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Improvisation & Encounter: Intercultural Collaboration

Moderated by Ajay Heble, with Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, Jane Bunnett, and George Lipsitz
Monday, December 13, 2021
7:00-8:30 PM
Free & Open to the public
Registration required:

University of Michigan Center for World Performance Studies presents the final session in a series of virtual roundtable discussion curated by Scholar-in-Residency Ajay Heble, exploring the theme of Improvisation & Encounter. Drawing its inspiration in part from The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights, and the Ethics of Cocreation, a collaboratively-authored book by Daniel Fischlin, George Lipsitz, and Ajay Heble, this series of online roundtable conversations will explore improvisation in the arts as a scene of encounter. What happens when artists come together to improvise, and what might this scene of encounter tell us about the staging and negotiation of difference: between artists, between artists and audiences, between the present moment and the varied histories and contexts that gave rise to it? Moderated by Ajay Heble, the focus of the final panel is “Intercultural Collaboration,” and brings together scholar-practitioners from diverse disciplines.

In an era when diverse peoples and communities of interest struggle to forge historically new forms of affiliation across cultural divides, the participatory and civic virtues of engagement, dialogue, respect, and community-building inculcated through improvisatory practices take on a particular urgency. Exploring the improvisational encounters enacted through intercultural artistic practices, the panel will discuss how (and to what extent) such encounters can function as a powerful bridge between artists from very different cultures. To what extent might these encounters offer testing grounds for understanding—and modeling--how people might best learn to get along in a globalized world? What can we learn about trust, relatedness, responsibility, and social obligation from intercultural improvisatory encounters in the arts?

Five-time Juno Award winner, Jane Bunnett has turned her bands and recordings into showcases for the finest musical talent from Canada, the US, and Cuba. An internationally acclaimed musician, Bunnett is known for her creative integrity, improvisational daring, and courageous artistry. Her exploration of Afro-Cuban melodies expresses the universality of music, and her ability to embrace and showcase the rhythms and culture of Cuba has been ground-breaking. She has toured the world bringing her own special sound to numerous jazz festivals, displaying her versatility as a flutist, saxophone player, and pianist.

Omi Osun Joni L. Jones’ work is committed to exploring strategies for promoting healthy communities through personal Joy. She is an artist/scholar/facilitator who employs Black Feminist aesthetics in her performance work, her pedagogy, and her consulting. She has performed at The New Black Fest (NYC), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), and Links Hall (Chicago). Her scholarship has appeared in The Drama Review, Obsidian, and Theatre Journal as well as solo/black/woman and Blacktino Queer Performance. Her most recent book is Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àṣẹ, and the Power for the Present Moment (Ohio State University Press). She is Professor Emerita from the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

George Lipsitz is Professor of Black Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Along with Daniel Fischlin and Ajay Heble he is co-author of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights and the Ethics of Co-Creation. Lipsitz has authored (among other books) How Racism Takes Place, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, Time Passages, Dangerous Crossroads, Footsteps in the Dark and Midnight at the Barrelhouse.

Scholar-in-Residence Ajay Heble is Director of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation and Professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. He is the author or editor of several books, and a founding co-editor of the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation ( He was the Project Director for Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice, a large-scale Major Collaborative Research Initiative, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. As the Founder and Artistic Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival, Heble has jolted the citizens of Guelph into an appreciation of improvised and avant-garde music and delighted aficionados from around the world with his innovative and daring programming.

If you require accommodation to participate in CWPS events, please contact the Center for World Performance Studies, at 734-936-2777 or Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the University to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Link:
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: African American, american culture, Dance, Humanities, Interdisciplinary, Music, Storytelling, Theater
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for World Performance Studies, Residential College

The Center for World Performance Studies sponsors and cosponsors several special events throughout the year, including performances, public lectures, demonstrations, and roundtables. Our events are announced on our website, and through email and flyer distribution. Please contact us at if you would like to be on our mailing list or if you would like more information on any of the following events.