In honour of Black History Month, each week in the month of February we highlighted the contribution of the black community to dance. The dance community owes a lot to black history. Black dancers used their creativeness to come up with new styles that are loved today, like hip hop. They also taught us how dance can be used as a form of resistance. Here are a few of their stories:
Bottom Right: Katherine Dunham(1909-2006) – She is considered one of the first modern dance pioneers because of the way she brought cultural themes into ballet. She understood the power dance had in activism and used her unique ability to merge African American, Caribbean, African, and South American styles with ballet to further her activism. She created a space that was inclusive for everyone to express who they truly are and for that, we will all be forever grateful!
Top Left: Asadata Dafora(1890-1965) – Dafora was a pioneer in American Arts. He was the first person who brought authentic West African culture to audiences in America through his dance and music. At the time, this was completely unheard of. Dafora opened a new door for many different dance styles from around the world to find appreciation in America, including Indian dance styles like Bharatanatyam. It is because of pioneers like Dafora that dance forms and cultures from around the world are able to flourish in America today!
Bottom Left: The hip hop movement owes its existence to the innovation of the black community. This includes many hip hop dance styles like locking, house, and breaking as well as hip hop music. Hip hop started as an underground movement in Bronx, NYC. At its core, hip hop was always about resisting unjust authority through public celebration. It has evolved to become one of the most loved styles in both dance and music all across the world. We truly will forever be indebted for the gift of hip hop!
Top Right: Josephine Baker(1906-1975). Baker had achieved many great landmarks in her life. She was the first black woman to star in a major film, a 1927 silent film called Siren of the Tropics. She was also a globally renowned dancer and a symbol of the Jazz Age. But, perhaps her most important work was her involvement with the civil rights movement. She was actively involved in the movement and used her dance to aid her activism. Baker teaches us the power of dance. Dance can be used to express but it is also a real force that can bring about some much needed change.
This is a small, and by no means exhaustive, list of black contributions to dance. To truly go through each and every contribution would require years worth of work. February might have been Black History Month but we encourage people to keep looking into the contributions of the black community to dance. Their journeys are truly inspirational and will help us see dance not only as an art form, but as a power in itself.