Research Team

In 2015,  a Research Team of choreographers was formed to consult on the development of the Choreographic Center Initiative.  The team is tasked with guiding the content development for prototype workshops and for a series of written and live platforms aimed at providing opportunities for reflection and discourse that exemplify UBW’s evolving role in the field. 

Research Team members include:

Nora Chipaumire (Choreographer) was born in Mutare, Zimbabwe and is a resident of New York City. Chipaumire has been challenging stereotypes of Africa and the black performing body, art, and aesthetic for more than a decade. She studied dance in many parts of the world including Africa, Cuba, Jamaica and the U.S. A graduate of the University of Zimbabwe’s School of Law, Chipaumire holds an M.A. in Dance and M.F.A. in Choreography and Performance from Mills College (CA). 

Marjani Forté (Choreographer) is a Los Angeles, CA native and Harlem resident. She traveled as a performer with UBW for 5 years and is now a member of the UBW BOLD Teaching Network, offering UBW unique approach to dance training and community engagement. Forté is co-founder with Nia Love, of LOVE|FORTE A COLLECTIVE and has taught master classes and workshops across the U.S. and beyond including the American Dance Festival and ADF China. Forté  has presented for Danspace Project, Kelly Strayhorn Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA, New Orleans Mckenna Museum and many more. She has been awarded the 2012 recipient of the Foundation of Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant and 2013 recipient of a Puffin Foundation Grant. Marjani currently serves as Adjunct Lecturer, teaching Modern Contemporary Technique at Hunter College-CUNY. With deep gratitude, Forté moves onward in her work honoring that it stems from being born in and having engaged with culturally rich, vibrant, historic and politically charged communities.

Marguerite Hemmings (Choreographer, Educator) is based in NYC and specializes in dancehall and hip hop, but infuses these forms with her experimental and intellectual leanings. She co-founded an initiative called the New York Youth Movement Collaborative that connects young dancers, primarily street styles, to free training, mentors, creative development and performance opportunities. She teaches a class she calls Experimental Dancehall that highlights dancehall as a social style and challenges perceived movement restrictions based on gender and what dancehall has been defined as. She is currently working on individual projects exploring contemporary diasporic protest music and the emerging diasporic dances and how they're pointing to freer, creative realities.

Chanon Judson is a cum laude graduate from University at Buffalo. She began her relationship with the critically acclaimed Urban Bush Women in 2001. Chanon has had the privilege of serving the company in a number of capacities including company member, rehearsal director, BOLD facilitator, and Director for UB2 –Urban Bush Women’s performing apprentice ensemble. Chanon now deepens her work with the company as Senior Artistic Associate. Chanon was a member of Cotton Club Parade and the Tony Award-winning musical Fela! Her commercial credits include Victoria Secrets Live, L’Oreal Live, the Jimmy Fallon Show, and the Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Concert. Chanon is effectively engaged in arts education. She was a faculty member at the Urban Assembly of Music and Arts High School, instructing dance/ composition, and designing arts integrated curriculum. Chanon was Site Director for Ailey Camp Kansas City, MO and a teaching artist with Alvin Ailey Arts in Education, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co., and Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts. Additionally, Chanon is the proud founder of Preschool Rock! - providing quality movement and art programming for the Brooklyn community.

Okwui Okpokwasili is a multidisciplinary artist, writing, choreographing and performing original work. She has collaborated with director/designer Peter Born on two New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award winning pieces, Pent-Up: a revenge dance and Bronx Gothic. She is currently the Resident Commissioned Artist at New York Live Arts, developing Poor People’s TV Room. Bronx Gothic, co-commissioned by PS 122 Global, Danspace Project and LMCC continues to tour nationally and internationally.  Bronx Gothic: The Oval was a featured installation and performance at the 2014 River-to-River Festival. She works frequently with Ralph Lemon. Scaffold Room marks their third collaboration. She is currently a resident with the Times Square Arts Alliance and a participant in LMCC’s Extended Life Program. She is a 2012 MANCC Choreographic Fellow, 2013 NYFA fellow in Choreography and a 2014 Foundation for Contemporary Arts grantee for Dance. Okpokwasili is a graduate of Yale University.

Samantha Speis (UBW Dancer and Associate Artistic Director) is a movement artist residing in Brooklyn, New York. She has worked with Gesel Mason, The Dance Exchange, Deborah Hay (as part of the Sweet Day curated by Ralph Lemon at the MoMA), Marjani Forté, Pearson/Widrig Dance Theater and MBDance. She was the 2012 recipient of the Alvin Ailey New Directions Choreography Lab, and had seven weeks to teach and explore process with Ailey students. Her work has been featured at the Kennedy Center (Millennium Stage), Long Island University, Joyce SoHo, Hollins University, Danspace Project, Dixon Place, Dance Place, and The Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Speis’ solo, The Way it Was, and Now, was commissioned by the Jerome Foundation to be performed at Danspace Project for the Parallels Platform Series, and was later invited to the Kaay Fecc Dance Festival in Dakar, Senegal. Speis has been a guest artist and taught workshops throughout the United States, South America, Senegal, and Europe.  Projects she has worked on include Liz Lerman’s Healing Wars and Jawole Zollar and Liz Lerman’s Blood Muscle Bone: the anatomy of wealth and poverty

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