“Everyone comes to know his/herself by exercising their imaginative freedom to be anything but what other’s reality dictates.”  ~ LJW

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

I was born La Teesa Lanéa Ayo Walker (Ayo meaning “Joy”) and raised in Northern California's Bay Area. My life’s work as a dancer began over twenty years ago. I have established myself as a sought-after choreographer and dance educator throughout the East and West coasts. My first opportunity for professional dance training and performance was with New Generations Dance Company. After receiving my B.A. in theater and dance from San Diego State University, I continued my training as a fellowship student at the Academy of Performing Arts in San Diego. Further training included Mills College Graduate Studies Department of Dance and NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development - Music & Performing Arts Professions. 

The Western Stage offered me my first opportunity as a professional dancer and choreographer and this experience generated a new passion for a career in dance education. My works have been commissioned by Cal State University East Bay, Cypress College, Fullerton College and Long Beach City College, as well as Norwalk High School and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Training with “Ms. Joy” has promoted noteworthy success in my students’ careers, such as participating in live network dance competitions, So You Think You Can Dance season 1 and going on to hold the title of America’s Best Dance Crew season 3. As well as attaining feature roles in the Disney TV show, Good Luck Charlie and in the major motion picture, Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked. A few have been signed by MSA and DDO Talent Agencies and have embarked on their own teaching careers as well as formed their own dance companies and studios. 

In March 2011 I formed LJ Boogie & Company a dance company consisting of myself, LJ Boogie and dancers that joined me on a performance by performance basis. The company made their first appearance at the 2011 White Wave 11th Anniversary DUMBO Dance Festival in Brooklyn, New York. And the following year we were invited back to perform at White Wave’s 9th Annual Cool New York Dance Festival. Upon departing from my duties as a teaching artist-in-residence for both the Dance Theater of Harlem and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center,  I returned to the West Coast to further pursue my professional development. 

Having recently completed my PhD in Performance Studies with an emphasis in African American and African Studies, I’m now a Lecturer of Theatre & Dance and African American and African Studies at UC Davis. My first published work Towards Entercultural Engaged Pedagogy: Revisioning Curricula in University Dance Studies from a Black Dance Aesthetics Approach seeks to dismantle structures responsible for racializing and subsequently disembodying--depriving of bodily existence and or representation--the black dance aesthetic in the academy. Since the signifier black dance does little to specifically define the complexities of African and Black American dancers and choreographers, I hope my definition of the black dance aesthetic--the performativity of an embodied black experience--will be another step in meeting this need. I’m arguing that this umbrella term is an encompassing style representing the ways in which black dancing bodies articulate various techniques specific to an embodied experience. My definition tries to answer the following questions: how do black bodies dance differently than white bodies and why should we study them at the same level? 

As a black American dance practitioner/educator, political arts activist, scholar and movement inventor, I continue to explore ways to access agency in my field. In doing so, my works aim to promote non-stereotypical assumptions about the black dance aesthetic. My current work Physical Beats is a prime example. 

My general research focus encompasses the fields of dance education and curriculum development with an emphasis in black American dance traditions. To privilege those dance histories that have been absent from the curriculum, I am interested in how the historiography of dance might be able to revise its discipline with consideration for the black dancer in terms of representation and the black dance aesthetic as  a paradigm for practice and choreographic innovation.

Copyright © 2011, La Teesa Lanéa Ayo Walker All rights reserved.