Duke will cement its status as a university with a uniquely strong emphasis on African dance by hosting the first major conference on African dance in more than 20 years.
The University will host “Dancing the African Diaspora: Theories of Black Performance,” a conference organized by the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD) and sponsored by the department of African and African American Studies at Duke, SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology, the Corporeality Working Group, Humanities Writ Large and the Duke Dance Program. A Duke student advisory board composed of both graduate and undergraduate students, also works as a part of the conference committee as an effort to open up the conference to a wider audience of students and community members.
Thomas DeFrantz, a professor of dance and African and African American Studies as well as a founding member of CADD, said that the conference will bring together artists and scholars who use dance as a lens through which to view culture, identity and the presence of an African diaspora.
“In researching and embodying dance forms affiliated with African modes of art making, we confirm our shared humanity and the ability of dance to generate community that can be politically, aesthetically, and socially connected,” DeFrantz wrote in an email.
“Dancing the African Diaspora” will feature more than 75 speakers whose works focus on a diverse array of artistic forms rooted in black dance, including tap, hip-hop, swing and salsa. Brooklyn-based dance company Urban Bush Women, founded in 1984 by conference speaker Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, will also conclude their Duke residency at the conference with the premiere of “Walking with ‘Trane,” based on the life of John Coltrane and his “A Love Supreme” jazz suite.
Keynote and world-renowned b-girl Rokafella, chosen by the student advisory board, will screen her film “All the Ladies Say” and discuss the politics of gender in the predominantly male world of hip-hop. Andrea E. Woods Valdés, associate professor of the practice of dance at Duke and a member of the conference committee, will also perform her own piece, “To the Max,” as part of the conference. Duke University Press will publish an anthology of the materials presented at the conference.
"I think the conference will be exceptional because the emphasis is on research but not [in] a way that extracts it from performance or the physical experience of dancing,” Woods described in an email. “In addition, it is an opportunity for people to come together nationally and internationally to witness the complex and multi-dynamic nature of how we conceive dance and research through the African diaspora.”The conference will be hosted on East Campus from Feb. 7 to Feb. 9. Registration for Duke faculty, staff and students is free.