Lenard Foust
MFA Dance
CWPS 2018 Cohort

Lenard Foust recently started a new position as an Assistant Professor in the BFA Dance Program at Alabama State University. He started his career with the Albano Ballet Dance Company in Hartford, CT, then went on to tour nationally and internationally as a dancer, first with the Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience and Norwegian Cruise Line. A Fulbright Scholar in China, Lenard earned his MFA in Dance and a graduate certificate in World Performance Studies from the University of Michigan. 

Q: Tell me about the inspiration for your CWPS research.
When I started looking into MFA programs, I noticed that there were a small number of programs that gave attention to and amplified hip hop or jazz dance. When I started the MFA at Michigan, I was also a commercial dancer training in Los Angeles and New York City. I was really interested in jazz funk and street jazz, both styles of dance that are heavily influenced by hip hop culture and hip hop aesthetics. It really fascinated me how much the African diaspora has informed so many styles of dance and music. I really wanted to immerse myself in this research. For my CWPS research, I decided to investigate and see how jazz funk and street jazz influence the dance scenes in Los Angeles, California and Kumming, China. I split my time during the summer of 2018 in L.A. and Kumming.

Q: How has your CWPS research and artists influenced your current work?
My CWPS research has helped me hone in on what I’m really interested in and what’s important to me. CWPS was a place where I could explore so many things. Through the readings, conversations, planning of the research, and conducting the research, I have continued researching the ways in which hip hop culture informs and supports other styles of dance and music. My current research focuses on the representation of African American faculty and non-Western dance faculty and understanding why the system is the way it is- as in, why there is so much more emphasis on ballet and modern dance within university level institutions and their curriculums.

CWPS has helped me figure out methodology- ways to interview and speak with choreographers as I learn more about this practice. Someone that was really supportive to me during my CWPS research endeavors was Emily Wilcox. She was a huge support and jump starter to helping me find ways of researching and expanding my way of thinking.

Q: What are some of your current works and projects?
Currently I am working on a doctorate degree in dance education at Teachers College at Columbia University. I’m really interested in researching diversity in curriculum, as well as the lack of African diaspora and non-Western dance forms in university curricula. I am also teaching at Alabama State. I teach jazz and hip hop technique classes, so my classes are primarily movement based. And because of CWPS, I make sure to bring in texts from scholars to discuss the African diaspora, modes of research, the history of dance.

My current adult learning courses at TC are informing the way I teach, facilitate, and create my lesson plans. I am gaining new insight and knowledge from multiple perspectives, not only from faculty but from my fellow peers. As I progress in my doctoral journey, I am using insights gained working with my students to help develop my research goals for improved student success. I am proud to teach at a Historically Black university.

Q: What advice do you have for current and future CWPS graduate students?
Enjoy the experience! Know that everything’s not going to be perfect or how you imagine it to be, and that’s okay. Always remember your ideas are valid, your interests are valid. Be sure to dive into the readings and ask any and all questions along. Communicate with your peers in the room and get to them and get to know their interests.