Sheron Wray

Sheron Wray

Sheron Wray teaches on Dynamic Rhythm, a deft aesthetic value found throughout Africa and her Diaspora.

 In spoken idioms rhythm is connected to speech, but many African languages are tonally embodied, mapping melody, cadence and pitch to physicality. Through applying distinctive techniques that foreground rhythm, dancers can seamlessly innovate movement and spoken word unceasingly.

Sheron Wray is a tenured professor of dance and the University of California, Irvine. She is a former NESTA Fellow (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts)—an improviser, choreographer, director, producer, teacher and scholar. She self-titles as a ‘Performance Architect’, receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Surrey where she developed her theory and practice of Embodiology®, a neo-African approach to contemporary dance improvisation. Her TED talk articulates its distinctions and philosophy In 2016 an essay on her neo-African approach to dance improvisation is in Black Dance British Routes, edited by Adair and Burt, 2017 published by Routledge. In 2014 two essays on jazz dance were published in the anthology Jazz dance: A History of its Roots and Branches, edited by Guarino and Oliver.

As a performer in the UK she danced with London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance Company between 1988 and 2001. Sheron is widely known for her role as the leading performer and legal custodian of Harmonica Breakdown (1938), choreographed by Jane Dudley. As its custodian she continues to restage the work globally and has completed a motion capture/Labanotation research project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities research Council. The dance is also the title subject of a documentary about Jane and this work. Her other films are for JazzXchange Special Request, depicting a journey from Nyabinghi drums to Hip Hop, shot on various locations in NY; and Red as Expected, an award winning film by Dennis Morrision with music by Byron Wallen. In 2013 she re-launched JazzXchange in the USA and was appointed guest curator of contemporary performance for the Monuments and Museums of Ghana. Currently her improvisation practice is extending into clinical research with UCI medical centre. She is using her dance improvisation methods as a form of therapy for patients who suffer from chronic diseases. And in 2015 UK’s National Resource Centre for Dance invited her to place her archive within their permanent collection. In the realm of theatre she has directed the work of Mojisola Adebayo, her seminal works Moj of the AntarcticAn African Odyssey and Muhammad Ali and Me.

Between 1992 and 2004 Wray was artistic director of JazzXchange Music and Dance Company, collaborating with musicians including: Gary Crosby, Julian Joseph, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin and Zoe Rahman. For the UK’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival she was commissioned to choreograph The Brown Bomber, collaborating with Joseph once again, supported by the PRS Foundation. As a result of her 4-year NESTA fellowship, dance of the African diaspora, jazz and improvisation intersect in her concept of digitally enabled improvisation which manifests in the award-winning Texterritory. Texterritory is an interactive performance platform created in collaboration with Fleeta Siegel. Recent productions include Texterritory Congo, Digitally Ever Present and Texterritory USA.