Mame Diarra (Samantha) Speis
Mame Diarra (Samantha) Speis (she/her), is a mother and movement improviser intrigued with play, risk, rigor, and experimentation. She is currently a performer and the Co-Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Urban Bush Women. Speis has had the pleasure of working with Gesel Mason, The Dance Exchange, Jumatatu Poe, Deborah Hay (as part of the Sweet Day curated by Ralph Lemon at the MoMA), Baba Israel, Marjani Forte-Saunders, and Liz Lerman. In 2021, she performed as a guest artist with MBDance in the Motherboard Suite with artist Saul Williams, under the direction of Bill T. Jones. Speis was the recipient of the Alvin Ailey New Directions Choreography Lab and was awarded a Bessie for Outstanding Performer in 2017. Mame Diarra’s work has been featured at the Kennedy Center, Long Island University, Joyce SoHo, Hollins University, BAAD, Danspace Project, BAM, Dixon Place, BRIC, Dance Place, and The Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Speis has developed a movement and teaching practice that explores pelvic mobility as the root of powerful locomotion and as a point of connection to the stories, experiences and lineages that reside in each of us. She has been a guest artist and teacher throughout the U.S., South America, Senegal, and Europe. Speis has also taught at Princeton University and Montclair State University as a Lecturer in Dance. She has been fortunate to continue building a strong relationship with her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), in various capacities and was the commencement speaker for the VCUArts graduating class of 2020-2021. In recent years, Mame Diarra has co-choreographed multiple new works with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar in collaboration with the UBW Dance Company, along with co-choreographing Cannabis: A Viper Vaudeville, created by Baba Israel and directed by Talvin Wilks. Speis is currently developing UBW’s new work Haint Blu with Chanon Judson, Co-Artistic Director of UBW, and is excited to premiere the site responsive piece in 2023.