Feature Articles

Celebrate Black History Month with dance

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater in 'Madonna Anno Domini'. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater in 'Madonna Anno Domini'. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

February is Black History Month, a time to honor the contributions of and pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity and have helped shape our nation. During this month, we can focus on the important cultural heritage of African Americans and celebrate the achievements of Black men and women.

There have been so many Black artists who have influenced our dance world – choreographers like Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison and Bill T. Jones, and dancers like Gregory Hines, Arthur Mitchell, Lauren Anderson, Savion Glover, Desmond Richardson and Misty Copeland.

This February, let’s celebrate the work of all African American artists. Check out these various dance events taking place during Black History Month.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II 2024 tours
February 2-28, in various cities across the U.S.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's 'For Bird - With Love'. Photo by Dario Calmese.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s ‘For Bird – With Love’. Photo by Dario Calmese.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues its celebratory 65th anniversary season, including performances in Miami; Washington, D.C.; Birmingham, AL; Auburn, AL; Philadelphia; and Chapel Hill, NC during the month of February. Among the works featured in the tour’s repertory are two world premieres specially commissioned for Ailey – Amy Hall Garner’s CENTURY and former Ailey dancer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s Me, Myself and You.

Ailey II, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will kick off the U.S. leg of its world tour during Black History Month. The diverse tour repertory includes two new works by Artistic Director Francesca Harper and the dynamic duo of Baye & Asa, alongside repertory favorites and revered classics.

For a full list of tour dates, visit www.alvinailey.org/performances-tickets/tour-schedules/ailey-ii-2024-tour.

Kevin Tate in Jamel Gaines's 'Remembering'. Photo by David Perkins.
Kevin Tate in Jamel Gaines’s ‘Remembering’. Photo by David Perkins.

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and Muntu Dance Theatre
February 3, at Governors State University, Chicago, IL

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater joins Muntu Dance Theatre to showcase authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and ancient African and African American dance, music and storytelling. Deeply Rooted performs Madonna Anno Domini, choreographed by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Artistic Director Nicole Clarke-Springer, with music by Aretha Franklin, Culoe de Song, Sinead O’Connor and Alev Lenz. This work had its world premiere in November 2023, at the Auditorium Theatre. Deeply Rooted also performs revivals by Deeply Rooted Co-Founders and Resident Choreographers: Juntos by Kevin Iega Jeff (1990) with music by Pat Metheny, and 53 Inhale by Gary Abbott (2009) with music by Nico Muhly. 

For tickets and more information, head to govst.edu/MuntuDeeplyRooted.

AbunDance Awards
February 4, at AbunDance Academy of the Arts, Brooklyn, NY

The AbunDance Awards were created in 2023, by award-winning artist and entrepreneur Karisma Jay to show youths what they can accomplish in the dance world and to honor people of color who have made significant contributions to the field. Honorees include Reginald Van Lee, Assane Konte, Obediah Wright, Karen Thornton, Jamel Gaines, Chloe Arnold, Maud Arnold, Arcell Cabuag and Nicole Deweever, and a recording of the students from the Academy will be presented. 

Jay is dedicated to providing affordable classes and opportunities to perform for young aspiring dancers of color. 

“Historically, there aren’t many awards to amplify dancers and dancemakers, and yet so many television shows, films, Broadway shows and commercials rely on dance to execute the artistic story and vision,” said Jay. “The AbunDance Awards celebrate those who have contributed so much to the world of dance, honor people of color who have made an impact on the arts community, and inspire our youths to achieve greatness through dance.”

For tickets to the second annual AbunDance Awards, click here.

Philadanco’s NYC season
February 6-10, at The Joyce Theater, New York, NY

Photo courtesy of Philadanco.
Photo courtesy of Philadanco.

Philadanco will return to the Joyce Theater for the 32nd time, and first since 2018, with Intangible, a program of New York premieres by four emerging choreographers. The works are Nijawwon K. Matthews’ From Dystopia to Our Declaration; Christopher Rudd’s Mating Season; Ray Mercer’s Balance of Power; and Tommie-Waheed Evans’ Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth, made in collaboration with the Philadanco dancers.

Philadanco, founded in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown, is celebrated for its innovation, creativity and preservation of predominately African American traditions in dance. Recognized for its artistic integrity, superbly trained dancers and electrifying performances, Philadanco is committed to empowering youth with crucial development skills that facilitate achievement and success in the world of dance and everyday life.

For tickets, visit www.joyce.org/performances/55//philadanco.

‘Still I Rise’ with Misty Copeland – Black History Month Speaker Series
February 13, at Wilmington Public Library, Wilmington, DE

The Wilmington Public Library will present its Black History Month Speaker Series with Misty Copeland, who made history as the first African American female principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Copeland will talk about her childhood, her early years studying ballet and her inspiring story. Books will be available for purchase the day of the event. No registration or tickets are required, but seating is on a first come, first served basis.

For more information, visit delawarescene.com/event/35580/still-i-rise-with-misty-copeland.

Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet’s Remembering
February 15-17, at Brooklyn Academy Music, Brooklyn, NY

Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet (JGCO) will present Jamel Gaines’s multimedia theater work, Remembering, featuring dance, theater, live music, spoken word and video projection. The company will then give performances and workshops in Cape Coast and Accra, Ghana, from February 18-27, in a cultural exchange program with the National Dance Company of Ghana and National Theater of Ghana. New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo will travel to Ghana with JGCO.

Remembering is an annual program celebrating Black History and was inspired by The MAAFA Suite – which commemorates the middle passage journey of African people bound for enslavement in the Americas – and the teachings of Bishop Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood. Set to music by John Williams, Philip Hamilton and BeBe Winans, Remembering has lighting design by Gregory L. Dratva, costumes by Hopie Lynn Burrows, spoken word by multimedia artists Talu Green, Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Theara Ward and Shirley Black Brown-Coward, and imagery by Tom Feelings.

Remembering is a history lesson around art, culture, spirituality, social activism, education and the African-American experience through the eyes of world history,” said Gaines. “It’s a piece of cultural artistic experience that continues to teach the world about people of color, history and the journey that transcends cultures all over the world. Remembering is an experience designed to educate, cultivate and inspire all to learn about the richness of Black History and culture. Black History is truly world history.”

For tickets, visit www.creativeoutlet.org/events.

Elevé Dance Theater’s Rooted: A Black History Celebration in Dance
February 17, at Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, Stroudsburg, PA

Join Elevé Dance Theater as the company honors and embraces the rich heritage of Black History. Prepare to be captivated by the power and beauty of dance as talented performers take the stage to showcase the diversity and significance of Black culture. From traditional African dances to contemporary choreography, this event promises to be a vibrant and memorable experience.

For tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/rooted-a-black-history-celebration-in-dance-tickets.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Deep River
February 22-24, Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, New York, NY

Alonzo King LINES Ballet will make its Lincoln Center debut with Deep River, a contemplative and high-intensity work by celebrated American choreographer Alonzo King. Deep River is a collaboration featuring Grammy Award-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer (long-time back-up vocalist for the Rolling Stones) and Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz and MacArthur Award winner Jason Moran. Deep River melds dance with spiritual music from the Black, Jewish and Indian traditions.

For tickets, head to www.lincolncenter.org/series/lincoln-center-presents/alonzo-king-lines-ballet.

A Weekend of West African Dance: Black History Month Presentation
February 23-24, at Jamaica Performing Arts Center, Jamaica, NY

This weekend-long event will feature performances by Kofago Dance Ensemble and FANIKE! African Dance Troupe in a vibrant celebration of West African dance and culture. It is an event that promises to be filled with rhythm, energy and joy.

Kofago Dance Ensemble’s work as a dance company is focused on healing and ritual through the performing arts. FANIKE! African Dance Troupe embraces and respects the dance, rhythm, historic and growing culture tied to African movement.

For tickets to this event, click here.

Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center.
Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center.

Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center’s Black History Month Program
February 24, at Central Baptist Church, New York, NY

Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC), the oldest presenting organization in Brooklyn, and Central Baptist Church of NYC will present its Black History Month program, a free event for the community which celebrates Black contributions through music, dance and spoken word. The program will include three bible-themed works by choreographer Walter Rutledge, featuring dancers Amina Konaté and Tevin Johnson, with narration by James Earl Jones.

“We hope to establish this as a free annual event for our audience, the church’s congregation and the larger community,” said THPAC Executive Chairman Alex Smith, Jr. “The program will inform the public of and celebrate the significant contributions of African Americans through music, dance and the spoken word. We are committed to the remembrance of our history and the uplift of African Americans. By reaching back through this program, we can envision and grasp a healing future for our community and all of humanity.”

For more information on Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center, visit www.thelmahill.org.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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