UW–Madison to host Performance Architect S. Ama Wray as the Spring 2018 Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arts Institute (presenter) welcomes Dr. S. Ama Wray as the Spring 2018 Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence. Dr. Wray’s residency is hosted by the Art Department with co-sponsoring Departments of Art History, Dance, Afro-American Studies and African Cultural Studies, and the faculty lead is Associate Professor Faisal Abdu’Allah of the Art Department.

The UW–Madison Arts Institute’s Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program brings innovative artists to campus to teach semester-long, interdepartmental courses and to publicly present their work for campus and community audiences.

Dr. Sheron Wray leaping. Image by Irven Lewis
Image: Irven Lewis

Dr. S. Ama Wray self-titles as a “Performance Architect,” and has developed a theory and practice called Embodiology®, a neo-African approach to contemporary dance improvisation. She is an improviser, choreographer, director, teacher and scholar. Her 2012 TED talk articulates its distinctions and philosophy. Currently, her improvisation practice is extending into clinical research with University of California, Irvine Medical Center, by using her dance improvisation methods as a form of therapy for patients who suffer from chronic diseases. Additionally, she utilized her improvisation skills to inform the vision for a new interdisciplinary research institute, AICRE – Africana Institute for Creativity, Recognition and Elevation, which aims to create a dynamic exchange of cultural, scientific, economic and spiritual knowledge between local communities and academia to positively impact the next generation so that people of African descent can equitably contribute towards a more sustainable society and command respect worldwide.

During her residency at UW–Madison, Dr. Wray will teach The Art of Improvisation: From Phronesis to the Production of Practical Knowledge. The course will reveal how to discern and apply African improvisation methodologies to enable innovative interdisciplinary collaborations, while also showing how to tap into personal creativity. Students are expected to form an active and integrated web-based community to facilitate group research and sharing of resources. The class will combine practice-based workshops, interdisciplinary guest lectures, fieldwork, journaling and site-specific happenings and performance. The residency will explore decolonizing aesthesis through African knowledge, enabling analysis of its intersectionality with our national and global identities through participatory action research, sensory investigation, rhythmic embodiment and production.

Dr. Wray will incorporate the Art of Improvisation technique, Embodiology®, which provides opportunities for participants to enter into improvisation through dance, visual art, neuroscience, specific African and Asian cultures, theatre and technology. International guest artists Mojisola Adebayo (UK), Fleeta Chew Siegel (UK/USA) and Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor (Ghana) will engage with students and participate in lectures and/or symposiums. The semester will culminate in a final student performance that is free and open to the public.

Public Events | go.wisc.edu/wray

All the events are free and take place in Madison, Wisconsin unless noted otherwise. Events are subject to change and more events may take place during the semester. Please see website for more details.

Wednesday, Feb. 21 | 5:00-6:15 p.m.
Artist Talk with Mojisola Adebayo
A presentation on “The Afriquia Theatre of Mojisola Adebayo: a retrospective on performance collaborations and a look to future productions with Dr. S. Ama Wray”
Art Department Visiting Artist Colloquium
L160 Elvehjem Building | 800 University Ave.

Wednesday, March 14 | 5:00-6:15 p.m.
Artist talk with Fleeta Chew Siegel
“Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Art of Improvisation: ‘From Planned Opportunities to Continual Uncertainty’”
Art Department Visiting Artist Colloquium
L160 Elvehjem Building | 800 University Ave.

Friday, March 16 | 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Artist Talk with Fleeta Chew Siegel
Dance Department Friday Forum
Margaret H’Doubler Performance Space, Lathrop Hall | 1050 University Ave.

Friday, May 4
Final Performance Event
Gallery Night
Location TBD


S. Ama Wray | Vimeo Channel: vimeo.com/user10978039

Dr. S. Ama Wray is an associate professor of dance at the University of California, Irvine. She is a former UK NESTA Fellow (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, similar to the MacArthur Awards) and improviser, choreographer, director, teacher and scholar. As a result of her 4-year NESTA fellowship, dance of the African diaspora – jazz and improvisation intersect in her concept of digitally enabled improvisation, which manifests in the award-winning “Texterritory.” Dr. Wray self-titles as a Performance Architect, receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Surrey where she developed her theory and practice of Embodiology®, a neo-African approach to contemporary dance improvisation. Currently, her improvisation practice is extending into clinical research with UC Irvine Medical Center, using her dance improvisation methods as a form of therapy for patients who suffer from chronic diseases.

As a performer in the United Kingdom, Dr. Wray danced with London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Rambert (formerly Rambert Dance Company) between 1988 and 2001. In London between 1992 and 2004, she was artistic director of JazzXchange Music and Dance Company, collaborating with musicians including Gary Crosby – OBE, Julian Joseph, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin and Zoe Rahman. Dr. Wray is widely known for her role as the leading performer and legal custodian of “Harmonica Breakdown” (1938), choreographed by Jane Dudley, which she continues to re-stage globally. In January 2018, it was announced that she has been recognized as one of four African Diaspora Emerging Scholars, by the Comparative & International Education Society.

Additional information can found on the About page of her residency’s website.

Guest Artists:
Mojisola Adebayo

Mojisola Adebayo headshotMojisola Adebayo has worked in theatre, radio and television on four continents over the past two decades; performed in over fifty productions; wrote, devised and directed over thirty plays; and led countless workshops, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. Her publications include her plays Mojisola Adebayo: Plays One (Oberon), 48 Minutes for Palestine in Theatre in Pieces (Methuen) and The Theatre for Development Handbook (with John Martin and Manisha Mehta, available through pan-arts.net), as well as numerous academic publications.

Fleeta Chew Siegel

Fleeta Chew Siegel headshotFleeta Chew Siegel is a multifaceted media practitioner who has directed and co-produced a wide range of projects over the past fifteen years. He specializes in digital and interactive media, but has recently turned his focus to film and video production. Chew Siegel has extensive experience teaching and working with a variety of digital technologies in performance and design. Since 2004, he has collaborated with S. Ama Wray on the innovative “Texterritory,” which uses mobile phones and SMS technology to allow interactions between the audience and performer. His visit is also supported by the Brittingham Foundation.

Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor

Daniel Kodzo AvorgbedorDaniel Kodzo Avorgbedor is currently on a post-retirement teaching and research contract at the Institute of African Studies and in the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon. Major research and teaching areas include performance theories, African Diaspora studies and rural-urban dynamics in reconstructing Ewe cultural and musical identities. In addition to frequent international speaking engagements, Dr. Avorgbedor has published essays in several journals and entries in encyclopedias and was the editor of The Interrelatedness of Music, Religion, and Ritual in African Performance Practice, 2003.