Amari Jones, MFA in Dance ’22: Embodied Resonance

This is part of a series commemorating this year’s cohort of Duke’s MFA in Dance. Learn more about the program and its 2022 graduates here.

Amari Jones’ work hones in on the construction of racism from a unique perspective: how does the construct of racism bear on Black girlhood, how is it felt, how does it affect and what kind of embodied strategies can be envisioned to unearth and de-center oppressive realities? As an artist-researcher, she is deeply invested in imagining and conceptualizing new ways of K-12 public education in response to the lived experiences of Black girls. As a thoughtful dancer, she has succeeded in adding a layer of embodiment to shed light on the often buried or hidden realities that constitute racism in the U.S. and beyond. Her work in movements surpassed the creation of simple artifacts, but created processes and lived situations that asked the spectator, or better witness, to form empathic bonds, to experience the material passing through her/the body on a non-representational level. Most memorable, she combined thick intellectual material with the complexity of the moving body, unearthing a more profound knowledge, palpable to all who experienced it.

Central to her MFA research at Duke was the creation of Embodied Resonance, a somatically centered movement practice that encompasses dialogue and written reflections. The spaces Amari created through her practice aimed to be intentionally pro-Black, feminist, queer affirming, and antiracist.

Her time at Duke afforded her to conceptualize and create the foundations for an Embodied Practice that challenges the status quo of Western performance with artistry that is at once protest, celebration, healing, and transformational. I have been honored to witness, support, and advise her research over the two years, and we all look forward to her works’ wider resonance in the future.

—Michael Kliën

Professor of the Practice of Dance

All photos from the marade that Amari Jones led from the Ruby to the Chapel on March 19, 2022.

Thesis Project

Amari’s Embodied Resonance workshops were an improvisational movement practice where participants danced to Black-produced and voiced podcasts, music, and lectures to investigate and better understand their own Black identities as well as others’.

These workshops were specifically held for Black Women and Black non-binary femme folks. The topics discussed centered around K-12 public education and the process of racialization that occurs for Black girl students while in attendance.

A marade was organized where participants walked from the Rubenstein Arts Center to the Duke Chapel for a performance of Embodied Resonance presented by Amari and Black Women and Black non-binary femme folks who participated in the two previous workshops. After the performance, marade participants returned to the Ruby.

Amari Jones

“I chose the name marade because this event was both a march for protecting Black girlhood and a parade to celebrate Black girlhood/womanhood. My goal was to raise awareness about the ways in which the racialization of Black girls in K-12 public education spaces negatively affects their self-concept while also foregrounding their acts of resistance and reclamation of self as positive/powerful methods of self-preservation,” Amari shares.

About Amari Jones

Photo by John West, Trinity Communications

Amari Jones (Raleigh, NC) received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance Studies and a minor in Entrepreneurship from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has performed in repertory works choreographed by Marcus White, Mari Meade, The Clarice Young Dance Project and Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company—under the artistic direction of Andrea E. Woods-Valdés.

Amari has presented her research twice at the Conference on African- American & African Diaspora Dance and at the Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo. As a performer, she has also been featured in the dance film “Infinity’s End?” by Ife Michelle Dance. Amari’s research at Duke in the MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis program encompasses racial identity formation processes and the specific roles that the public K-12 educational system plays in these processes. Her movement praxis offers a liberatory pedagogical intervention that uses dance as an investigation of Black girls’ embodied knowledge across multiple improvisational sites.

Why Duke University?

“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.”