Joanna Dee Das is an Assistant Professor in the Performing Arts Department at Washington University in St. Louis. She is also an affiliate of the Program in American Culture Studies and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Equity. Her research interests include dance in the African diaspora, musical theater dance, and the politics of performance in the twentieth century. She is the author of Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora (Oxford 2017), which won the 2018 de la Torre Bueno Best First Book Award from the Dance Studies Association and an honorable mention Errol Hill Award for outstanding scholarship in African American theatre and performance from the American Society for Theatre Research. She has also published articles in Journal of Urban History, Dance Research Journal, Studies in Musical Theatre, Theatre History Studies, TDR, and ARTS, as well as authored or co-authored book chapters in The Futures of Dance Studies, The Routledge Companion to the Contemporary Musical, and A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical. Her current book project examines the history of the Branson, Missouri entertainment industry.
In addition to her scholarship, Das is a Certified Instructor of Dunham Technique and a choreographer. In December 2020, she co-directed a dance film with filmmaker Denise Ward-Brown called Seeking Josephine Baker: Dancing on the Land. Building from this creative project, Das and Ward-Brown currently run a Mellon-funded Research Working Group that is exploring Ms. Baker’s history in St. Louis. Before and during graduate school, she worked as a professional dancer and choreographer in New York, where she performed at Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts), the Cunningham Studio, WAXWorks, and DanceNow/NYC. Her interests have also led to some fun side gigs, including serving as a historical consultant for The Rockettes.