Meet Ashley Ferro-Murray

17 Nov, 2015

Meet Ashley Ferro-Murray

Ashley Ferro-Murray was three when she took her first ballet lesson — she hasn’t stopped dancing since, no matter the obstacle she’s faced.

Growing up, Ashley immersed herself in ballet. Years of training paid off when she joined the Ithaca Ballet Company, but her involvement ended prematurely after she suffered an injury in high school. Still, Ashley did not give up on dance and she enrolled in Bryn Mawr College, eager to pursue her passion. One semester into the program, however, and Ashley realized it was no longer performing on the stage as a professional dancer that most excited her. She’d become fascinated by the dialogue and scholarship surrounding bodies and movement.

Ashley transferred to Cornell, where she double majored in Dance and the College Scholar Program. At Cornell, she received further training in classical ballet, modern dance, improvisation, composition, and dance and technology. But increasingly, she found herself equally drawn to those historical and theory-based classes that informed and inspired her work.

Upon graduation, eager to further her academic examination of dance, Ashley joined UC Berkeley’s Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies Ph.D. program. In TDPS, she has been able to continue practicing dance while focusing on and contributing to the scholarship in the field, particularly through her interdisciplinary new media focus.

Much of Performance Studies research around new media and dance concentrates on high-tech experiments. But Ashley recognizes that the pervasive impact of the internet and new media no longer relies exclusively on technological devices, having influenced the vocabulary of our body and movements. She joined the Berkeley Center for New Media to explore how choreography that addresses new media conceptually — if not literally — can strengthen our understanding of the relationship between new media and the body; a connection she believes is profoundly transforming contemporary identities.

“New media has always drawn me in as a way to re-configure, expand, and work between physical realities,” Ashley wrote in an interview with BCNM alum Margaret Rhee in 2014.

Ashley’s dissertation Choreography in the Digital Era: Dancing the Cultural Differences of Technology investigates these themes. Ashley proposes in her work a counter-history for dance and technology that includes artists who tactically manipulate various media (sometimes technologically) to propose methods for politically moving bodies and for moving political bodies in digital culture. The project includes a critical feminist posthuman re-reading of the 1966 “9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering;” a biotechnological analysis of AIDS choreographies of the 1980s and 1990s; a new media networking of Rachid Ouramdane’s contemporary rendering of global and Algerian diaspora in his autobiographical “Far…;” and, finally, a choreographic interpretation of the Electronic Disturbance Theater’s “The Transborder Immigrant Tool.” A portion of this work was published in Media-N Journal as “Dancing the Hardware: Rachid Ouramdane’s embodied performance.” Ashley has also published in Dance Studio Life Magazine about her last choreographic project MOOCing?, which was inspired by Macarthur/HASTAC funded research on online instruction conducted with BCNM Director Greg Niemeyer and BCNM alum Reginold Royston. Most recently, her co-authored chapter "Technoliges of Performance" was accepted for publication in A Cultural History of Theater: The Modern Age and is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press.

And still, Ashley dances. Her choreography has been produced by Cornell University, the University of California, Berkeley, The Milk Bar in Oakland, CA, and ZERO1 Biennial in San Jose, CA. She is currently working on a choreographic project that deals with the body and biopolitics of cancer treatment, involving several site-specific works. Ashley underwent cancer treatment from 2013-2015 and will be performing these pieces in New York City beginning March 7, 2016 to commemorate the three year anniversary of her diagnosis. Her newest solo related to this project, Through Practice, will be performed at AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island April 15-17.

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