Dr. Layla Zami is an innovative academic and artist. Her research, teaching, and creative work orbits around the nexus of cultural memory, corporeality, performance, diaspora, and spacetime.
She is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Performance Studies at Freie Universität in Berlin (Germany), as part of the collaborative research centre on Intervening Arts (SFB1512), and Adj. Associate Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn (New York), where she was a Co-Chair of Black Lives Matter at Pratt.
As an Interdisciplinary Resident Artist with the dance company Oxana Chi Dance & Art, Layla Zami creates and performs music, sounds, spoken words and physical theater. Zami is much appreciated for her delicacy and versatility as a multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, kalimba, chalumeau, and more), and her poetic engagement with sounds and words. The duo performed and presented at festivals, theaters and universities in the USA, Canada, France, Finland, Serbia, Martinique, Taiwan, Indonesia, Turkey, India, Ghana, the UK, and all across Germany.
Dr. Zami was awarded the Honorable Mention in the 2023 Oscar G. Brockett Prize for Dance Research, awarded annually to the best book in dance studies published during the previous three calendar years, whose method of approach includes historical inquiry. The selection committee appreciated the book as "a rigorously crafted exploration of dance as an epistemological practice of cultural memory in relation to historical trauma" and "a model of creative disciplinary innovation". You can register for the virtual award ceremony here.
This month, Zami celebrated the Jewish New Year by premiering her first play Broken Bet, developed as a 2022 Fellow with LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture. Shana Tova and Mazel Tov! To learn more about this work, read her article here.
A new composition by Zami is in the making! The work was commissioned by The Kitchen in response to a graphic score created by L.A.B. Research Residency primary researcher Romi Morrison, and inspired by research on the graphic scores, personal life, and musical patterns of the late composer Julius Eastman. The song will be part of Morrison’s upcoming multimedia publication Songbook: The Quotient of Desire and will be performed live at an event on September 27, 2023. A recording of the program will air on Montez Press Radio as part of the series Instruments of the Black Goey Universe On Air.
Performance and Research in Johannesburg
What a blessing to perform in South Africa at the Performance Studies International #28 conference Uhambo Luyazilawula: Embodied Wandering Practices, organized by Wits University. The conference journey included programs at venues across Johannesburg, from the Market Theatre to Maboneng by way of University of Johannesburg where Dr. Layla Zami & Oxana Chi performed I Step On Air in the outstanding Keorapetse William Kgositsile Theater. Much gratitude goes to the organizing committee and technical crew for their professional support and featuring of our work. Knowing that May Ayim performed in Johannesburg in 1995, and that Zami was an exchange student in Cape Town twenty years ago, it was a moving trip, and also inspirational for the research and the musical creativity!
Juneteenth in Berlin
Layla Zami and Oxana Chi will perform I Step On Air as part of a Juneteenth celebration in Berlin, the first of its kind in Berlin! The performance will be preceded by a contextualizing talk, and followed by a book launch event: New York Liberation School, with Conor Tomás Reed (City University of New York). A discussion with Makda Isak and Binta Boiro will round up the evening dedicated to transcultural Black interventions. The event is organized as a cooperation between the Working Group Decolonial Art Realms (CRC Intervening Arts), the community center Nachbarschaftsheim Schöneberg and the Foundation Amadeu-Antonio-Stiftung.
Holsteinische Str. 30, 12161 Berlin
March Update: the podcast is discussed in the German press! Read article in the Tagesspiegel.
In February 2023, Layla Zami launched a new podcast with the CRC Intervening Arts. Season 1 presents New York based artists, with a focus on African-American practices. On each episode, host Dr. Layla Zami is in conversation with musicians, sound artists, and theatre-makers about the postcolonial and/or queer possibilities opened by their work. Listen to us on our podcast blog, or subscribe directly on your favorite podcast platform (Apple Podcasts, Spotify,...)
And we have some more good news: a new book review for Zami's book Contemporary PerforMemory was published in The Drama Review.
Postdoctoral Opportunity in Berlin
Dr. Layla Zami is a new Postdoctoral Researcher in performance studies in the Collaborative Research Centre on "Intervening Arts" hosted at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany. Her research project explores poetics of sonic intervention, with the intention to listen to and with postcolonial and/or queer perspectives. Stay tuned for more info soon including impressions from the field research in New York and Chicago.
Moving on Up at Pratt Institute
Several years of deep commitment to research, creative practice, teaching and service have resulted in Dr. Layla Zami’s promotion from the rank of Visiting Assistant Professor to Adjunct Associate Professor at Pratt Institute. Other academic achievements this year include a 2022 MLA Professional Development Grant and a new community appointment as a member of the Dance Studies Association’s Conversations Editorial Board.
Dr. Layla Zami is on tour in Germany. Together with Oxana Chi, she is invited to open the Dortmund goes black Festival (May 12-15) with the
performance I Step On Air, and to give a workshop at the established theater Schauspielhaus Dortmund.
Next stop: Berlin, June 11, 2022 at Werkhalle Wiesenburg. This is a unique production in which Zami performs her avant-garde multi-instrumental sound art alongside Oxana Chi's choreography. The artists are also proud to be featured with a collaborative anthology in a new publication.
Layla Zami is delighted to be a 2022 Fellow in LABA: A Laboratory For Jewish Culture. The new cohort of writers, artists, and culture makers will spend a year of learning, performance creation and community building at the 14Y Theater in New York.
Lecture-Performance in Martinique
The association La Fabrique Décoloniale and the Cultural Office of the City Le Lamentin invite Oxana Chi & Layla Zami for a lecture-performance on corporeity and decolonial memory. Dr. Zami presents her book Contemporary PerforMemory and performs live-music (saxophone, kalimba, loops) in Oxana Chi's performance excerpt Psyche. The evening entitled "Les Chemins de la Liberté" will also include speeches by the Mayor of Lamentin, professors from the Université des Antilles and the Martinican artist Valérie John.
Centre Culturel de Basse-Gondeau
Guest on the Minor Constellations Podcast
You can now listen to Episode 5 of the Minor Constellations Podcast to hear Dr. Layla Zami talk about her book Contemporary PerforMemory, in conversation with Jan Dammel, Yael Attia and Kathleen Samson from the Research Training Group minor cosmopolitanisms at Potsdam University. Dr. Zami also published new peer-reviewed articles about dance and memory.
US Premiere in Manhattan
Layla Zami performs at 1014: Past and Future, an exhibition about 1014 Fifth Avenue. Today, the Beaux-Arts-style townhouse – one of the last of its kind along Museum Mile – stands on the cusp of change. Its history as a former ambassador’s home and the German cultural center, Goethe House New York, are presented together with thoughtful renovation proposals by David Chipperfield Architects. A weekend of architecture, culture, and community with a special performance highlight by Oxana Chi Dance & Art featuring live-music by Layla Zami.
Thu October 14 & Fri October 15, 2021
Facilitating a Reading & Discussion Series
Register now for a free Reading & Discussion series on The Civically Engaged Reader: A Diverse Collection of Short Provocative Readings on Civic Activity! The series is facilitated on Zoom by Layla Zami for The International Human Rights Art Festival, with support from a Humanities NY R&D grant.
September 23, October 7, October 21, November 4, November 18, 2021
Co-Curating & Performing for Dagesh
The Berlin based program DAGESH presents TRANSITIONS - Festival Jüdischer Gegenwartskünste / Jewish Festival for Contemporary Arts. Layla Zami and Oxana Chi are commissioned to curate a performance evening on the opening night, and to present a new performance. Join us for a world premiere by Oxana Chi Dance Art along with other powerful, political, poetic theater/dance/music contributions.
In person at Holzmarkt 25 in Berlin and online on Youtube.
Wed August 18, 2021
Mentor at ELES
Starting in the Fall 2021, Layla Zami will serve as a mentor (Vertrauensdozentin) for Doctoral Fellows in the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk (ELES), a scholarship foundation funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The intellectual guidance provided by the mentors complements the scholarship received by gifted students in the Jewish community.
New Article in Women & Performance
Layla Zami is proud to publish a new creative academic essay entitled "Dissidence, Dissidance: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore's Visions and/in
Oxana Chi's Motions" in the influential journal
Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, in a special issue guest edited by Kim Bobier and Marisa Williamson on "Views from the Larger Somewhere: Race, Vision, and Surveillance".
Participating to Dortmund goes Black
Layla Zami is delighted to be invited to participate in Oxana Chi's Artist Salon series at Schauspiel Dortmund. Oxana Chi curates the Salon in the realm of Dortmund goes Black, a program aiming to extend Black History Month to a yearlong visibility for Black artists and themes. For the first iteration of the Salon, held in celebration of May Ayim's birthday, the curator will be in conversation with Layla Zami and Stefanie-Lahya Aukongo.
Wed May 5, 2021
7.30pm Central European Time [online]
Free and open to all. To receive the Zoom Link, please email: mail[AT]laylazami.net
Studio Visit with Designer Asako Shiroki
Commissioned by Wired Magazine Japan / KOKUYO Centre for Field Research
The artist Asako Shiroki was interviewed on Zoom by Yu Yamada (Buyer/Curator) and Kei Wakabayashi (Content director of blkswn publishers Inc.)
for Wired Magazine Japan and KOYUKO. To enrich the video documentation, Oxana Chi & Layla Zami captured beautiful images of the artist. The images enrich the Zoom
video by revealing the meditative, concentrated atmosphere of her Berlin studio, and her design creativity blending ancient tools and latest technology (December
Special thanks to Yuri Manabe
full video (audio in Japanese)
Fresh out of the press
Dr. Zami presents a new publication in the Critical Dance Studies series, a poetic research meditation on the power of moving bodies to inform and transform our relation to memory and spacetime. Contemporary PerforMemory: Dancing through Spacetime, Historical Trauma, and Diaspora in the 21st Century is published by transcript publishing (Bielefeld, Germany), and is distributed worldwide as a print and an electronic book, in partnership with Columbia University Press. Grateful for this achievement in a challenging year!
Performing at Volksbühne Berlin
Layla Zami is delighted to be involved in Oxana Chi's performance Through Gardens at the iconic Volksbühne Berlin. Zami presents a contextualizing presentation before the dance, and a guest appearance with live-music. The performance is scheduled in the realm of the festival Diaspora Europe. Originally planned for May 8 and 9, the festival is curated by Shelly Kupferberg and Tímea Junghaus as an artistic discussion on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation from German National Socialism.
Due to the current pandemic-related restrictions, the event will be live-streamed on January 27, the Remembrance Day for the Victims of National Socialism in Germany.
Of Circles and Cycles - MRPJ #54
A new essay is out in the Movement Research Performance Journal (Issue #54, Summer 2020). Layla Zami's contribution entitled "Of Circles and Cycles" was written before the pandemic, and is now more timely than ever. The issue explores the contexts and histories in which we dwell, create, and coexist to interrogate how space is produced both as material and ideology, predominantly in New York City. To purchase the journal in print, see the link below.
Oxana Chi & Layla Zami in conversation with Gillian Jakab
Oxana Chi and Layla Zami are featured in The Brooklyn Rail, an independent, much appreciated cultural newspaper offering critical perspectives on arts, politics and culture.
The Brooklyn Rail, New York, Issue 199, April 2020
Salon Qi goes New York!
In the realm of Women's Month and the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, Oxana Chi hosts the first Salon Qi à New York City. The iconic event was a much appreciated cultural gem in Berlin and Paris. Layla Zami is delighted to be involved as a co-organizer, a special guest musician in Through Gardens, and a scholar in the post-performance talkback with Oxana Chi and Prof. Jens Giersdorf (MMC) on March 13.
Speyer Hall // Performance Project @ University Settlement
Fri, March 13, 2020 at 8.00 pm
Sat March 14, 2020 at 7.00 pm
New Publication in Paris, France
The innovative peer-reviewed dance journal Recherches en danse, 7 (2019) publishes a new article by Layla Zami. This issue of the journal, edited by Claudia Palazzolo et Guillaume Sintès, is dedicated to the role of memory in dance and dance theory.
Curating and Performing at the 2019 International Human Rights Art Festival
The International Human Rights Art Festival presents Celebration of Women, a special performance evening curated by Oxana Chi & Layla Zami. The program includes the curators with a lecture-performance dedicated to Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore. Other performers include Christiane Emmanuel (Martinique), Moving Spirits (USA), and Loretta D. Fois (Italy/USA). Layla Zami will also present a spoken words poem with live-music (saxophone).
Sat December 14, 2019
Layla Zami is delighted to present two new publications:
A commissioned essay for artist and professor Kerry Downey's We collect together in a net. Published by Wendy's Subway, the art book assembles a series of full color reproductions of new monotypes by Downey, alongside commissioned texts by four writers.
A book review of Nadia Ellis's Territories of the Soul, written upon request of the legendary book review series published by the Feminist Review, a lively and informative resource in higher education across a range of disciplines.
Invited Lecture-Performance in Manhattan
Upon invitation by Marymount Manhattan College, Layla Zami & Oxana Chi present a lecture-performance in the realm of the Conversations on Diversity and Social Justice in the Dialogues in Dance Series.
Mon October 7, 2019
5.30 pm - 7 pm
Lecture-Performance and Workshop in Belgrade
Upon invitation by Bet Debora, Layla Zami and Oxana Chi present a lecture-performance and a workshop at the Ninth International Bet Debora Conference of European Jewish Women Activists, Academics, Artists, Rabbis and Cantors. The conference entitled "Jewish Women - Being Present, Bringing Change" will be held September 13-15 at Hotel Palace in Belgrade, Serbia.
Certificate from the Berklee College of Music
Zami successfully completed "Developing Your Musicianship", an online course taught by harmony expert Professor George W. Russell Jr. through Coursera. She is proud to have obtained her first certificate from the Berklee College of Music!
New Research Report
As a member of Dance/NYC’s Immigrants Dance Arts (IDA) Task Force, Dr. Zami is pleased to share the publication of a new research report. The qualitative analysis was prepared in collaboration with the Task Force.
Picture: Layla Zami, invited speaker at the 2019 Dance/NYC Symposium with panel chair Carol Walker.
Photo by Oxana Chi
Performance at The New School
Playing at The New School, Mannes School of Music in the realm of Oxana Chi's dance performance at Women Between Arts! Layla will play saxophone and live-loops, in a special collaboration with pianist Mara Rosenbloom. She enjoys rehearsing for the performance, in a busy summer of research, curriculum development, and event planning at Pratt Institute.
The New School, Glassbox Theater
August 17, 2019
Festival in Manhattan
In the realm of the Wild Project Theater's Creative Partnerships, Oxana Chi & Layla Zami curate Pas de Deux: A Performance Summer Salon, from July 4th to July 6th, 2019. This summer festival, held in the historical Lower East Side of Manhattan, celebrates the power of love, friendship and collaboration on- and off-stage. The program includes duo performances by artists working in the fields of dance, poetry, theater and live-music, as well as an exhibition.
Studies Project at Movement Research
Layla Zami organizes the Studies Project «Memory Moves» for the legendary Movement Research institution. The project is produced in collaboration with students currently enrolled in Zami’s Performing Memory course at Pratt Institute. Special guest participants will be Oxana Chi and Sheldon Raymore.
Dance/NYC Symposium 2019
Dr. Layla Zami will speak at the Dance/NYC 2019 Symposium. Zami is invited to contribute to a panel moderated by Professor Carol K. Walker, Chair of Dance at Hunter College. The session series brings together leading national and local voices to explore and foster the role of dance education in creating an equitable dance ecology.
Sat, February 23, 2019
New Interview for FFW
Layla Zami was interviewed by Professor Chandra T. Mohanty and Professor Linda E. Carty for the Feminist Freedom Warriors (FFW) project hosted at Syracuse University. Zami is honored to be featured in FFW, a first of its kind digital video archive including leading international voices such as Angela Davis.
Residency and Lecture-Performance
La Maison rouge
Layla Zami is delighted to start off the year in Martinique. She accompanies Oxana Chi in her artist residency at La Maison rouge:
Maison des Arts, upon invitation by Christiane Emmanuel, a leading artistic and political figure.
The residency culminates in a lecture-performance on the topic of women history and rights in 20th century Europe and USA.
Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute
Dr. Layla Zami is a Visiting Assistant Professor and a 2018-2019 Visiting Scholar in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. Besides research and advising activities, she will be teaching her award-winning seminar "Performing Memory" in the Performance + Performance Studies Graduate Program.
Co-Curator of Dance at IHRAF
Oxana Chi & Layla Zami are co-curators of dance at the International Human Rights Art Festival. They will curate dance programs for the weeklong Festival as well as interim events.
Dancing Through Gardens
International Education Week
The Office of International Affairs (OIA) at Pratt Institute, in collaboration with Pratt Film Cult and the Pratt International Students Association, presents the documentary Dancing Through Gardens, introduced by the filmmakers Oxana Chi and Layla Zami, Visiting Scholar at Pratt.
In the realm of International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.
Pratt Institute, ARC building
395 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn
Light refreshments and snacks provided. Free and open to the public. Please bring a valid ID.
November 15th, 2018
Presentation at the University of Ghana
School of Performing Arts
Dr. Layla Zami is delighted to present and perform in Accra on the footsteps of Ghanian-German poet, teacher and activist May Ayim. Together with Oxana Chi, she performs I Step On Air for the Opening Event of the Symposium "African Music Scholarship in the 21st Century: Challenges and Directions", and contextualizes the piece in a short introduction. The Opening also includes performances by the Legon Palm Wine Band and the national Ghana Dance Ensemble. The Symposium is organized by the International Council for Traditional Music, a Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO, with a keynote address by Professor V. Kofi Agawu (Princeton University).
Efua Sutherland Drama Studio, University of Ghana
Aug 9th-12th, 2018
A new publication gathering established and emerging scholars, artists and activists from the Jewish and Muslim communities to
discuss historical commonalities and differences with a focus on alliance-building, now and in the future. Dr. Layla Zami was invited
to contribute to a cross-cultural discussion about community, gender, art and memory.
The book was edited by Ozan Zakariya Keskinkılıç and Ármin Langer, Founders of the Salaam-Shalom Initiative in Berlin. Other contributors include: Prof. Micha Brumlik (Selma Stern Center), Dr. Azadeh Sharifi (Center for Global Theatre History), Prof. Dr. Stefanie Schüler Springorum (Director, Berlin Centre for Anti-Semitism Research), filmmaker Pary El-Qalqili, Dr. Max Czollek (Curator, Radical Jewish Arts Days), Prof. Dr. Iman Attia (Alice-Salomon University), Dr. Yasemin Shooman (Director, Berlin Jewish Museum Academy).
Abrons Arts Center
Layla Zami performs in Oxana Chi's feelingJAZZ, a duo for a body and a saxophone. This work-in-progress was developed during Oxana Chi's time as an AIRspace Performing Artist in-residence at Abrons Arts Center. Come enjoy a Show + Share from all artists in the 2017-2018 cohort!
Abrons Arts Center Underground Theater
June 29th, 2018
at 7.30 pm
Elements Dance Evening
The International Human Rights Art Festival presents a special performance night curated by Layla Zami for Immigrant Heritage Month. Come witness a unique movement exploration of the Five Elements structuring human experiences:
Earth (Sheldon Raymore), Water (Davalois Fearon), Fire (Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company), Air (Open Dance Ensemble) and Spirit (Oxana Chi).
Invited Talk & Performance
University of Toronto
The Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA) is collaborating with the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures at the University of Toronto in hosting the 3-day SSHRC-funded conference, "Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany" in Toronto, Ontario, on May 23-25, 2018. As a featured invited scholar and performer, Layla Zami will hold a talk on "Afro-German Dance as Empowerment", and perform in Oxana Chi's dance-music-word creation I Step On Air, a tribute dedicated to Afro-German poet and activist May Ayim.
Robert Gill Theatre
May 23rd - 25th, 2018
The Center for the Humanities @ CUNY
A special event on the topic of embodied archives featuring academic talks, a dance performance and poetry. A transnational gathering bringing together researchers and artists to reflect upon the physical and metaphorical movements of memory. Initiated by Dr. Layla Zami and co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at the City University of New York, Graduate Center, and the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University.
Martin E. Segal Theatre
March 28th, 2018
from 6.30 to 8.30 pm
New Book Publication
Contemporary PerforMemory: Moving Through Diasporic Dancescapes in the 21st Century
Humboldt-University, Berlin 2018
Layla Zami celebrates a dynamic start into the New Year with the publication of her dissertation. The book analyzes the work of seven international dancers-choreographers and presents the new idea of perforMemory, creating unexpected connections between the memories of the Holocaust, the Transatlantic Slave Trade and contemporary sociopolitical challenges. Conceived in a spiral-like fashion, the reader is invited to travel through diasporic dancescapes in which notions of identity, home, embodiment, spatiality and temporality unfold, and are brought into resonance with each other in the discussion of specific dance examples. Based on doctoral research conducted across the globe from 2013 to 2017, the publication features conversations with the artists Oxana Chi, Zufit Simon, Wan-Chao Chang, André M. Zachery, Farah Saleh, Christiane Emmanuel and Chantal Loïal.
As an Invited Speaker to the Dance/NYC 2018 Symposium, Dr. Zami contributes to the "Decolonizing Dance" Long Table moderated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa. The participants explore and foster solutions for an equitable dance ecology.
Gibney Dance Center
Feb 25th, 2018
at 2.15 pm
Artist Residency at JCAL
In February 2018, Layla Zami is delighted to be an artist-in-residence at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in Queens, together with Oxana Chi. They will perform in the lovely JCAL theater on March 2nd in the realm of the First Friday Series.
Black History Month Special
A special night of dance performances curated by Layla Zami in partnership with the International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF) at Dixon Place. They will perform a new piece, feelingJAZZ, among other talented artists Maria Bauman, Val-Jeanty, and Nia & Ness.
Dixon Place Theater
Feb 21st, 2018
at 7.30 pm
Lecture-Performance in Cannes
Layla Zami is delighted to present a lecture-performance with Oxana Chi at the International Dance Symposium "Crossings: careers, genres, circulations" organized by the University Nice Sophia Antipolis in the realm of the Cannes Dance Festival in France. International scholars and artists will explore questions such as: How does an artistic career build up in the choreography sector according to circulatory processes and genres dynamics? To what extend artistic are mobilities thought and felt differently according to gender? Layla Zami will reflect upon these questions in light of the biographic trajectories of two dancers: the historical Tatjana Barbakoff and the contemporary Oxana Chi, who produced the dance solo Through Gardens in memory of Barbakoff. The plenary session, led by Dr. Laure Guilbert (Opéra de Paris) will be introduced with live-music by Layla, and crowned with Oxana's live performance excerpt from Through Gardens.
Dec 9th, 2017
Espace Mimont, Cannes, France
more info (in English)
Dancing Through Gardens
Film & Discussion
In the realm of Oxana Chi's Salon Qi, an annual cultural series in memory of Tatjana Barbakoff (1899-1944), the award-winning documentary Durch Gärten Tanzen (Dancing Through Gardens) screens in an elegant Berlin movie-theatre, in presence of the filmmakers Oxana Chi & Layla Zami. In this journey through Germany, Indonesia and France, we encounter an inspiring and stirring blend of historical archive material, awareness-raising fiction scenes and graceful dance performances.
Dec 3rd, 2017 (Sonntagsmatinee)
at 11 am (11 Uhr vormittags)
Bundesplatz Kino, Berlin