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, educator and arts administrator who is committed to social inclusion, community engagement and artistry development. Prior to relocating to Boston in 2014, she was based out of Washington, DC for over ten years, where she founded and directed the award-winning dance ensemble, Life, Rhythm, Move Project. Blending her dance training and professional backgrounds in youth advocacy and conflict resolution, she uses Hip Hop dance to entertain and educate audiences while empowering youth. Trained in Advancing Youth Development, she also facilitates movement and conflict resolution workshops for young people. The thread of Hip Hop culture and arts runs throughout her work as an artist, and deeply informs how she positions herself as a facilitator and instructor with students of all ages.
Aysha has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the White House and has been selected as a US State Department Cultural Envoy in Dance in Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala. In 2007, she won the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage Local Dance Commissioning Project and created Am I On?, an award-winning evening-length Hip Hop work about the space between youth and adult voices. Aysha holds an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University and is currently on faculty at Salem State University. She received her Ed.M., concentrating on Arts in Education, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she has served as Teaching Fellow and Project Zero Classroom faculty member and is a current Visiting Practitioner in Education, documenting and creating works with students and across departments as an Artist-in-Residence seeking to raise the profile on dance education and Hip Hop pedagogy. Aysha is also the Associate Director of COOL Schools at VSA Massachusetts where she works at the intersection of arts integration, special education, and professional development, continuing to endeavor to position arts and teaching artists as central ingredients to progressive and inclusive education reform.