers and live musicians. As the show progressed, the student discovered how learning about her family history helped her better connect to both her ancestors and herself. The final number combined steps from each form to create something new, alluding to the unlimited possibilities that can come from allowing ourselves to draw from our cultural backgrounds to fuel our creative endeavors. The performance was meant to showcase that the past is a part of who we each are today, and to entertain the audience with the vibrant variety that exists within percussive dance. This written thesis details my research to support the performance, the process of creating the performance, reflections on the performance, and what comes next in my research and creation.


The performance video is restricted to the Montclair State University community but the PDF file of the thesis, which is located at the bottom of the screen, is available to anyone interested in reading it.

File Format


Madsen, Jacob_Redacted.pdf (877 kB)
PDF file of written thesis

This resource is available only to the Montclair State University community. Please log in with your NetID.