Dance Department Welcomes Imani Kai Johnson, Taisha Paggett, and Jose Renyoso

By Elizabeth Brown, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
December 15, 2014

The Dance department at UCR welcomes three new Assistant Professors Imani Kai Johnson, Jose Renyoso, and Taisha Paggett this academic year. Chair of dance Jacqueline Shea Murphy states that the “different knowledge systems” that the new hires have will strengthen the critical race studies element that is becoming the core of the dance department.

Imani Kai Johnson is a scholar who specializes in the African diaspora, global popular culture and Hip Hop. Johnson received her Ph.D. in American Studies & Ethnicity at USC.She uses an ethnographic approach, utilizing interviews and observation, to study B-boy and B-girl “cyphers,” or dance circles, and the unique energy they possess in the center. Shea Murphy comments that this new take and approach is “needed and welcomed” in the department to diversify the approaches students may study.

Taisha Paggett, who received her MFA in Choreography at UCLA, is a choreographer that Shea Murphy feels is an “important new person in the field of contemporary dance.” She uses contemporary experimental performance art and choreography to “examine questions of race and African American perspectives.” To do this, Paggett “plays with histories of representation in a traditionally white avant-garde artistic space,” as Shea Murphy explains.

Jose Renyoso is a scholar who utilizes modern dance in Mexico to create a global history for modern dance that “disrupts the European base” theories of dance evolution. He received a Ph.D. in Culture and Performance and an MFA in Choreography at UCLA.

His approach involves a dance history lens based in a global Mexican and Latin American perspective, and often examines subjectivity and the production of knowledge.

The methodological differences of the three new professors make the department more accessible to students with unique and differing interests. Shea Murphy feels these three new hires will give students new depth when studying dance through a critical race studies lens and will add to the teaching of appropriation and commodification of dance. The “emerging dance scholars interested in race embodiment and different dance practices” now have another resource at UCR to explore these questions critically.

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