Ava LaVonne Vinesett

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Program in Dance

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

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, 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.

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

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.

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

Yansã the Tempest. Choreographer. (2007)

"Yansã the Tempest". Choreographer and Performer. Based on research in the Candomblé religion in Salvador da Bahia, Yansã, the only female orixá, or divinity represents transformation. Created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Musical arrangement by: Richard J. Vinesett using traditonal music of the Candomblé Orixas and West African dun-dun. Musicians: John Hanks, Fahali Igbo, Domingo B. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett, Musical Director, DARE. Costumes: Mabinti Shabu. Yansã Headdress: Cici Stevens. Length 15 minutes

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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

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

Vévé. Choreographer. (2008)

Vévé. In Vodoun ceremonies religious symbols are drawn on the ground either before or during rituals. Like the dances and the music, the symbols are a visual prayer used to invoke lwas, deities in Haitian Vodoun. Created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Musical arrangement by: Richard J. Vinesett. Musicians: John Hanks, Beverly Botsford, Domingo B. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett, Musical Director, DARE. Costumes: Ava LaVonne Vinesett. Length 15 minutes.

Yansã the Tempest. Choreographer. (2007)

"Yansã the Tempest". Choreographer and Performer. Based on research in the Candomblé religion in Salvador da Bahia, Yansã, the only female orixá, or divinity represents transformation. Created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Musical arrangement by: Richard J. Vinesett using traditonal music of the Candomblé Orixas and West African dun-dun. Musicians: John Hanks, Fahali Igbo, Domingo B. Vinesett, Richard J. Vinesett, Musical Director, DARE. Costumes: Mabinti Shabu. Yansã Headdress: Cici Stevens. Length 15 minutes

Soli. Choreographer, Restager. (2006)

Among the Susu and Malinke groups of West Africa, the progression of life is observed as a festive occasion. The annual initiation ceremony begins and concludes with social dancing and music. Soli is one of several rhythms played during this period. Created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Restaged for Elon University Dance Department. March 2006. Music: Fahali Igbo, Richard Vinesett, Musical Director DARE. Costumes: Balubas

Manjani. Choreographer. (2005)

December 3, 2005 - April, 2005. Master class and audition of 48 students for work to be set in the spring

Common Ground. Director. (2004)

January 5, 2004 - June 2, 2004. Ronald K. Brown Choreographic Project. This project culminated in the new work "Common Ground" which premiered in March on the Dance Program's ChoreoLab concert. The Duke University Dance Program received funding from several sources including the National Endowment for the Arts/ National College Choreography Initiative, The Duke University Institute of the Arts, Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. The work was also selected for and performed at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage Concert on June 2, 2004, Washington, DC.

Artistic Visions of Aché and Rhythms of Life Summer Jam. Director. (2003)

A pilot program/festival bringing together dancers, musicians, vendors and other artisans for a shared performance and community gathering.

Manjani. Choreographer. (2003)

This fast paced piece displays a very popular Mande dance and music tradition from the Bamana people of West Africa. Through athleticism, creativity, and a full understanding of the multi-metered rhythm text that is Manjani, 14 dancers and musicians from the Duke African Repertory Ensemble express the vitality of this artistic form. Length: 13 minutes.

Jalidon. Choreographer. (2002)

Choreographer. Jalidon is a collaborative work with the 149th generation oral historian, or "jali", Djimo Kouyate. This work was set on the 17 member, Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Richard Vinsett, Musical Director. Length: 13 minutes.

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