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Internationally recognized dancer joins ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre

LaTasha Barnes

LaTasha Barnes.

June 07, 2021

Internationally recognized and award-winning dancer, choreographer, educator and performer LaTasha Barnes joins the dance faculty in Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre this fall. 

“Barnes is engaged in critical, innovative work that has the potential to transform American dance, and we look forward to how that manifests in our curriculum at ASU,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

Barnes' career in dance spans genres, including house, hip-hop, waacking, vernacular jazz and Lindy Hop styles, and she serves as a cultural ambassador and tradition-bearer of Black American Social Dance. She is celebrated globally for her musicality, athleticism and joyful presence. 

The New York Times lauded Barnes as “a bridge between worlds that seldom intersect, a connector, or a rather a reconnector, since the styles and subcultures that she joins – encompassing much of the world-conquering dance that gestated in African American communities in the past century or so – are all branches of a family whose members often don’t recognize one another.” 

Her show “The Jazz Continuum” recently premiered at the Guggenheim Museum before heading to the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Her leadership and business skills have placed her in positions of service as chair of the board of trustees for the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival, vice president of marketing and outreach for the International Lindy Hop Championship, co-director of HellaBlackLindyHop, board member of the Black Lindy Hoppers Fund, the Frankie Manning Foundation and a contributing member to the NEFER Global Movement Collective. 

She is currently a part of a brain trust of collaborators helping to develop the groundbreaking stage production “Swing Out,” is a developing partner of several intergenerational and intercommunal cultural arts exchanges, and is contributing to the upcoming text “21st Century Jazz Dance: Africanist Aesthetics and Equity in Teaching and Choreography” (University of Florida Press, 2021). 

“In each of my career fields and areas of study my desire to facilitate the sharing of ideas, skills and knowledge could never be deniednot just in dance,” Barnes said. 

Barnes self-designed a master’s degree in ethnochoreology, Black studies and performance studies through New York University Gallatin School. Her thesis and continuing research are working to bridge the gap between communities of practice and academic cultural dance research, performance, preservation and pedagogy.  

I was grateful to be a part of some truly generous mentor-mentee relationships,” she said. “Realizing how integral this relationship is to the development of artists and their forms, I wanted to be an effective piece of that collective work and responsibility model.”

Barnes said she is excited to join ASU and continue to inspire fellow artists and arts enthusiasts to champion artivism through cultivating an authentic sense of self and intention in their creative expressions and daily lives. 

“The most impactful way for me to fulfill that desire is through teaching and mentoring young dancers and collaborators,” she said. “This growth of course is not one-sided but again reciprocal. I get to learn as much as, if not more than, I share.”

This fall, she will be teaching Hip-Hop I, Dance in U.S. Popular Culture, a freshman dance seminar, Dance Matters, and co-facilitating the ASU community event “Sol Power Festival.” 

“To see and hear the sincere interest (in my work), and appreciation from those who were to be my faculty colleagues really showed me that ASU is deeply committed to developing well-rounded, dynamic and conscientious artists  not just fulfilling a status quo,” Barnes said. “I am really elated to have the opportunity to contribute to and galvanize that effort through cultural dance education, research and performance.”

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