Elizabeth Wayland Barber is a lifelong folkdancer as well as an archaeologist and linguist by profession, having taught at Occidental College, Los Angeles, for 37 years before retiring in 2007. Geographically her interests revolve around the archaeology, linguistics, and ethnography of the Balkan peninsula and East Europe. In addition to doing extensive research on the origins and development of cloth and clothing in western Eurasia, she has constantly explored possible interfaces between archaeology and linguistics, including decipherment theory and method, the archaeology of brain and language, and the evolution of modes of transmitting information (myth, ritual, dance, dress, writing, etc.). Her mother taught weaving and other textile arts (before raising a family) and transmitted a deep love and knowledge of European folk arts to her daughters.
In addition to many articles, Barber has written or co-authored eight books:
Archaeological Decipherment (Princeton Univ. Press; 1974; 275 pp.)
Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with special reference to the Aegean (Princeton U.P.; 1991, 470 pp.)
Women’s Work–The First 20,000 Years (W.W. Norton; 1994, 334 pp.)
The Mummies of Ürümchi (W.W. Norton; 1999, 240 pp.)
When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth by E.W. Barber and P.T. Barber (Princeton Univ. Press, Feb. 2005; 290 pp)
The Dancing Goddesses (W.W. Norton, January 2013; ca. 450 pp)
Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe: A History in Layers, by E.W. Barber and Barbara Belle Sloan (Fowler Museum Textile Series #11, Los Angeles; 2013; 275 pp.)
Two Thoughts with but a Single Mind: Crime and Punishment and the Writing of Fiction by P.T. Barber, Mary Fleming Zirin, and E.W. Barber. (Cassandrine Publications, 2013; 190 pp.; available free on this website, in Book Corner)
She has curated two museum exhibitions:
Guest curator (with Marijke Kerkhoven) and designer of Mothers of Invention: 25 Millennia of Textile Innovation, Museum for Textiles, Toronto, May 31-October 13, 2000.
Guest curator (with Barbara Belle Sloan) and editor of catalog, author of 13,000 words of catalog and of organizational themes of exhibit, for Layered in History: Treasured Clothing from Southeastern Europe, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA; March 9 – July 15, 2013.
Her choreographies for the Occidental Folk and Historical Dance Troupe include:
Narrative (longest to shortest):
The Frog Princess (1 hr. 10 min.; Russian folktale; mime and Slavic folkdance; premiere spring 1993, revised/enlarged version premiere spring 1994)
The Prince and the Goose Girl, or The Value of Salt (1 hr.; Hungarian folktale; mime and Hungarian folkdance; premiere spring 2002)
Stoyan and the Swan Maiden (40 min.; Bulgarian legend; mime and So. Slavic folkdance; premiere spring 1999)
The Faerie Changeling (40 min.; Irish legend; mime with Irish step and set dancing; premiere spring 2001)
Johnny Appleseed (40 min.; historical sketch: mime and North European immigrant folkdance: spring 2005)
Theseus and the Minotaur (40 min.; ancient tale with surprise happy-ending: mime and Greek folkdance: spring 2008)
The Dancing Leaf (35 min.; Tyrolean fairytale; mime and Tyrolean folkdance; premiere spring 2007)
The Legend of Rag Rock (25 min.; New England legend; mime and American folkdance; premiere spring 1998, revised version premiere spring 1999)
A Century Ball: 1887, 1907, 1927, 1947 (period dance skits and suites for Occidental College’s Centennial Celebration, spring 1987)
The Legend of the Mason (10 min.; Romanian legend; mime; spring 1990)
The Magic Castle (10 min.; Hungarian fairytale; mime and Viennese waltz; premiere fall 1999)
Piano Man (5 min.; dance-theater choreography to Billy Joel’s classic song, 1986)
The Ring (4 min.; Russian folktale; mime and Russian dance; premiere 1980)
“Emperor Waltz,” “Wiener Blut,” “Roses from the South,” “The Beautiful Blue Danube,” “The Count of Luxembourg Waltzes,” “Sleeping Beauty Waltz,” “Merry Widow Waltzes,” “Gold and Silver Waltz,” “Kiss Waltz,” “Explosions Polka,” Gypsy Baron Polka,” “Charleston!”, “1908 Suite: One-Step, Schottische, Hesitation Waltz”
plus over 50 years of arranging suites of European and American folk and historical dances for performance.
She resides with her husband and rescued dogs in California.