CUNY Dance Initiative Residency: Ariyan Johnson / D.I.M.A.B.A.

2022-23 | Queensborough Community College |

The CUNY Dance Initiative (CDI) is a transformative incubator that secures two vital yet scarce resources—rehearsal time and performance space—for New York City choreographers and dance companies across the five boroughs. Housed within the City University of New York (CUNY)–the nation’s largest public urban university system–CDI is a residency program that supports local artists, enhances the cultural life and education of college students, and builds new dance audiences at CUNY performing arts centers.

Ariyan Johnson, a native New Yorker, founded her company D.I.M.A.B.A. (Degrees In Movement Arranged By Ariyan) in 1991.  D.I.M.A.B.A. was created to educate, spiritually uplift, and build community by using a multi-artistic lens through an African American storytelling experience. The company has an intergenerational focus with an applied theatre approach to movement and activism which is centered around spirituality in various forms of self-discovery, social justice, and (self) reflection with the objective towards relationship building within community.

Ariyan is a multi-disciplinary artist, an award-winning filmmaker, and an Independent Spirit Award best female lead nominated actress for one of the first female Hip Hop coming of age stories that won the Sundance Special Jury Prize – Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. Other credits include Law and Order; J.A.G.; The General’s Daughter with John Travolta; Bulworth with Warren Beatty and Halle Berry, where she depicted a rapper influencing Hip Hop culture onto the political landscape; and a series regular on The Steve Harvey Show. She has professionally danced, choreographed, and toured worldwide for an array of artists such as L.L. Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Chaka Khan, Ms. Melodie, Ya Kid K, 2 in a Room, Mary J Blige, SWV, Mariah Carey, and many more.

A former member of Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and Ronn Pratt’s Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Companies, she began her site-specific work exploring jazz-based dances of protest with Eleo Pomare’s Dancemobile. Her community work continued throughout her tenure as Artistic Director/ Resident Choreographer of Faithful Dance Company, working with deaf participants and creating interactive performances at Faithful Central Bible Church’s 18,000-seat arena. Recently, Ariyan was awarded the 2022-2023 Hellman Fellowship, the 21st Century Creativity Research Grant for 2020-2021, as well as being a three-time recipient of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Artist-in-Residence grant. Ariyan’s strong female perspectives within the African Diaspora culture are highlighted in articles like Dancing Goddesses (Hip Hop Dance Almanac). Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine.

A graduate of LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts where she studied dance, Ariyan holds a B.A. from Lehman College in Speech Pathology and Audiology and an M.A. in Applied Theatre from CUNY SPS.

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