Leo Ryan, MFA in Dance ’23: for public view (twenty-four)

This is part of a series commemorating this year’s cohort of Duke’s MFA in Dance. Learn more about the program and its 2023 graduates here.

for public view (twenty-four)

Leo Ryan, a performance and multimedia artist from Alabama, draws inspiration from their unwavering belief in the boundless beauty of southern queer people. Leo’s critical and compassionate nature buttresses their creative works, which blend elements of cinema, sound and performance to confront the complex struggles and injustices faced by queer and transcommunities in the American South.

Leo’s thesis action, entitled for public view (twenty-four), was a daylong durational performance that was livestreamed to widen witnessing beyond Duke and Durham. Live publics were invited to attend the 24-hour performance during four-hour intervals. Upon entering the installation space witnesses were immersed in southern soundscapes and video projections of rural landscapes and iconography; Leo’s body was digitally doubled, tripled and quadrupled through the proliferation of screens.

Throughout the day, Leo’s body endured dozens of repetitions of a movement score that combined everyday acts of watching, listening and waiting, with bursts of calisthenic physicality and held muscular contractions. The sum of these elements offered up a monumental testament to the inextinguishable beauty and hidden labor of queertrans people who weather constant threats to their lives and human rights.

It has been my honor and pleasure to work with and learn from Leo over the course of their time in the MFAEIP. I am drawn in to every movement world that they make and then inhabit. And I know I’m not alone in looking forward to the artworks and care-worlds that Leo creates in the years to come. Epic congrats!

—Sarah Wilbur

Director of Graduate Studies, MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis
Associate Professor of the Practice in Dance
Duke University Dance Program

Leo Ryan performing along with video

Thesis Project

Leo Ryan is an interdisciplinary movement-based performance and video artist. Their thesis project for public view (twenty-four) is a solo installation performance that explored queer and transcorporealities in the American South by combining movement, video art and speaking segments derived from memory work-based interviews with another queertrans collaborator from Alabama.

About Leo Ryan

Leo Ryan is an interdisciplinary movement-based performance and video artist originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As a nonbinary trans artist, much of their work investigates queer and transcorporealities, with a focus on lived queer experiences in the American South. Ryan works in forms of movement that include dance, dance on film and performance art. Their thesis project, for public view (twenty-four), was a twenty-four-hour durational performance that combined movement, speaking and nonlinear film work. Their recent work has been presented in the South and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States, including the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina; Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina; and Ten Tiny Dances in Beaverton, Oregon.


Why Duke University?

“I chose this dance MFA because it allows me the opportunity to explore embodiment across multiple disciplines. I want a safe space to explore my transness through movement, and I believe Duke will grant me that. I’m also looking forward to working with Duke’s incredible dance faculty and my impressive cohort.”

Leo Ryan during the performanceLeo Ryan during the performanceLeo Ryan during the performanceLeo Ryan during the performance