JoAnna Ursal is an American choreographer of Filipino descent whose dance weaves her intricate personal her-story. Poised at the intersection of Contemporary and World Dance, JoAnna’s unique movement embodies her polycultural dance training rooted in African Diasporic Dance, Southeast Asian, and Contemporary Dance.
A daughter of Filipino immigrants trained as medical doctors from Cebu, her immigrant story begins in South America where her parents were recruited to work as physicians in British Guyana. The swampy marshes of Georgetown was where JoAnna’s birth story began – the land of reggae and roti – and where she believes her connection with African music and dance was also birthed.
At age 5, her parents’ decision to move to the United States ushered in the next chapter of her life. Abruptly, her warm Caribbean-Filipina island girl sensibilities were met with the cold and long winter months of Northern Michigan, where her family settled. After navigating the tricky terrain of acculturation and assimilation, JoAnna often found herself exploring the complexities of cultural identity in her choreography. Drawn to the teachings of non-European spirituality including Yoruban, Buddhist, and Indigenous practices of Native peoples, she continues to feel compelled to understand the tension between her Catholic upbringing and her Babaylan roots. Recognizing the importance of reconciling this tension, Decolonizing the Filipina Body through Movement and Dance has become her Sacred Calling.
JoAnna holds an MFA in Choreography and Performance, and an MA in Dance Education. She is currently the Director of Performing Arts at a local private K-12 school in Jacksonville, Florida, where she teaches Dance, Drama and Music, and develops an arts-integrated curriculum for its STEAM program. JoAnna’s dance works have been presented in Florida, California, Texas and Cuba. She continues to collaborate with artists from across disciplines. She is most honored and privileged to raise her children along the beautiful coast of Northern Florida.