Dr. S. Ama Wray

Creator of Embodiology® Dr S. Ama Wray is also a TEDx Speaker and Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine. Self-styled as a Performance Architect for over 30 years she has been performing, teaching, researching, speaking, choreographing and collaborating across three continents. In addition to her own work, she is the legal custodian for Jane Dudley’s seminal work Harmonica Breakdown (1938), re-staging it for repertory companies worldwide. Wray’s own work brings dance and live music back into closer alignment, collaborating with artists including Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Derek Bermel, Julian Joseph, OBE, Nicole Mitchell, Mojisola Adebayo and Kei Akagi. Recent work that reflects her vision to bring depth of understanding to heal social, environmental and historical wounds include: Covid-19: A Nature’s Trail, Jazz: The House that America Built (pt I & II), ‘Hire’ Knowledge and the Anthropocene, Muhammad Ali and Me and Moj of the Antarctic. Her award-winning movement methodology - Embodiology®, which arose from research into improvisation in West African performance is the creative method she employs. Dr Wray has given keynote talks on topics of creativity, human flourishing and indigenous knowledge at the United Nations, The Institute for Advance Study, Dance USA, World Dance Alliance, Florida International University and Temple University. The Embodiology® praxis enables an optimization of creativity through engaging in distinctive breath-informed, rhythmic movement and music concepts. Stemming from this, JiM™ - Joy in Motion - was created at the outset of the COVID-19 social distancing mandate to support everyday people to transform their indoor isolation into spaces of ‘co-liberation’. For UC Irvine she provides a similarly inspired wellness services for faculty and staff, programmed by the Susan Samueli Institute for Integrative Health; and for CareHope College, Florida she provides support for remote students of nursing. Staying grounded in the endogenous and ancestral foundations of Embodiology®, the first NeuroArts symposium on her method took place at the Center for the Neurobiology for Learning and Memory in 2021. As a result, her creative practice is extending into clinical research with local, national and international colleagues, first exploring the methods as a form of wellness activity for healthcare students. Responding to the work’s ability to help people cope with stress and yield optimal capacity to problem-solve. Additionally, Wray has devised the Embodiology® Teacher Training program to meet with the diverse applications of this work. Literature on Embodiology® can be found in British Dance, Black Routes and The Oxford Handbook of Improvisation, with her own monograph coming soon. Her mantra “Your Life is not an Algorithm, Improvise!” has its roots in her fellowship from the UK’s National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts Fellow, where she began exploration into performance and technology creating Texterritory with Fleeta Siegal, produced by Future Physical. Digital terrains continue to be explored through AI 4 Afrika, an initiative she co-founded with choreographers, data scientists, scholars, and entrepreneurs in 2020 also at the height of the pandemic. Equal to all things is her zest for equity and justice – from plant life to humans; and The Africana Institute for Creativity, Recognition and Elevation is the interdisciplinary space where as Co-Principal Investigator she fosters this intention.

Professor of Dance
Jazz Dance