Research Festival 2024: Embodiology® and Tap Dance with Dr S. Ama Wray

Research Festival 2024: Embodiology® and Tap Dance with Dr S. Ama Wray

Wednesday 19 June 2024 19:00 – 20:30 BST | 11:00 PDT | 14:00 EDT | 20:00 CEST 

Embodiology® created by Dr S. Ama Wray, is an outcome of examining ancestral knowledge, originating from a study of performance within traditional West African cultures. This improvisation praxis optimizes 21st Century “Super Skills” of spontaneous Creativity, Communication, Critical Action and Collaboration through six core principles.

Dr S. Ama Wray will introduce Embodiology®, how it was developed and how this approach aligns with tap dance. Tap dancers Jess Murray and Annette Walker will join the discussion to share their experiences of taking part in the Embodiology® Immersion Program and how they have drawn upon this creative practice and conceptual framework as tap dancers and researchers.

As a child when it came to performing, Tap Dance was my first love – well actually it was my second. I sought to emulate the Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 40s that I watched every Saturday afternoon. Before that exposure I was already keenly dancing at home with my mother. I learned the dances of her youth as we made our own stage in front of the gramophone in the front room at holiday times. I cannot recall for how many years this was a feature of my life but music was always at the center. We danced to Bob Marley, Elvis, Brooke Benton, and the Jackson 5; it was the 1970s. It was serious business, we danced, we perhaps sang and I have no doubt that I made things up based on what my mother was teaching me, and later combined those dances with what I saw in those Hollywood movies. A day came, I went outside while it was raining (again), with my red umbrella, to perform my version of Singing in the Rain that I had seen for the first time. Perhaps I was seven. That exposition was my mother’s signal that I was very serious about dance. She deemed however that the street, in the rain, was not the place for that learning to take place. So, she enrolled me into dance classes and the rest is my history. What never left me from these formative years was my creative impulse to dance spontaneously and indeed do that with others, even if they were only in my imagination.


The participatory presentation opens up the journey of improvisation from my formative years, my creative work with jazz musicians and dancers and on to my ongoing field work in Ghana with artists, scholars and community members. This last phase led to the development of Embodiology® an improvisation praxis. Its philosophy renders itself as a practice that generates novelty, undergirded by polyrhythmic sensing. Equally, as a tool of analysis it examines spontaneous creativity through its identification of six principles that ignite deep structures of communication.



Dr S. Ama Wray is a TEDx Speaker and Professor at the University of California, Irvine, serving in both the School of the Arts and Humanities. Embodiology® is the outcome of examining ancestral knowledge, originating from a study of performance within traditional West African cultures. The result of action research, Dr. Wray’s returns tangible benefit to the community, restoratively contributing to the paradigm of research justice in relation to African practices, moreover indigenous peoples worldwide.

Dr S. Ama Wray received her Ph.D. in Dance Studies from the University of Surrey in the UK. An award-winning artist, working for over 30 years across the Americas, Africa and Europe, Wray has collaborated with seminal artists including Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin and Nicole Mitchell. She has been a guest professor at many institutions including Princeton, Harvard, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Temple, University of Arizona, University of Ghana, Legon and UC Berkeley. Wray’s research led her to examine West African cultures, art and social practices which are at the root of the ubiquitous creativity present in the Diaspora. Dr. Wray is the creator of Embodiology® – a methodology based on West African principles of human communications. Embodiology®’s distinctive breath-informed, rhythmic movement and music concepts have shown efficacy in elevating vitality, wellbeing resilience and creativity. Stemming from this, JiM™ – Joy in Motion – a virtual iteration – was created at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to support everyday people transform their indoor isolation into spaces of ‘co-liberation’. Embodiology® is being taken up by a variety of sectors including health and wellness, education, corporate leadership, professional development and arts organizations. As a public intellectual Wray has been a guest speaker/lecturer at the United Nations, Institute of Advanced Studies and other globally renowned organizations.

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