Ava LaVonne Vinesett

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Program in Dance

Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Dance Program

Director of Undergraduate Studies

External address: 205 Bivins Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: Box 90686, Durham, NC 27708-0686
Phone: (919) 660-3354
Email: ava@duke.edu

Overview

The transmission of danced legacies and the identification of their evolutionary presence in contemporary venues are the primary underpinnings of my artistic work. The physical articulation of cultural beliefs is the space from which I continue to research, choreograph, and perform in order to contribute to creating deeper expressions of the living art of African dance forms and their connection to personal/group identity. My research continues to examine how African and African-derived dance unfolds its many identities. Dance is an expression of perseverance and is a creative continuation of cultural mores. As a symbol of survival, dance both embodies and transmits traditions. These time honored, well established dances provide a means for present day access to, and direct experience with earlier traditions which oftentimes only exist in the context of dance related rituals. The unfolding identity of dance creates a framework for analyzing the aesthetic, technical, ceremonial, spiritual, and sacred tenets that layer traditional African and African-derived dance forms. This concept provides the foundation for several of my completed projects and it continues to shape the thematic content of present works. I coined the term “dance translator” to address my process of examining my personal voice in dance. Using my body as text, I am able to communicate an existing legacy of danced religious, spiritual, and cultural beliefs.

Education & Training

  • M.F.A., University of North Carolina at Greensboro 1998

  • B.A., North Carolina Central University 1987

Vinesett, AL, Price, M, and Wilson, KH. "Therapeutic Potential of a Drum and Dance Ceremony Based on the African Ngoma Tradition." Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) 21, no. 8 (August 2015): 460-465. Full Text

Vinesett, AL. "Motivating by Movement." Duke Magazine 90 (January 2004). (Essay)

Vinesett, AL. "First Person: Artists Talk About Their Art." Edited by FO Dowell. Dream/Girl Magazine 1: 9-10.

Reaching Into the Before Time. Choreographer. (2012)

This second phase included a 17 minute performance which highlighted Cici's sculpture installation and West African masquerade traditions. Music by Richard J. Vinesett, Beverly Botsford, Oesa SaVionne Vinesett. Dancers: Rebecca (Becky) Holmes, Tria Smothers, and Anikia Tucker.

Kanyalang. Choreographer. (2012)

This piece will premiere in April 2013 and was set on the E Gwynn and Dancers Company for their annual main stage concert. The piece is based on the Mandinka women of the Senegambia. Mandinka women establish support organizations to help address social conflicts. In this setting, women celebrate one another and demonstrate their female power as the source of life. As the women dance with ritual sticks symbolizing their creative energy, the men join their celebration as a sign of gratitude for the gift of life.

We Leave Behind. Choreographer. (2011)

We Leave Behind". Ensemble work for Duke African Repertory Ensemble. 2011 November Dances. Music: John Hanks, Oesa S. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett Dancers: Thaddeus Bennett, Destani Bizune, Ellen Brown, Danika Manso-Brown, Chanelle (Cici) Croxton (14 minutes)

Crossing the Color of the Sky. Choreographer, Restager. (2011)

"Crossing the Color of the Sky" (2005) Music I Berimbauistas: Oesa SaVionne Vinesett, Domingo B. Vinesett, and Richard J. Vinesett Music II by Ry Cooder Bottle Tree visual installation by Cici Stevens Often associated with the Afro-Brazilian art form capoeira, and Caboclo religious practices, the berimbau is a bowed percussive instrument which commands the movements of the practitioners. 17 minutes

Kakilambe. Choreographer. (2010)

Ensemble work for Duke African Repertory Ensemble.

We Dance our Ancestors. Choreographer. (2010)

Ensemble work for Duke African Repertory Ensemble.

Seruba. Choreographer. (2010)

This work was commissioned by Sadiyah Shakur, Founder and Director of Collage Dance Theater for the company's 25th Anniversary. Spring 2010

Seruba. Choreographer, Restager. (2010)

Spring 2010. Collage Dance Company. "Seruba" features an ensemble of dancers weaving traditional “jun-jun” drumming with songs and dance styles from the Sene-Gambia region of West Africa. This piece was originally set on the Duke African Repertory Ensemble in 2005. Ayinde Nataka crafted six drums specifically for this piece.

Powerful Long Ladder/Four Women, Aunt Sarah. Choreographer. (2009)

August, 2009 - October, 2009. Choreographed for the Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble's Home Season Concerts October 2-3, 2009

Tree of Forgetfulness. Choreographer. (2009)

This work is inspired by a forced ritual which enslaved Africans had to endure prior to passing through the “Door of No Return” before entering the slave ships. Males had to circle a tree nine times, women and children seven times. This ritual was supposed to make the enslaved forget their cultural/familial ties to Africa. The enslavers did not want the souls of those forced into captivity to return to their African homeland and torment those responsible for their captivity. The work focuses on the greatest act of resistance committed by the enslaved—remembering their cultural practices. Dancers: Tameeka Austin, Thaddeus Bennett, Danika Manso-Brown, Nia Cash, Otima Doyle, Kadeisha Mariah Kilgore, Tatianna Mott, Christiana Barnett-Murphy, Ketha Williams Taylor. Percussionists: Beverly Botsford, Domingo B. Vinesett, Oesa S. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett (Musical Director ). Costumes: Ava LaVonne Vinesett.

Pages

Jeffrey Page's "Talkin' Loud". Designer. (2012)

Spring 2012

Costume Construction. Designer. (2010)

Fall 2010

Maferefun Obatalá. Choreographer, Designer, Restager. (2009)

"Maferefun Obatalá" was re-staged with an added section using rhythms from the Candomblé orixa, Oxumare. Created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Percussionists: Beverly Botsford, Domingo B. Vinesett, Oesa S. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett (Musical Director ). Costumes: Ava LaVonne Vinesett. Length 12 minutes

Reaching Into the Before Time. Choreographer. (2012)

This second phase included a 17 minute performance which highlighted Cici's sculpture installation and West African masquerade traditions. Music by Richard J. Vinesett, Beverly Botsford, Oesa SaVionne Vinesett. Dancers: Rebecca (Becky) Holmes, Tria Smothers, and Anikia Tucker.

Kanyalang. Choreographer. (2012)

This piece will premiere in April 2013 and was set on the E Gwynn and Dancers Company for their annual main stage concert. The piece is based on the Mandinka women of the Senegambia. Mandinka women establish support organizations to help address social conflicts. In this setting, women celebrate one another and demonstrate their female power as the source of life. As the women dance with ritual sticks symbolizing their creative energy, the men join their celebration as a sign of gratitude for the gift of life.

Jeffrey Page's "Talkin' Loud". Designer. (2012)

Spring 2012

Dancing with the Goddess. Narrator. (2011)

documentary written and directed by Purnima Shah. Snow Hill Recording Studio. Hillsborough, NC.

We Leave Behind. Choreographer. (2011)

We Leave Behind". Ensemble work for Duke African Repertory Ensemble. 2011 November Dances. Music: John Hanks, Oesa S. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett Dancers: Thaddeus Bennett, Destani Bizune, Ellen Brown, Danika Manso-Brown, Chanelle (Cici) Croxton (14 minutes)

Crossing the Color of the Sky. Choreographer, Restager. (2011)

"Crossing the Color of the Sky" (2005) Music I Berimbauistas: Oesa SaVionne Vinesett, Domingo B. Vinesett, and Richard J. Vinesett Music II by Ry Cooder Bottle Tree visual installation by Cici Stevens Often associated with the Afro-Brazilian art form capoeira, and Caboclo religious practices, the berimbau is a bowed percussive instrument which commands the movements of the practitioners. 17 minutes

Kakilambe. Choreographer. (2010)

Ensemble work for Duke African Repertory Ensemble.

We Dance our Ancestors. Choreographer. (2010)

Ensemble work for Duke African Repertory Ensemble.

Seruba. Choreographer. (2010)

This work was commissioned by Sadiyah Shakur, Founder and Director of Collage Dance Theater for the company's 25th Anniversary. Spring 2010

Pages

Crossing the Color of the Sky. Choreographer. (2005)

Visual installation by Cici Stevens. Bottle trees have long been used to guide wayward spirits. This African tradition became a part of Southern African-American practice. For some, the bottles petition benevolent, ancestral spirits for protection and good wishes. For others, the blue bottles protect families from tormented and dangerous souls. The spirits are lured by the beguiling radiance of the bottles and like the wind, the moan of these ancestral voices both agitate and calm. Created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Length: 15 minutes

African Tech II, Nova Science. Performing artist. (2005)

Nova Science filming of African Tech II with scientist/student, Eric Jarvis. Ark, Duke University

African Tech II, Nova Science. Performing artist. (2005)

Nova Science filming of African Tech II with scientist/student, Eric Jarvis. Ark, Duke University