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 Post subject: Black Dance?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2000 8:55 pm 
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Upon seeing the press release from Dance Mission Theater for The Butterfly Project's Black History Month, an ex-dancer friend and I both asked what constitutes "black dance"? How is it linked to jazz and tap? Or perhaps, a broader question can be asked: what constitutes "American dance"?

Does anyone have any thoughts?


Last edited by Azlan on Sat Jan 28, 2006 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 4:54 am 
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Quote:
The Many Colors of Black Dance
by JENNIFER DUNNING for the New York Times

Today, dance by black choreographers draws on everything from postmodernism to traditional African and Caribbean forms, merged seamlessly with the modern dance they have revivified. A new generation of black choreographers that includes, most notably, Ronald K. Brown, began in the 1990's to look for inspiration in the dance of Africa, both as practiced and transformed by African slaves brought west to America, and as the preserved traditions of Africa today.

published: December 11, 2005


You will need to have access to the NYTimes Archive to read this article:

click for more


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 Post subject: Try Philadanco
PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 10:07 am 
Philadelphia has a dance troupe called Philadanco which is predominantly black. They'd be better qualified to answer your question.
http://www.philadanco.org/


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 6:22 am 
It's really weird to call a dance "black dance". What would we think if we said "white dance" ?
It's pure racism of the true type !


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 6:24 am 
I meant it's pure racism of the WORST type !!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 10:38 am 
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It's not racism at all. Any ethnic group is bound to inspire art based in its history and culture. There is certainly Jewish art, Mexican art, and Islamic art; there are likewise schools of art identified with cultures that are traditionally (or primarily) white.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:04 am 
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Two books I can recommend on Black dance are:

The Black Tradition in American Dance by Richard A. Long
Black Dance by Edward Thorpe

Both good sources of information and history of the genre and with some gorgeous photos too.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 6:46 pm 
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I posted an article in the Modern dance forum about Robert Moses, who is also qualified to answer this question.

I often think about the subject as well and wonder if it is racist to label something "black" dance. I think maybe not. A dance of mine was once labeled "asian" by a college classmate though I had no asian dance in it. I figured it was simply my "Asian sensibility" that made it look somehow different than my classmates' work. There must be a "Black sensibility" as well, though I am unable to define what that would be. The way the music is used? The angle of the heads? I don't know.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 10:44 pm 
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I'm thinking about this again as the Black Choreographers Festival is coming up this month again.

Here's what I wrote last year on it:

What is Black Dance?


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 Post subject: Re: Black Dance?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 11:26 am 
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Azlan wrote:
Upon seeing the press release from Dance Mission Theater for The Butterfly Project's Black History Month, an ex-dancer friend and I both asked what constitutes "black dance"? How is it linked to jazz and tap? Or perhaps, a broader question can be asked: what constitutes "American dance"?

Does anyone have any thoughts?


I think Dunning explains it well. It might be useful to go at it by posing the diametrically opposite question: How is it that European culture was able to hijack the notion of what dance should be, as if Europeans were annointed with some special dance primogeniture rights in the world? This is not to dis ballet or the folkloric and less folksy traditions of Western Europe, but it does seem a little strange to be inquiring about the definition and authenticity of the term "Black dance." This is a genre which has its roots in Yoruba ritual dances brought to Cuba and Haiti, the impact of slavery on the African-American population in the United States, including the use of a wide variety of music--blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, rap and ragtime--that many non-Black choreographers use also, and the imposition of certain oppressive, unreasonable, dismissive and trivializing, as well as romantic constraints and expectations on Black "entertainers." This is perhaps best exemplified in Ben Vereen's Pagliacci-like rendering of Bert Williams, complete with blackface (Williams was light-skinned and compelled to darken his skin when he danced), at the Reagan inaugural ball, which drew criticism from those inclined toward "radical" critiques. Included in this same broad genre is the inventiveness of Kathryn Dunham (who drew on her background in anthropology to infuse her work with historical authenticity), the Modern Dance tilt of Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison and Donald McKayle, the balletic gyrotechnics of Alonso King and the Balanchine-influenced and supported DTH, post-apartheid South African ballet, and the performance art creativity of Robert Henry Johnson, Robert Moses, and Bill T. Jones. Now to the stage from one of the most beleaguered nations on the African continent comes Faustin Linyekula and Studio Kabako, inflecting modern African culture and sensibility into the body of work. Yes, I'd say that there's such a thing as "Black Dance." It doesn't stand alone; it is not immune to European influence or technique (but neither is "white" dance "ethnically cleansed" of influence from other traditions). Why worry? I mean, it's not as if "white" dance sets some kind of bar for other or older traditions to meet, match or surpass :shock: :!:


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 Post subject: Tomato tomAto potato TOmato........
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:09 pm 
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:roll:
When I first saw this thread, I thought, “oh here we go again.” But then I thought, “at least the festival isn’t the African-American choreographers festival.”
To say that a choreographer is influenced by, or drawing from African, or Cuban, or Caribbean traditional dance is not racist. To say that a choreographer is African simply because he's black IS a racist statement. If I created a piece would it be Ashkenazi, or Dutch, or Estonian, simply because I'm white?
Certainly many black American choreographers draw inspiration from African forms of dance. White choreographers have drawn from folk dance (interesting that white = folk while black = African). So what is black dance? What is white dance? Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. Kabuki = Japanese traditional dance. That’s easy. Black dance = ?? Not so easy. How about we just go to a festival that showcases choreographers who happen to be black, and see what they come up with?

I’m glad that the festival is using terminology that is more direct. It’s a festival celebrating choreographers who happen to have “black” skin. Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I don’t “get it.” Nor does it mean I have to coo over the wonderful African-ness of it.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 3:00 pm 
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At the risk of posing this in political terms and risking a lockdown, isn't it important to distinguish between the Black nationality (hence use of capital B) and race in this discussion? An oppressed nationality differs in its social experience from a nationality (Dutch, Estonian, Welsh, etc.) precisely because it is ghettoized, and deprived of the full access to rights and entitlements of the majority. That specific social experience is going to be reflected in a shared artistic vocabulary. African-ness is not so much a biological designation, as a social one, in circumstances where Africa has been tied hand and foot to a privileged social class of a different race than the majority of its inhabitants. It is obviously a different experience to have risen up from slavery, where your ancestors were bought and sold and the families they came from rent apart, and the languages they spoke, forcibly extinguished, than it is even to come over from Europe in steerage class with not a nickel in your pocket. That's why I think the designation "Black" dance is important to keep for as long as it has significance not in amorphous terms of "non-white" people, so much as those whose work is represented by it. Again, the reason it doesn't develop in isolation is that people have fought and died to break down segregation, discrimination and the other "ations" that imposed long periods of isolation, and that is to be celebrated. Both (seemingly contradictory) phenomena can exist side by side, can they not?


Last edited by Toba Singer on Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:45 pm 
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Actually kabuki is "arguably" Japanese classical dance, so it really isn't that easy. But that's another discussion.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:49 pm 
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Just out of curiosity, Toba, why would there be a "lockdown"?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:03 pm 
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The possible invocation of the "no politics to the left or right of the liberal consensus" value that often hovers over and governs discussions of this kind.


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