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Zakiya Atkinson is an educator, artist, and administrator committed to cultivating arts literacy and social change. She is the director of Zaman Dance Theatre Collective and an Assistant Professor and the Single Subject Credential Coordinator for Dance at California State University, Long Beach. Atkinson served for three years as the Supervisor for Fine and Performing Arts at Cranford Public Schools and before that post spent ten years as a dance educator/ director at Memorial High School in West New York, NJ. During her tenure there, Atkinson collaborated to develop a Performing Arts Academy while creating and implementing dance curricula and arts programming throughout the district. 


Atkinson’s professional credits include stage, television, print, and live events. She has also toured school districts as an arts education performer and was a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader (NFL) for four years.


Atkinson has served on the faculties at New York University, William Paterson University, and Bronx Community College. She founded the Essex County MetroWest Dance Festival and Modern Renaissance X, events merging student and professional artists throughout New Jersey and surrounding areas. Atkinson employs the arts in community spaces as a tool for transformation and has facilitated community based programs locally and internationally. She has been the recipient of an NEA Learning & Leadership grant and fellowships with Body Politic Laboratory at Gibney (NYC), Bates Dance Festival, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Atkinson has also presented her research and practice at arts, education, and social justice conferences.


Atkinson received a B.A. in Communications and Theatre from Temple University, MA in Dance Education from New York University, and a Certificate in Holocaust & Genocide Education from Saint Elizabeth University. She also holds K-12 Dance and Supervisory Certifications.


Atkinson is a doctoral candidate in the Dance Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University and is currently conducting a research study, Towards Community Dance Educator Preparedness: Facilitating Inclusive, Culturally Responsive, and Transformative Experiences for Diverse Communities and Groups. Atkinson’s research interests include critical and transformative pedagogies, arts integration, and the impact of sociocultural factors on arts education and community practice.

"My teaching and leadership in arts education has been informed by my commitment to increase equitable access to arts education; critical and transformative pedagogies; and my understanding of exclusionary practices and frameworks in the arts. I strive to create environments that are inclusive, culturally sustaining, and transformative. This occurs when we honor and integrate the lived experiences of our students and encourage them to have agency in their learning process."

Zakiya Atkinson

More Dance in More Schools

"The California Dance Education Association recognizes the logistical and space challenges of providing dance education especially in schools where there is no dedicated dance space. This tip sheet is designed to help school community members, administrators and teachers with the resources to ensure that dance is available and accessible without barrier to all CA students.

Ensure that dance gets the funding it deserves. Share this tip sheet with your principal, district administration, and even your superintendent." (CDEA, 2024)


Join me at the following sessions:

You're An Outsider and That's OK: Multicultural Education in the Dance Classroom
Presenter: Zakiya Atkinson

Special Presentation: Prop 28 Dance Tip Sheet
CDEA and Guest Presenters: Zakiya Atkinson, Nicole Robinson, and Meghan Wiodarczyk

Dance Credential Convening
Presenters: CDEA and Dance Credential Program Leads


Meet me at NDEO 2023 for a panel presentation: 

Paving Pathways to K-12 Arts Leadership

Panelists: Zakiya Atkinson, Jaqueline Olivares,

Rachel Swenson

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Join my virtual sessions on 1/21/23

Investigating Community Dance Practice: Notes from the Field

2:00pm-2:30pm EST

Moving Towards Empathy:

Reflecting on the Refugee Crisis

4:45pm-5:45pm EST



Join me for a session of Presentation & Practice- Creating Transformative Communities Through Dance

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Meet me at NDEO 2022 for my presentation of Investigating Community Dance Practice: Notes from the Field

-Zakiya Atkinson 

Session Description:

Dance has always been a practice for the people which makes community dance a practice most authentic and reflective of the ways in which societies have used their bodies to embody, reflect on and respond to varied occurrences in life. This presentation conveys the outcomes of a study entitled Investigating Community Dance Practice. The study used interviews and a focus group to collect data about the preparation, pedagogical approaches, and lived experiences of community dance educators working in diverse settings. 

I will share my findings and how they correlate to literature in the field around community dance education. I will also present the emergence of variances in community dance educator preparedness, the positionality of community dance education in the field, and the application of critical and transformative pedagogies. This research is a segue to continued research towards preparing community dance educators to facilitate dance and movement-based experiences with diverse communities and groups. 



Presentation Highlights


  • Community Dance Education Workshop: Moving Towards Liberation. New York University Steinhardt, Dance Education Program (2022)

  • Arts Are Education: Dance Focused Town Hall Webinar (Panelist). National Dance Education Organization (2021)


  • Sustaining a K-12 Dance Program in Changing Times (Presenter). National Dance Education Organization Conference (2021). Telling Our Stories: The Essentiality of Dance In Changing Times.


  • So, You Want Another Degree: Grad School and Beyond (Panelist). Telling Our Stories: National Dance Education Organization Conference (2021). Telling Our Stories: The Essentiality of Dance In Changing Times.


  • Dance Education in a Changing United States: K-12 Dance Education for Every Child (Panelist) : Dance/ NYC 2019 Symposium: Dance in a Changing United States, Hunter College. New York, New York


  • Cross-Curricular Connectivity: A Creative Approach to the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights (Presenter). Teaching the World Forum 2016, Rutgers University: GSE. New Brunswick, New Jersey


  • New Strategies for Holocaust Education/ (Presenter): Collaborative Conference on Holocaust Education: Looking to the Future (2016). College of Saint Elizabeth. Morristown, New Jersey


  • See the Need and Meet it: Artistry, Community, Leadership and Diversity in High School Dance (Presenter). National Dance Education Organization Conference (2016). Speaking With Our Feet: Advocating, Analyzing, and Advancing Dance Education. Arlington, Virginia

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