Aysha Upchurch is...
The Dancing Diplomat
Seed planter. Soil Agitator. Curious Artist. Passionate Educator.
While a sophomore in college, Aysha felt torn between her love for musical theatre and her interest in international relations. Her friend confidently quipped, "Don't worry. Do them both. Be the dancing diplomat." Her passion to have artistry, advocacy, and education intertwined came to pass...and so it turns out her friend was quite prophetic.
Aysha Upchurch, the Dancing Diplomat, identifies as a seed planter, soil agitator, and curious and passionate artist. Professionally, this translates to her working as a dancer, choreographer, instructor and consultant who creates, facilitates, and coaches for and with students and professionals in various sectors.
Aysha Upchurch, the Dancing Diplomat, identifies as a seed planter, soil agitator, and curious and passionate artist. Professionally, this translates to her working as a dancer, choreographer, instructor and education consultant who is committed to social inclusion, artistry development, and transformative education.
Youth advocacy and Hip Hop culture runs throughout her work as an artist and educator. While based out of Washington, DC, she founded and directed the award-winning dance ensemble, Life, Rhythm, Move Project. In 2007, she was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing arts to create Am I On?, evening-length Hip Hop work that explored the space between youth and adult voices, standardized testing, and school shootings. The work exemplified her commitment to use Hip Hop dance to entertain, educate, and empower. Aysha and her company went on to win two Metro DC Dance Awards for the innovative work that used youth interviews as part of the score. Her work also led to a performance at the White House and her selection as a US State Department Cultural Envoy in Dance in Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala.
Aysha holds an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University, and blending this with her training and Advanced Youth Development, she designs and facilitates conflict resolution workshops for youth. Additionally, she served as the Associate Director of COOL Schools at VSA Massachusetts for three years, working at the intersection of arts integration and special education. She developed and facilitated coaching and professional development protocols and programs to train arts and general education teachers to design and implement more equitable and inclusive teaching and learning environments.
Aysha is a sought-after presenter, facilitator, and artist. She has spoken at national conferences about artfully designing classrooms centered around equity and cultural relevance, the importance of movement in education, and embracing Hip Hop as a powerful literacy and cultural lens present in classrooms. She has been on faculty at George Mason University, Howard Community College, Harvard University, and Salem State University – the latter being only the second college to allow dance majors to concentrate in Hip Hop. Never able or willing to parse her identity as educator and artist, she still presents her own work on the stage and is a current CATALYST artist-in-residence at the Dance Complex and is a guest choreographer at Salem State University and Middlebury College. As a soloist and choreographer, her work weaves together history, narrative and movement to create pieces that share stories of celebration, survival, and liberation.
In 2015, Aysha received her Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), and remained connected with community for two years as a Teaching Fellow, Project Zero Classroom faculty member, and the inaugural Artist-in-Residence with the Arts in Education program, exploring the pedagogical implications of cross-disciplinary artistic collaboration, community dance cyphers, and Hip Hop pedagogy. In the fall of 2018, Aysha joined the faculty at HGSE, continuing her efforts to elevate and advocate for Hop Hop education and movement in the classroom and teaches the first courses offered by the school in those two areas. Additionally, this fall at HGSE, Aysha will launch HipHopEX - a collaborative lab for high school and graduate student to experience, explore, and experiment with Hop Hop arts in education.
The Dancing Diplomat
Upcoming Performances & Classes
August 6, 2019
Summer Sizzle at Dance Complex
Movement & Text Workshop | 4-5:30PM
Hip Hop Dance Class | 6-730PM
August 31, 2019
Schonberg Fellow at the Yard
Named as a Schonberg Fellow/Boston for a Creation Residency, Upchurch will be developing and debuting a new work, "The Sound of the Strength of this Cape."
November 8 & 9, 2019
Aysha will present "Finding Home" in three shows at the Boston Center for the Arts.
Aysha on the Move...
Using dance to empower, educate & entertain
As a passionate educator, Aysha takes great pride in every course and workshop she facilitates. While the contexts may vary, each experience is designed to ensure participants understand the key concepts and gain valuable skills that can be applied to their lives inside and outside of the classroom, office, or even theatre.
Young Queens Society
Young Queens Society is a place for GEMS - Girls Empowered to Move. Aysha Upchurch conducts after-school residencies for girls of color in middle and high school using Hip Hop dance as a vehicle for expression and tool to celebrate their identity while building healthy relationships with peers. Empowered through movement, these young queens are ready to be leaders in their school and home communities.
Presenter & Facilitator
Aysha designs presentation and workshops to encourage using dance for expression, community-building, and social justice. She works with participants to tap into judgment-free movement that allows them to engage more deeply with their environment, their peers, and themselves.
EDUT211D -- Education on the Move: Examining and Embracing What Movement Can Teach Across Educational Settings
TDM98 -- Junior Tutorial for Theatre, Dance, and Media Concentration
Salem State University
DAN130 - Hip Hop I & II
DAN100 - Intro to Dance
Choreographer & Performer
As a performer and instructor, Aysha embraces choreographic processes as a way to find, narrate, and share stories of self, community, and change. Whether working as a soloist or with students, she likes to position dance as a way to have fun exploring those questions folks silently ask of self and the world.