Ojeya Cruz Banks

Ojeya Cruz Banks

Associate Professor
Associate Chair of Dance
Position Type
- Present

Ojeya Cruz Banks is passionate about dance teaching, choreography, ethnography, and dance film with a focus on dances of the African diaspora. Her research combining African and Pacific lineages is inspired by her identity as a Pacific Islander (Guåhan/Guam) and African American with roots in Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana. For over a decade, she worked as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is where she developed an interest in Black Pacific dance intersections.

Her choreographies and publications include topics such as African diasporic dance, West African dance (Guinea & Senegal), Pacific Island dance as critical, spiritual and cultural health, and indigenous education and performance. She advocates for decolonizing dance pedagogies; and has studied dance in Guinea, Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and in Cuba. She has also taught dance around the world in places such as Bali, Fiji, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Australia. Her influential teachers include Katherine Dunham, Donald (Eno) Washington, Moustapha Bangoura and Youssouf Koumbassa, Tacko Sissoko and Simone Gomez. In 2012, she was a selected for the Professional Choreographer’s Lab at the Jacob’s Pillow School of Dance, Pacific Dance Choreographic Laboratory (Aotearoa). Dr. Cruz Banks was also the keynote speaker and choreographer for the award-winning 2012 BlakDance festival in Australia. Her short dance film titled Tåno/Land premiered at the 2016 Pacific Arts Festival and her choreographic project called Africa in Aotearoa nominated for best dance performance in the 2017 Dunedin Fringe Festival. Recently, her collaboration with acclaimed movement artist Lela Aisha Jones was featured in the short dance film Original Spaces that was curated at the Gibney center in New York City. In 2019, she joins the faculty of Dance at Denison University as an Associate Professor of Dances of the African diaspora.

B.A Women’s Studies & Africana Studies, University of Arizona,
M.A Multicultural Education, University of Arizona,
Ph.D Language, Reading and Culture in Education, University of Arizona



Journal Articles

  • (2021) The role of the Djembefola in Indigenous Dance Education: Decolonizing Memoirs of Guinea, West Africa. Journal of Dance Education. DOI: 10.1080/15290824.2021.1949015
  • (2021) 4e Cognition Meet Black Dance Rhythmic Virtuosity: Pedagogical Stories of West Africa to House dance. Journal of Dance Education. 21:3, 176-182
  • (2021) I Dance for the Dead | The Blue and Black in the Pacific: A Eulogy for Teresia Teaiwa. Journal of Critical Stages. Issue 23. 
  • (2020) Fare Ra Lankhi: The Circle Is an Indigenous Pedagogical and Choreographic Space for West African Dance. Journal of Dance Education, 20:4, 205-213
  • (2017c) Haka on the Horizon: Māori Contemporary Dance and Te Whare Tapere. MAI Journal: A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship. 6:1
  • (2017b) Black Chamoru Dancing Self-Revelation. Invited article for Amerasia Journal. Special Issue on “Exhibiting Race and Culture”. 43:1, 147-156
  • (2017a) Tribute to Teresia Teaiwa. Invited article for Amerasia Journal. Special Issue on “Exhibiting Race and Culture”. 43:1 187
  • (2015) Atamira Dance Company and Indigenous Performance: The Making of Māori Worlds. In Te Kaharoa: The e-journal of Indigenous and Pacific
  • (2014) West African Dance Education as Spiritual Capital: A Perspective from the United States. Journal of Dance, Movement and Spiritualties 1:1, 163-179
  • (2013) Espritu Tasi/The Ocean Within: Critical dance revitalization in the Pacific. Dance Research Aotearoa 1:1, 24-36.
  • (2012) Katherine Dunham: Decolonizing Anthropology through African American Dance Pedagogy. Transforming Anthropology. 20:2, 159-168
  • (2011) Dancing Te Moana: Interdisciplinarity in the Oceania, Brolga 35, 75-83
  • (2010) Of Water and Spirit: Locating Dance Epistemologies from Senegal to New Zealand, Anthropological Notebooks XVI, No. 3, 9-22
  • (2010) Critical Postcolonial Dance Pedagogy: The Relevance of West African Dance Education in the United States, Anthropology and Education Quarterly 41:1, 8-34
  • (2009) Critical Postcolonial Dance Recovery: An International Literature Review, Journal of Pedagogy, Society and Culture. London: Routledge. 17: 3, 355-367
  • (2008) Katherine Dunham: Decolonizing Dance Education. In Anderson, Noel & Haroon Kharem (Eds.). Education as Freedom: African American Educational Thought and Ideology: Critical Essays. Lexington Press. 121-134
  • (2004) Negro Spirituals and Critical Pedagogy: Recommendations for Classroom Teachers, New Mexico Journal of Reading (6)

Book Chapters

  • (under review) Wilhelmenia Taylor: A West African Dance Education Luminary Born in New York. In Black Women’s Dance History: Stars, Constellations, and Galaxies of Movement. Editors Stephanie Evans and Takiyah Amin.
  • (forthcoming) Pacific Dancers from Aotearoa, Guåhan, and Fiji talk Indigenous Traditions and Creative Futures. In The Pacific Islands: Environment and Society (Revised edition). Editor Moshi Rapaport. University of Hawaii Press
  • (forthcoming) Mobilizing Liberation and Wellness through Black Dance Education: A Memoir. In Black Women’s Liberatory Pedagogies: Resistance, Transformation and Healing Vol II. Editors Olivia N. Perlow, Durene I. Wheeler, Sharon L. Bethea, and Barbara M. Scott. Springer: New York
  • (forthcoming) Ethnography for Research in Dance Education: Somatic and Decolonial Aspirations. In Dance Research: Methodologies and Design. Editors Matthew Henley & Rosemary Candelario. Routledge Press
  • (2021) Lalåi: Somatic Decolonization and Worldview Making through Chant on the Pacific Island of Guåhan. In Brain Deitrich & Kendra Stepputat (Eds). Visuality in Performance and Culture: New Research Inspired by Adrienne L. Kaeppler. Berghann Books.
  • (2019a) West African Dance and Spiritual Well-being for African Americans. In Dance and Quality of Life. Karen Bond & Sally Gardner (Ed.s). 101-116. Springer: New York
  • (2019b) Soil, Soul and the Somatic Senses: Memoirs of Dance in Japan and Guam/Guåhan in Postcolonial Times. In Soulful and spiritual research in Dance Studies: bodily inscription, self-narrative and auto-ethnography. Amanda Williamson (Ed.) Intellect Books
  • (2016) Tama watēa: Integrating Māori Perspectives into Dance Education. In Linda Ashely and David Lines (Ed.s). Intersecting Cultures: Music and Dance in Education in Oceania. 285-298 Springer: New York

Book Reviews

  • (2020) Book Review. African Theatre: Contemporary Dance by Yvette Hutchison and Chukwuma Okoye (eds) (2018). The Journal of the Society for Dance Research. Edinburgh University Press


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