Navigations: scoring the moment

Navigations: scoring the moment

Written by Adesola Akinleye – November 2022

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Part of Theatrum Mundi’s collection of edition looking at dance/choregraophy and the city.

There are cities that are walking cities or driving cities; there are quiet, loud, fast, slow, broad or high cities, and the bodies within them are shaped by the need to navigate them, while that process of navigation, in turn, shapes the cities. Urban designers, engineers, architects, exhibition curators and choreographers share a common interest in creating movement around, in, and through places.

Each of these disciplines comes with its own language, verbal and/or somatic: a structured system of words, ideas, movements, rules, meanings and assumptions that can lead to slippages or ‘failures’ in communication outside the narrow field of their specialisms. And those instances of slippages have provided the starting point for dancer, choreographer and Theatrum Mundi’s Research Fellow Adesola Akinleye to define a transdisciplinary lexicon of Place-making: a scaffolding for shared exploration, liberating communication from the contingencies and limitations of different subject areas. Edited by Marta Michalowska

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Dance, Architecture and Engineering (Dance in Dialogue)

Dance, Architecture and Engineering (Dance in Dialogue)

This book was born from a year of exchanges of movement ideas generated in cross-practice conversations and workshops with dancers, musicians, architects and engineers. Events took place at key cultural institutions such as the Royal Academy of Arts, London; and The Lowry, Salford, as well as on-site at architectural firms and on the streets of London. The author engages with dance’s offer of perspectives on being in place: how the ‘ordinary person’ is facilitated in experiencing the dance of the city, while also looking at shared cross-practice understandings in and about the body, weight and rhythm. There is a prioritizing of how embodied knowledges across dance, architecture and engineering can contribute to decolonizing the production of place – in particular, how dance and city-making cultures engage with female bodies and non-white bodies in today’s era of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Akinleye concludes in response conversations about ideas raised in the book with John Bingham-Hall, Liz Lerman, Dianne McIntyer and Richard Sennett. The book is a fascinating resource for those drawn to spatial practices from dance to design to construction.

“This book's graceful articulation and detail enriches our understanding of dance. Akinleye's curiosity, expertise and sensibilities as a dancer and choreographer flow through her writing. I love the different tones of theory, experiential, description and conversation that she uses to paint a portrait of the making process. A fascinating and inspiring read.”
Rosemary Lee,
“This brilliant book brings together seemingly unconnected subjects, and conducts an exciting exploration of how our bodies experience movement and space in these contrasting contexts. It has made me think deeply about my own person and how I interact on a micro and macro scale with the world around me.”
Roma Agrawal MBE,
Engineer and Author of BUILT

Related to this publication:

MIT Summer Reading list 2021 

Dance, Architecture and Engineering (dance in Dialogue) selected for the MIT Summer Reading list 

Image of book making the letter MIT

Morning Conversations at MIT podcast series

This set of eight podcasts were created as part of my residency at MIT. They can introduce or accompany the book as we discuss ideas introduced in the book with inspirational artists and scholars across a range of practices. 

dancer in street with traffic

Tuesday, June 15, 17, 22 24 2021 7:00 PM

Instagram Live conversations hosted by choreographer and artist-scholar Dr Adesola Akinleye with BFA Members. Topics include using movement as a black woman to claim space or express yourself, being in transit, making black spaces or decolonial spaces and more!

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(re:)claiming ballet

(re:)claiming ballet

Adesola Akinleye – Editor/Curator

Published online March 2021, Published as hardcopy April 2021

Link to Publisher (UK)

Link to Publisher (USA)

Though ballet is often seen as a white, cis-heteropatriarchal form of dance, in fact it has been, and still is, shaped by artists from a much broader range of backgrounds. This collection looks beyond the mainstream, bringing to light the overlooked influences that continue to inform the culture of ballet. Essays illuminate the dance form’s rich and complex history and start much-needed conversations about the roles of class, gender normativity, and race, demonstrating that despite mainstream denial and exclusionary tactics, ballet thrives with “difference.” 

With contributions from professional ballet dancers and teachers, choreographers, and dance scholars in Europe and the United States, the volume introduces important new thinkers and perspectives. An essential resource for the field of ballet studies and a major contribution to dance scholarship more broadly, (Re:) Claiming Ballet will appeal to academics, researchers, and scholars; dance professionals and practitioners;  and anyone interested in the intersection of race, class, gender, and dance.

Adesola Akinleye editor and curator of the book with chapters from: Julie Gleich & Molly Faulkner, Joselli Audain Deans, Sandie Bourne, Mary Savva, Brenda Dixson-Gottschild, Elizabeth Ward, Kehinde Ishangi, Theresa Ruth Howard, Theara J. Ward, Jessica Zeller, Selby Wynn Schwartz, Nena Gilreath, Endalyn Taylor, Melonie B. Murray, Tia-Monique Uzor, Luc Vanier & Elizabeth Johnson

Related events: 

Know Your Trock  Video discussion between Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo Associate Director, Isabel Martinez-Rivera, and Dr. Selby Wynn Schwartz, Lecturer in the Program in Writing & Rhetoric, Stanford University, and author of The Bodies of Others: Drag Dances & Their Afterlives.

Selby and Isabel discuss Selby’s writings in advance of the book release of (re:)claiming ballet, from Dr Adesola Akinleye, as well as Isabel’s experiences with The Trocks over her time with the company. (Recorded on April 23rd, 2021.)

Review of the book in Journal of Dance Education by Gonzalo  Preciado-Azanza (2021)

image of cover of JODE Journal
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Narratives in Black British Dance: Embodied Practices

Narratives in Black British Dance: Embodied Practices

Adesola Akinleye – Editor

Remedies the distinct lack of publication on Dance of the African Diaspora from a post-­colonial British perspective

Includes work from scholars and artists from across the field of dance

Explores the multi-layered, multi-dimensional nature of artists and artistic work from within the spectrums of ‘Blackness’, ‘Britishness’, and ‘dance

This book explores Black British dance from a number of previously-untold perspectives. Bringing together the voices of dance-artists, scholars, teachers and choreographers, it looks at a range of performing arts from dancehall to ballet, providing valuable insights into dance theory, performance, pedagogy, identity and culture. It challenges the presumption that Blackness, Britishness or dance are monolithic entities, instead arguing that all three are living networks created by rich histories, diverse faces and infinite future possibilities. Through a variety of critical and creative essays, this book suggests a widening of our conceptions of what British dance looks like, where it appears, and who is involved in its creation.

An accompanying website was started as an extension of the book. It exists to continue to add narratives through different media such as podcasts, interviews and film: narratives in dance .

“This is a timely, even crucial, anthology – a contribution to the emergent canon of scholarly work revealing Africanist cultural streams which, though ‘invisibilized’ in a European post-colonial world, are alive and well, despite systemic racism and xenophobic exclusionism. Narratives in Black British Dance is a rich and varied category and home base to embodied scholarship, performance, choreography and research by a cadre of gifted practitioners. It has a history. It has a present and a presence. It deserves this attention.”
Brenda Dixon-Gottschild,
Professor Emerita of Dance Studies, Temple University, USA
“An important treaty to the significance of dance community challenging dominant stereotypes and structures that reproduce social inequalities, this book makes a vital and exciting contribution to the dance field, mapping humanizing possibilities dance can offer the 21st century.”
Doug Risner
Emeritus of Journal of Dance Education and Associate Editor of Research in Dance Education
“This informative book is not just for scholarly research, but highlights the importance of artist discovery, journey development, and the understanding and practice of dance-art forms in Britain. Journeys we have witnessed in each other.”
Jackie Guy, MBE, CD
Teacher and Choreographer
“An urgent offering to the expanding field of Dance Studies! Exploring a range of artistic practices from a variety of research perspectives, this volume affirms the deep histories of the embodied arts in Black Britain. These potent essays demonstrate that the moving body makes meaning through experience. A vibrant animation of the narrative turn of dance scholarship, this book is required reading for everyone in dance and cultural studies.”
Thomas F. DeFrantz,
Founding Director of the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance

Further information:

For creating this book Adesola Akinleye was shortlisted for ‘One Dance UK Awards 2018, Dance Writing Award’ 

eBook ISBN
Softcover ISBN
Edition Number
Number of Pages
XXXII, 296
Number of Illustrations
5 b/w illustrations, 12 illustrations in colour

Citation: Akinleye, A. ed., (2018) Narratives in Black British Dance: Embodied Practices. London: Springer.


(editor Adesola Akinleye)

Forewords by Thomas F. DeFrantz and Peter Badejo

Preface: Dancing through this book – Adesola Akinleye

1. Narratives in Black British dance: an introduction – Adesola Akinleye

Part i 

2. “I don’t do Black-Dance, I am a Black dancer” – Namron

3. Dance Britannia: the impact of global shifts on dance in Britain – Christy Adair and Ramsay Burt

4. Negotiating African Diasporic identity in dance: brown bodies creating and existing in the British dance industry – Tia-Monique Uzor

5. Tracing the evolution of Black representation in ballet and the impact on Black British dancers today – Sandie Bourne

6. In-the-between-ness: decolonising and re-inhabiting our dancing – Adesola Akinleye and Helen Kindred

Part ii

7. Trails of Ado: Kokuma’s cultural self-defence – Thea Barnes

8. Moving Tu Balance: an African holistic dance as a vehicle for personal development from a Black British perspective – Sandra Golding

9. ‘Why I am not a fan of the Lion King’: ethically informed approach to the teaching and learning of South African dance forms in Higher Education in the United Kingdom – Sarahleigh Castelyn

10. Performativity of body paintingL symbolic ritual as diasporic identity – Chikukwango Cuxima-Zwa

11. Dancehall: a continuity of spiritual, corporeal practice in Jamaican dance – H. Patten

12. Our Ethiopian connection: embodied Ethiopian culture as a tool in urban-contemporary choreography – Ras Mikey (Michael) Courtney

13. Reflections: snapshots of dancing home, 1985, 2010 and 2012 – Hopal Romans

Part iii

14. Battling under Britannia’s shadow: UK jazz dancing in the 1970s and 1980s – Jane Carr

15. Caribfunk Technique: a new feminist/womanist futuristic technology in Black dance studies in Higher Education – A’Keitha Carey

16. More similarities than differences: searching for new pathways – Beverley Glean and Rosie Lehan

17. Epistemology of the weekend: Youth Dance Theatre – Hopal Romans, Adesola Akinleye, and Michael Joseph

18. Transatlantic voyages: then and now – Anita Gonzalez

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