Ava LaVonne Vinesett

Ava LaVonne Vinesett

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Program in Dance

Director of Undergraduate Studies

External address: 2020 Campus Drive, Suite 209D, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: Box 90686, Durham, NC 27708-0686
Phone: (919) 660-3354
Email: ava@duke.edu


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

CuleBra. Choreographer. (2001)


This ensemble work was created for the Duke African Repertory Ensemble and the Duke Capoeira Cooperative. Section I, CuleBra, is a fusion of contemporary, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian movement, choreographed by Ava LaVonne Vinsett. Master Brazilian capoeirista, Jose Luis Ramos of Grupo Senzala (Rio de Janeiro), mounted Maculele (a popular traditional dance form), on the Duke African Repertory Ensemble. Additional staging for Maculele and Roda featuring the Duke Capoeira Cooperative, by Ava LaVonne Vinsett, Fahali Igbo and Richard Vinsett co-musical directors. An ensemble of 31 performers. Length: 17 minutes.

Kayini. Choreographer. (2001)


Ensemble work for DARE. 13 dancers and musicians. A blending of popular dances from the Maraka (Maraka don), Manian (Kuku), and Kassounké (Sunu) ethnic groups. Length: 12 minutes.

Kunda. Choreographer. (2000)


Ensemble work for DARE. 21 dancers and musicians. Dances presented from the Old Mali Empire (Ku-ku, and Dun- dunbah). Special guests: The Duke Djembe Ensemble, directed by Bradley Simmons. Length: 24 minutes.

Out of the Dust. Choreographer. (2000)


Ensemble work for DARE. 29 dancers and musicians. Boke regional song and dance styles from Guinea, West Africa. Length: 22 minutes.

Contents Under Pressure. Choreographer. (1999)


Performed, co-conceived and co-choreographed this evening length production about bias. Choreography and conception by Barbara Dickinson and Ava LaVonne Vinsett. Original music compolsed by James R. Carlson and Beverly Botsford.

Duke African Repetory Ensemble Performances. Creator, Director. (1999)


1999-Present. The DARE combines the talents of Duke alumnae, current Duke undergraduate and graduate students, Duke faculty and staff, and Durham residents who cover a wide scope of professions. DARE is able to represent a unique and strong commitment to the preservation of African dance.

Solima Sene Fari (Rites of Passage). Choreographer. (1999)


An ensemble work in three sections for the Duke Repertory Ensemble. 21 dancers and musicians. Solima presents the progression of life as a festive occasion as observed among the Susu and Malinke groups of West Africa. Secion II- Jaime Kira (Path for Men) choreographed by Thaddeus Bennett. Length: 23 minutes.

Origins Rising/Holding Souls. Choreographer. (1998)


An Ensemble work for 17 dancers. Music by Richard J. Vinesett and community drummers. Length: 15 minutes.

Vestiges. Choreographer. (1998)


A Master Production for my thesis concert sponsored by the UNCG Department of Dance. An ensemble of 42 performing artists. This concert combines traditional African, Afro- Cuban and contemporary/modern dance. Length: 90 minutes.

Cultural Journey IV: Back to the Roots. Choreographer. (1997)


A dance and music/choral concert for a cast of 37 performing artists. Co-produced by the Duke University Institute of the Arts and St. Joseph’s Historical Society/Hayti Heritage Center. Collaboration with musical director, Bradley Simmons and choral director, Boyd Gibson of the African-American Chorale. Additional vocals for the Orichas by Ama McKen and Randy Alston. Co-director, choreographer, and costume designer.