Aleta Hayes


Aleta Hayes is a contemporary dancer, choreographer, performer, and teacher in Stanford Department of Theater and Performance Studies. Before her appointment at Stanford, Ms. Hayes taught for eight years at Princeton University in the Program in Theater and Dance and the Program in African American Studies. While at Princeton, Ms. Hayes developed pedagogically innovative courses that combined cultural and performance history, theory, and performance. She has also taught at Wesleyan University, Swarthmore College, and Rutgers University. Ms. Hayes holds an M.F.A. in Dance and Choreography from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a B.A. from Stanford University: Departmental Honors in Drama, with a concentration in Dance and the Visual Arts from Stanford University (1991).

Aleta Hayes lived and worked in New York City for fifteen years, choreographing solo and group dance pieces, in which her performances often interpolated acting and singing. Highlights include: Hatsheput, presented at the Place Theater, London and St. Marks Church, New York; Tarantantara, presented at Jacob’s Pillow; and La Chanteuse Nubienne (written by playwright Daniel Alexander Jones), performed for Movement Research at Judson Church. Ms. Hayes collaborated, as choreographer and dance/vocal soloist, with the poet Yusef Komunyakaa and composer William Banfield, on Ish-Scoodah, a chamber opera with dance about the nineteenth century African American sculptor, Edmonia Lewis. She also had leading roles in major works by other artists such as Jane Comfort (the trip-hop dance/opera Asphalt, with a book by Carl Hancock Rux) and Robert Wilson (the opera The Temptation of St Anthony, with gospel and other African American spiritual music forms and libretto by Bernice Johnson Reagon). Ms. Hayes has continued to perform in the subsequent international presentations of The Temptation of St Anthony.
In 2004, Ms. Hayes returned to Stanford on a Ford Foundation Resident Dialogues Fellowship through the Committee on Black Performing Arts, for which she created The Wedding Project, a performance piece of multiple genres illustrating the evolution of American social dance through the narrative of African American wedding traditions. She extended this “theater of mixed forms” (the critic Anna Kisselgoff’s term) into community dialogue when she was a 2005 Peninsula Community Foundation Artist-in-Residence at Eastside Preparatory School in East Palo Alto. That residence culminated in The ReMix Project, where she collaborated with students to create and perform a montage of music, monologue, and movement examining student aspirations in a low-income, racially-mixed neighborhood.
Since 2005, Ms. Hayes has had many leading roles as a dancer, singer and actor including, most notably: Suzan-Lori Park’s In the Blood, directed by Prof. Harry Elam, (2005): In the spring of 2006, she choreographed, danced, spoke, and sang a multimedia solo piece, Deianeira (an adoption of Sophocles’ Women of Trachis) created for Ms. Hayes and directed by Drama and Classics Professor Rush Rehm: She created a solo piece, Califia, which developed out of an residency at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program (2007), and a Stanford Humanities Lab Grant/Fellowship (2006) in collaboration with CCRMA-Center for Computer Music and Acoustics (involving human computer interaction): She wrote, sang, acted, and co-directed an original work in the Stanford Drama Department based on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land titled, The Waste Land in Black and White (2009).


Recent projects (2010-2012) include: Solo performance installation, “Singing the Rooms”, a dramatic song cycle, created and performed by Hayes and her band, Scent, in different homes of architectural note , which was created within the Djerassi Winter Residency, 2011.  Current installation in Fall 2012 will be a Bay Area based, Frank Lloyd Wright house.


Summer 2011, Hayes commissioned “The Singles Project”, twelve different solos by contemporary choreographers and performance makers, to be performed by her in various combinations.

In the Spring of 2011, Hayes performed and choreographed “Passages”, written by Clay Carson, chief historian and director of the Martin Luther King Papers Project at Stanford University, which was performed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank with Palestinian theater troupe,  al-Hakawati. This year the King Papers Project awarded her the ‘Call to Conscience’ prize.

The Chocolate Heads Movement Band, founded by Aleta Hayes (2009 to the present), is a collaborative platform for multi-genre performance and multidisciplinary performers.  Dance, live music, scientific inquiry and the implication of performance within and for social movements, is the decisive context for the ‘movement driven’ band.  Spring 2012, the Chocolate Heads were selected to perform, ‘Red Shift’, based on the Nobel prize research on dark matter and dark energy, for the first Stanford TedX held at the Stanford University Knight School of Business.