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The Genius of African-American Dance

Featuring experts and transformative African American dance performers, the five part series, The Genius of African-American Dance, presents for the first time the amazing story of dance innovations of former enslaved people. Building on their African dance heritage, African American dance artists created the Cakewalk, Ragtime, the Charleston, Swing, the Twist, Disco, modern dance, Breakdancing and finally Afrofuturism’s glorification of the black body through dance.
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Full Title (includes all individual Programs)
Streaming License includes all individual programs listed below, as well as downloadable supplemental files.
AAD $125.00/yr
Individual ProgramsSKUTermPrice
Program 1: African Dance and the Middle Passag
Beginning in 1619, hundreds of thousands of Africans – men, women and children – were ripped from their homelands and brought to America’s English colonies. Deprived of basic human freedoms, these enslaved people brought with them the dance beat of West Africa.These dances were characterized by isolated body movements that can be quite difficult to master. Known as polycentric movements, where various parts of the dancer’s body is broken up and various parts of the body are moving independently of one another unlike European dancers.One of the earliest dances that demonstrated all of these characteristics was an amazing community social and spiritual dance known as the Ring Shout. Participants moved in a circle, providing rhythm by clapping their hands and stomping their feet. In addition, dances were divided into buck and wing dances, which formed the basis of every dance into the 21st century
AAD-001 $25.00/yr
Program 2: Minstrel Shows, Vaudeville, and Broadway
It is said that the most influential social dance created by African Americans during the post-Civil War era was the Cake Walk. So much so, that it showed up in Hollywood musicals into the 1940s. This, among other African-American dances, were copied by whites in blackface featured in minstrel shows. During the Jim Crow era African Americans also invented tap dancing and finally, at the turn of the 20th century, African American dancers were performing as true artist on the Broadway stage. Some dancers even became celebrities such as William Henry Lane a.k.a. Master Juba, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and John W. Bubbles who revolutionized tap dancing and Aida Overton Walker the first female African American Broadway choreographer.
AAD-002 $25.00/yr
Program 3: The Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age
The Roaring 20s’ dance craze was born in Black communities like Harlem, New York, where African American dancers were inventing partnered and stage dances to go with their wholly new style of music: jazz. Performed in such places as the Harlem Renaissance’s Savoy ballroom and the Cotton Club where new dance forms were performed included the Foxtrot, the Texas Tommy, the Black Bottom and of course the Charleston made famous by African American dancer Josephine Baker. Dancers were now free to move independently of their partners and exhibit solo performances. In the 30s, the African-American Lindy hop, led by African American dancer Frankie Manning, was copied by white dancers filling ballrooms across the country. It eventually became known as swing dancing and dominated the social scene through World War II.
AAD-003 $25.00/yr
Program 4: R&B, Modern Dance, and Breakdancing
The electrification of the guitar after World War II led to social dance forms known as blues dancing. There was a high level of energetic improvisation between dancers and the music. It was called, in the white community, the jitterbug. Eventually blues dancing transitioned into R&B dancing, and was appropriated by the white community and called rock ‘n’ roll. That generated what became known in the 50s as a youth movement as young whites embraced African-American music and dance… Particularly as a result of television new social dance movements invented by African American youth spread like wildfire throughout country. Chuck Berry, James Brown and Chubby Checker would become household names. Then out of the 60s emerged disco, which was followed by hip-hop culture breakdancing. At the same time African-American performance dance became part of the modern dance movement with such dance luminaries as Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey and Misty Copeland.
AAD-004 $25.00/yr
Program 5: Dance and Afrofuturism
Afrofuturism dance began with house music… A music genre characterized by a repetitive four-on-the-floor beat with a typical tempo of 120 beats per minute. It was created by DJs and music producers from Chicago's underground club culture in the early/mid 1980s, as DJs began altering disco songs to give them a more mechanical beat. The aesthetic of Afrofuturism has inspired African-American choreographers to present new stories, reinterpretations of old dance forms and to reawaken the beauty and power of the black body in movement. Where this movement goes is sure to be amazing following a long tradition of African-American dance innovation.
AAD-005 $25.00/yr