Joanna Dee Das is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests include dance in the African diaspora, musical theater dance, and the politics of performance in the twentieth century. She is the author of Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora (Oxford 2017). She has published an article on Dunham’s activism in East St. Louis for the Journal of Urban History and has an essay on Dunham’s contributions to the decolonization movement forthcoming in Thomas DeFrantz’s edited anthology Dancing the African Diaspora (Duke). She also has an essay on African dance at the 1893 World’s Fair forthcoming in The Futures of Dances Studies anthology (Wisconsin), as well as an essay on the musical Contact in the Routledge Companion to the Contemporary American Stage Musical. She has won several fellowships and awards for her research, including a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in Ethnic & Cultural Studies.
In addition to her scholarship, Joanna is a Certified Instructor of Dunham Technique and is passionate about teaching the history, theory, and practice of dance from a globally informed perspective. Before and during graduate school, she worked as a professional dancer and choreographer in New York, where she performed at Dance Theater Workshop (NYLA), the Cunningham Studio, WAXWorks, and DanceNow/NYC. She is also committed to public engagement. Since 2015, she has annually co-organized a public symposium on Katherine Dunham that connects Dunham’s activism to Black Lives Matter and other contemporary social justice movements. The most recent, held at Northwestern University in July 2017, was “Katherine Dunham and Art for Social Change in 1930s Chicago: A Contemporary Call to Action."