Uncovering the Dance Within: Origins and Authenticity Conference

The theme for both the festival and conference for Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2023 is Uncovering the Dance Within: Origins and Authenticity, focusing on dance techniques coming out of the African and African Caribbean Diaspora, their connections to geography, location, heritage, history and people.

The conference will celebrate artists and practitioners who have reimagined and provided vision and reflection to little known techniques, forms and approaches to dance. What do we mean by embodied practice? What does it mean to be authentic in dance? How do we map dance practice within and beyond the confinements of geography? How do we recognise African and African Caribbean Diaspora influences?

Contributors include:

Gladys M Francis (Guadeloupe/USA)– Opening Keynote
Associate Dean for Academic Student Affairs and the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University, Gladys M Francis establishes infrastructures to support experiential learning, ensuring that all the students in the College of Arts and Sciences benefit fully from Howard’s location in the US capital, as well as globally. Associate Dean Francis is a native of Guadeloupe. As Professor of Africana, French, and Francophone Studies, Dr Francis explores issues of identify formation, race, gender, trauma, and cohesive intercultural immersion through the arts. Her transdisciplinary research involves: Theory and Cultural Studies; Africana Studies; Postcolonial Studies; Visual and Media Studies; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Thomas Talawa Prestø (Trinidad/Norway)
Since 1998 Prestø has spent his time actively carving a place for the Black dancing body in Scandinavia. As the originator of Talawa Technique TM and founder of Tabanka Dance Ensemble, he has shared Caribbean and African dance with more than a quarter of Norway’s population. His company reached the semi-finals on Norway’s Got Talent, being the first time a full Black group has ever advanced on Norwegian TV Shows and performed traditional dance live. Talawa Technique TM is taught on five continents and is continuing to strive to show the relevance of ancient power with a modern use.

Alexandria Davis (USA)
Dancer, Actress, Teaching Artist, Choreographer, and Screendance maker, Alexandria Davis holds an MFA in dance choreography from the University of Michigan. Alexandria earned her BFA in Dance Performance and Dance in Medicine certification from the University of Florida. Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Alexandria's movement sources from her community upbringing and academic investigations of dance forms like Liturgical, Modern, Jazz, Heels/Stilletto Jazz, Funk, Ballet, Contact Improvisation, HBCU Marching Auxiliary technique, Hip Hop, Stepping, West African Rhythms, Contemporary, Afro-Caribbean Motifs, Vogue, Chinese Fan, Laban/Bartenieff fundamentals, and Katherine Dunham technique.

Freddy Houndekindo (France/Sweden)
Freddy Houndekindo is an interdisciplinary artist situated at the assemblage of music, dance and performance. His artistic practice is rooted in street dance: hip hop and Electro dance. He studied contemporary dance in the Conservatoire National superior de Musique et de Dance de Lyon (France) and modern dance at the Folkwang Universität der Künste in Essen (Germany). In 2018, he joined Cullberg as a dancer. He was granted the Tanzrecherche NRW, in 2020 to support his artistic research. His films have won several international prizes, and in 2021 he received the Riksteatern stipendium to further investigate the relationship between film and dance. As a movement director he has worked with Vogue Scandinavia, H&M, WEEKDAY, HOPE and CAP74024.

Shamel Pitts (USA)
2020 Guggenheim Fellow Shamel Pitts is a performance artist, choreographer, conceptual artist, dancer, spoken word artist, and teacher. He began his dance career in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Hell’s Kitchen Dance and BJM Danse Montreal. Shamel danced with Batsheva Dance Company for 7 years, under the artistic direction of Ohad Naharin and is a certified teacher of Gaga movement language. He was a 2020 Jacob’s Pillow artist in residence and a 2021 New York Dance Award winner (The Bessies). Shamel is the Founding Artistic Director of TRIBE, a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary arts collective.

Antoine Hunter (USA)
Antoine Hunter is an award-winning choreographer, actor, dancer, poet, speaker, mentor and Deaf advocate. The founder and artistic director of Urban Jazz Dance, Hunter has performed with Savage Jazz Dance Company, Nuba Dance Theater, Alayo Dance Company, Robert Moses’ Kin and the Lorraine Hansberry Theater. He was head choreographer for D-Pan: Deaf Professional Arts Network ASL music video: ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepsen.

Cameron McKinney (USA)
With more than 17 years of Japanese language study, Cameron McKinney (Artistic Director of Kizuna Dance) created the company with the mission of using contemporary floorwork to devise works that celebrate Japanese culture. He was recently selected as a 2019-20 US – Japan Friendship Commission Creative Artist Fellow to collaborate with renowned Japanese choreographer, Toru Shimazaki. No stranger to LDIF since his Leicester debut in 2015, he has been a Choreography Fellow at The School at Jacob’s Pillow, an Alvin Ailey Foundation New Directions Choreography Lab Fellow, a Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence at Princeton University, and an Asian Cultural Council Individual Grantee.

Anita Gonzalez – Closing Keynote (USA)
Anita Gonzalez is a Professor of Performing Arts and African American studies at Georgetown University and a co-Founder of their Racial Justice Institute. She was recently Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and a Professor of Theatre at the University of Michigan where she promoted interdisciplinary and intercultural performance initiatives. Her edited and authored books include Performance, Dance and Political Economy, Black Performance Theory, Afro-Mexico: Dancing Between Myth and Reality, and Jarocho’s Soul. She has published articles in the Radical History Review, Modern Drama, Performance Research International, and Dance Research Journal and is a recent recipient of the Shirley Verrett Award for outstanding teaching of performance.

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