It seemed like many of you enjoyed my first list Do Black People Do Classical Arts? So, I decided to make it a series.
First, I should have operationally defined what I meant by “Classical Arts” in Part 1. My reference is to art forms that are generally gifted the title of “high or fine art” such as painting, sculpture, architecture, music, poetry, theater and dance. This classification is completely objective; however, there exists this stigma that these art forms are those in which persons of African descent either cannot or do not engage in or enjoy.
This is a false narrative as should be evident from my previous list. Still, I love piling on so let’s explore some of the amazing contemporary examples we have in the area of dance shall we?
Alvin Ailey American Dance Company
I will never forget the amazing experience of participating in a dance clinic with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company in the spring of 2001. I was a student at New York University and they told me I could participate for free. They taught us a bit of the choreography from Wade In The Water and you couldn’t tell me I didn’t nail that routine. (Smile) I’ve seen the company perform since then but it still makes me smile to know that I got an up close experience of a lifetime with that special group of artists.
Dance Theater of Harlem
A “beacon for black dancers worldwide” this New York-based dance company continues to open doors of opportunity to dancers of color. Check out a bit of their story in the following clip.
Brown Ballerinas Featurette https://youtu.be/0BxBVdJg_oM
Michaela DePrince – Ballerina
The story of this young woman is remarkable and inspiring beyond words. Recognized as an accomplished dancer with the Dutch National Ballet she has also been featured in popular media as a soloist in Beyoncé’s Lemonade Film and is a model for a Jockey campaign. Find out more about her story here.
The Figgins Twins
Jenelle (Dance Theater of Harlem) and Samantha (Alvin Ailey American Dance Company) are both professional ballerinas and twins. Also with DTH is Chyrstyn Fentroy
showing little brown girls in the pipeline that they can be ballerinas if they work hard and stay committed to their goal.
Misty Copeland – Ballerina
This principal dancer made history with the American Ballet Theater. Watching her dance is magical. I very much want to see her dance live as soon as possible. I am on the hunt for tickets. (hint, hint)
The Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center is the only contemporary dance school that trains in the Hiplet technique. Grounded in classical ballet technique, Hiplet infuses hip-hop into the art form which is pretty groundbreaking and boundary pushing within the performance world.
PIZZAZZ Dance Troupe
I have to give a little shout out to the PIZZAZZ Dance Troupe based in Southwest Mississippi. Part of the Southwest Mississippi Multiplex for Early Innovative Intervention Studies, the team focuses on growing the creative capacity of Southwest Mississippi residents, children, families, and citizen-artists by encouraging innovation and cultural appreciation in early phases of life.
Follow them on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/groups/2228525418/.
I hope you all enjoyed this list. Remember, this is just a sampling of the contemporary talent that we have the privilege to enjoy from black ballerinas and dancers. If you’d like to learn more about the historic contributions of persons of African descent to “classical/fine arts” here are a few resources you can check out to get up to speed.
If you would like to see more lists like this, drop me a note in the comments and let me know what area you most want to see in future posts.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.