Director of HipHopEX
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.
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.