The Duke Dance Program recently welcomed its second MFA cohort to campus. Lee Edwards, Amari Jones, and Davian “DJ” Robinson are the newest masters candidates to join the Dance Program. The Master of Fine Arts in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis is a two-year, full-time terminal degree in Dance dedicated to embodied knowledge and practice-led movement discourses. The program endorses dance as a politically, socially, and spiritually transformative force in society and engages students at the vanguard of contemporary dance culture and praxis. The MFA encourages practice-based, interdisciplinary research that has the potential to result in tangible contributions to culture and society at large.
The MFA application process for 2020-2021 is now open. For more information, to ask questions, and to apply, please visit the website.
Hometown: Mount Vernon, NY
Degree: B.F.A. Dance, with honors, University of the Arts, 2015
Lee began her dance training at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and participated in summer dance intensive programs at the Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts as an undergraduate. With the majority of her training in ballet, jazz, and modern techniques, her performance career began with contemporary ballet companies then transitioned to companies primarily based on Diasporic movement.
She has danced with Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround, a project-to-project based creative that is home for movement performance and interdisciplinary collaboration. She’s also participated in the Nomad Express Choreography Lab in Burkina Faso. Since earning her degree, Lee has focused on working with Black youth in after-school programs in both Philadelphia and Harlem, as well as maintaining her career as a freelance artist and also developing her voice as a choreographer.
“I’m drawn to Duke's program specifically because it’s idea driven. Duke not only offers space for movement research, but also allows me the opportunity to focus on African and African American studies, and gender studies courses. While I am excited to create, I’m equally as excited to learn how to articulate my work not only verbally, but also contextually.”
Lee wants to use art as a means of education, social change, and healing. Her goal is to create pedagogy and work that speaks to the ways epigenetic trauma impacts movements, as well as what that means in a dance world where European aesthetics are favored. Lee is also interested in the ways in which queerness intersects with individual spiritual practice, and how dance can be used as a mode for both. She intends to graduate with an M.F.A. in dance and a graduate certificate in African and African American studies, and wants to take her work overseas while staying active in Black community engagement.
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Degree: B.A. Dance; minor Entrepreneurship, University of North Carolina Greensboro, 2019
Amari has been dancing in the public school system since the fifth grade. As an undergraduate, she concentrated her dance training on Afro-fusion, ballet, and safety-release techniques. Amari recently presented at the Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo, and since graduating, has been exploring the intersection between race and gender.
“I chose this program because I felt it would give me the space to thoroughly research and integrate social identity theories with movement as the mechanism for exploration and presentation of my ideas.”
While at Duke, her research will focus on double consciousness and how it affects and shapes the lives of Black women socially. Amari hopes to further her understanding of social identity—particularly Black American women—and wants to use her research to empower women and challenge the narratives that have been constructed into these identifiers. After graduation, she’d like to join a professional dance company while continuing her training, or work in arts administration. “I’m definitely still working on the details.”
Hometown: Newton, NC
Degrees: B.S. Exercise Science; B.A. Dance, both with honors, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2020
DJ has studied ballet, hip-hop, tap, and contemporary jazz for the past 10 years, and he’s recently added dance improvisation to the mix. Born with a condition called retinopathy of prematurity, he gradually lost his sight during childhood. At UNC-Charlotte, he was a member of the Martin Scholars Program and a Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship recipient. He also created Sensory Beyond Sight, a workshop to help dancers, professionals, and educators gain a better understanding of body awareness. He’s performed at Orsolina 28 and the Palace of Venaria in Italy, and presented at The American Society of Alexander Technique conference at Columbia University. As a U.S. Paralympic athlete, DJ has earned numerous medals in cycling—including a national title in 2017.
DJ volunteers with Bridge II Sports, an organization utilizing sports to empower and change lives while challenging the perceptions of disability in the community. He’s also in the early stages of launching his nonprofit Empower 23 that will provide mentoring and motivational speaking to help people interested in the arts and sports achieve their goals.
“This program will give me the ability and tools needed to construct the best methods and resources possible for educators, so they can teach dance in an inclusive space.”
DJ want to use dance and disability studies to address and remove the barriers faculty face when teaching B.A. and B.F.A. dance programs. He hopes his research will create a pedagogy that educators can use to create a more inclusive and accessible dance community. After graduation, he wants to continue his work with Empower 23, teach, and obtain his massage therapy certification.