Melissa Melpignano

Fox Fine Arts Center
El Paso Texas, 79968
Phone Logo(915) 747-6509
HomeWeb Site



Melissa Melpignano
Assistant Professor of Instruction, Theatre and Dance - Chicano Studies
Director, Dance

Melissa Melpignano is an interdisciplinary dance scholar and practitioner. She works as an Assistant Professor of Instruction and Director of Dance in the Department of Theatre & Dance at UTEP. Her research focuses on the stakes of dancing and choreographing in contested regions and border areas, such as the Mexico-U.S. border and Israel/Palestine, through the original framework of "livability." She received her Ph.D. in Culture & Performance from UCLA. She is a recipient of the Selma Jeanne Cohen Award from the Society of Dance History Scholars, and served as a Board member of the Dance Studies Association. At UTEP, she serves as a UTEP Edge Fellow 2022-2024.Dr. Melpignano's second book project, Moving Out of Control: Choreographies of Livability in Israel/Palestine explores how choreographers and dancers attempt or manage to escape the logics and dispositifs of territorial, temporal, and ideological control, while challenging and resisting practices of coercion in the choreographic process and performance. As a critical ballet scholar and practitioner, she has a forthcoming monograph, Immemorial Presences: Variations and Reverberations in Ballet Librettos, looks at marginalized 18th and 19th c. ballet documents and ballet bodies to debunk hegemonic and strict conceptualizations of ballet culture and technique rooted in colonial, patriarchal and heteronormative ideologies, and re-emphasize variations as an empowering tool in ballet practice and choreography. Her essays appear in the Oxford Handbook of Jewishness and Dance, 50 Contemporary Choreographers, 3rd edition (Routledge), TDR The Drama Review, Dance Research Journal, The Dancer Citizen, among others.As a dance maker, dramaturg, facilitator, and performer, with a background in various Western and Mediterranean theatrical and traditional dance and somatic forms, Melissa has worked internationally for two decades. She is a co-founder of the interdisciplinary, artist-led collective Somos Agua / We Are Water, whose mission is to tackle issues of water scarcity and unequal access to water in the Paso del Norte Region. In this context and as a member of the interdisciplinary UTEP One Water Cluster, she is a co-organizer of the annual UTEP World Water Week conference, and she is curating the performance project Mapping the Rio. For her performance project #documance, she collaborates with a variety of visual artists, such as Sam Reveles and Angel Cabrales. With Cabrales, she choreographs and performs in the expansive project The Uncolonized/Teoquiyaoatl.Dr. Melpignano is also curating the translation and publication in Italian of frontera poet Gris Muñoz's Coatlique Girl.


  1. Dance
  2. Performance
  3. Border
  4. Conflict
  5. Frontera
  6. Livability