Naomi Bragin

12 Feb, 2015

Naomi Bragin

DREAM Dance Company

DREAM was a street dance company based in Oakland, California, created with the mission to bring to concert stages many of the hip hop and club dance traditions I was informally researching offstage in “the streets.” From 2002 – 2008, DREAM performed at venues throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and toured to universities nationally. DREAM’s funders and sponsors included Creative Work Fund, Destiny Arts Center, East Bay Community Foundation, East Bay Fund For Artists, Ford Foundation, PUEBLO, Rennie Harris PureMovement, and Zellerbach Foundation.

About Naomi

Naomi is a multifaceted dancer, choreographer, educator, and scholar. Her commitment to dance arises from her experience as a freestyle dancer in underground clubs of Los Angeles and New York in the 1990s. Moving to Oakland in 1997, she worked in the greater San Francisco Bay Area for ten years, teaching dance to youth at K-12 public schools, community centers, and transitional facilities. She worked in administrative capacities for non-profit arts and youth-serving organizations, providing development, fundraising, and management support. As a cultural worker, she networked with local artists and promoters to produce community events, including free dance gatherings like Free Style Fridays at Mandela Arts Center and Congregation at Black Dot Artists Collective. Most recently, she collaborated with Oakland LGBTQ organizer Mario Benton to produce Soul Train Ball & Battle, a dance party memorial for pioneering black popular culture entrepreneur and TV host Don Cornelius.

Deciding to deepen her critical and ethical engagement in hip-hop and street dance, Naomi entered UC Berkeley’s Master’s Program in Folklore in 2008, winning support from a UC Regents fellowship and Ford Foundation/NYC Hip-Hop Theater Festival Future Aesthetics Artist grant. She worked with a student group to organize UC Berkeley’s first Hip-Hop Studies Conference and joined a team of invited scholars in collaboration with the Harvard Hip-Hop Archive, conducting an ethnography of hip-hop in Berlin, Germany.

Now a doctoral candidate in UC Berkeley’s department of performance studies, Naomi has received various awards for her research, including Eugene Cota Robles and Mentored Research Fellowships, and a Center for Race and Gender grant. In 2013 she joined the Mellon Dance Studies cohort of emerging scholars and was an invited scholar at the Hip-Hop for Social and Political Empowerment Symposium in Hannover, Germany. Her article “Shot and Captured: Turf Dance, YAK Films, and the Oakland, California, R.I.P. Project” is co-winner of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies 2013 Student Essay Contest, critiquing viral circulations of hood dance and black performance, in light of disproportionate policing, incarceration and death in black neighborhoods. She writes on queer kinesthetics and black masculinity in the dance of waacking/punkin’ for the March 2014 Women & Performance special issue, All Hail the Queenz: A Queer Feminist Recalibration of Hip-Hop Scholarship, and on antiblackness, internet meme-ing and the Harlem Shake for The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies (2015). Her dissertation, “The Black Power of Hip-Hop Dance: On Kinesthetic Politics,” is a study of hip-hop’s California foundations during the 1960s and 1970s.

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