Adesola Akinleye

2020-21 CAST Ida Ely Rubin Artist in Residence

Investigating the embodied choreography of urban space

About the Residency

Artist-scholar Adesola Akinleye’s residency at MIT explores how dance-based research and creative collaboration across disciplines can create new techniques, lexicons, and conversations within urban design. Working with the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) Associate Professor Gediminas Urbonas, Akinleye collaborates with MIT faculty, researchers, and students in Urban Planning, ACT, and the Media Lab, as well as external collaborators from Theatrum Mundi, an organization that engages in research and teaching on the public lives of cities.

Akinleye sees choreography as a “three-dimensional language” that can contribute to larger multi-disciplinary discussions about urban design. Capturing the somatic experience of place as a form of data, her work complements the objective spatial data usually captured within a geographic information system (GIS). The project explores how the bodily experience of dance can add to planning lexicons and open up pathways of communication between individuals living and designing in urban communities. 

Through lectures, performances, workshops, and class discussions, this project poses questions such as: Within our practices, how do we become attentive to a community’s emotional, cultural, and corporeal memory in order to move beyond the codified routes used to initially understand them? What approaches can we take to see the City as facilitated by an art of infrastructure? Can we see the City as a collaborative entity shaped through somatic knowledge of a Place? What tools do communities have to describe the experience of Being in the Places they live? How do we make spaces for the embodied in our practices?

This artist residency is supported by the Ida Ely Rubin Artists in Residence Fund. 


Past Events

Adesola Akinleye Book Launch (Virtual)
Thursday, May 6, 2021 / 12:30pm

Fall 2020
Class offered by the MIT Program in Art, Culture & Technology
4.314/5 Advanced Workshop in Artistic Practice and Transdisciplinary Research: Choreographing the City

Choreographing the City Morning Conversations

Ellie Cosgrave, Director, University College London Urban Innovation Lab
September 14, 2020 / 10:30am

Dianne MacIntyre, Dancer and Choreographer
September 28, 2020 / 10:30am

Richard Sennett, Chair, Urban Initiatives Group – UN Habitat, Chair, Theatrum Mundi
October 5, 2020 / 10:30am

Arianna Mazzeo, Visiting Professor of Practice in Design, Art, and Technology, Harvard University
November 2, 2020 / 11:00am

Hūfanga ‘Ōkusitino Māhina, Professor of Tongan Studies, Founder and Director, Vava‘u Academy for Critical Inquiry and Applied Research
November 2, 2020 / 5:30pm (morning in Aotearoa New Zealand)

Scott L. Pratt, Professor of Philosophy, University of Oregon
November 9, 2020 / 11:30am

John Bingham-Hall, Director, Theatrum Mundi
November 16, 2020 / 11:30am

Liz Lerman, Choreographer and Founder, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
November 30, 2020 / 11:30am

Final Presentations
December 7, 2020 / 9:30am – 12:30pm

Collaborators at MIT

Gediminas Urbonas is an Associate Professor in the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology. Along with Nomeda Urbonas, he co-founded Urbonas Studio, an interdisciplinary research practice that advocates for the reclamation of public space, stimulating cultural and political imagination as tools for social change.

Combining new and old media, Urbonas Studio’s work frequently involves collective activities contributing to the cross-disciplinary exchange among several nodes of knowledge production: network and participatory technologies; sensorial media and public space; environmental remediation design and spatial organization; and alternative planning design integration. They also collaborate with experts in different cultural fields to develop practice-based artistic research models that allow participants—including their students—to pursue projects that merge urbanism, new media, social sciences, and pedagogy to critically address the transformation of civic space.

Urbonas has exhibited internationally, including at the São Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon, and Gwangju biennales—and at the Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions—among numerous other international shows, including a solo show at the Venice Architecture Biennale and Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).

Biography: Art, Culture and Technology Program at MIT


Dr. Adesola Akinleye is a choreographer and artist-scholar. She began her career as a dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem (USA), later working in UK companies such as Green Candle, Carol Straker, and Union. Over the past 20 years, she has created dance works ranging from dance films, installations, and texts to live performances that are often site-specific and involve a cross-section of the community. Akinleye has also acted as a guest choreographer for both company and university repertoire. Her work is characterized by an interest in glimpsing and voicing people’s lived experiences through creative moving portraiture.

Akinleye founded and is co-artistic director of DancingStrong Movement Lab, including the “triip” (turning research ideas into practice) project, which aims to cultivate and foster unique multi-generational, multi-disciplinary ensemble spaces for the creation of new works. A key aspect of her process is the artistry of opening creative practices to everyone from ballerinas to architects to women in low-wage employment to young audiences. She is currently a Research Fellow working on Theatrum Mundi’s Choreographing the City project with support from Middlesex University. This research is in part informing her new work Navigations: Concrete-Water-Flesh, a hybrid physical/web-based live performance piece in collaboration with DancingStrong Movement Lab.

Akinleye has won awards internationally for her choreography, and her work has been published in the field of dance scholarship as well as cultural and social studies. Her monograph In Conversation: dance, architecture and engineering’ will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in Spring 2021.

Biography: Adesola Akinleye
Website: DancingStrong Movement Lab