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

Hush My Glistening Heart Dwellers. Choreographer. (1997)


Ensemble work for 6 dancers. Music by Afro-Celt Sound System. Length: 10 minutes

Passages. Choreographer. (1997)


43 students and community dancers from my technique I & II classes performing dances from the Mande traditions; Temate, Ekon-kon, Sorsonet, and Manjani. Music by Richard J. Vinesett, Bradley Simmons and community drummers. Length: 17 minutes.

Tulongo. Choreographer. (1997)


39 students from my technique I & II classes performing the dance style Soli. Music by Richard J. Vinesett, Greg Babb, Beverly Botsford, Vince Brown, Eric Gottesman, and Lynn Monson. Length: 18 minutes.

Sogolon’s Revenge. Choreographer. (1996)


Ensemble work for 6 dancers based on the griot’s legend of Sundiata, “The Lion King of Mali.” Traditional instruments by George Glenn. Vocals by Ava LaVonne Vinesett. Length: 11 minutes.

Eclipse. Choreographer. (1995)


Duet. Music: “Main Title,” “Harry’s Game,” and “Closing Credits” from “Patriot Games Soundtrack” by James Horner. Length: 12 minutes. (This work was re-staged in March 1998 for my thesis concert and in June 1998 for the American Dance Festival Faculty Concert).

student/faculty concerts for the Duke Dance Program. Choreographer, Performing artist. (1994)


Contributing choreographer and performer for student/faculty concerts for the Duke Dance Program, 1994-present, Duke University