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The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie.
~Agnes de Mille
There are times when the simple dignity of movement can fulfill the function of a volume of words.
Backslide, Apple Jack, Lockin, Electric Boogaloo, Urban Cha cha, and hip hop–what do you picture when you hear these words? If you know your dance history, these are dances and dance traditions from African American Culture. You know that saying, you don’t know what you don’t know? Well it turns out, not surprisingly that there was a lot I didn’t know about these dance forms and traditions until I got to hear an engaging and entertaining discussion with dancer and dance historian E. Moncell Durden and curator Vida L. Brown at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. From video clips, to demonstrations, to dialogue, I loved this experience and I’m going to share a number of things that stood out to me. This is in no particular order:
Dancing for life’s sake, versus dancing for arts’ sake was the origin of many dance forms.
Dance as worship. The style of KRUMP releasing negative energy. It’s free, it can be exaggerated and energetic and it’s a non-violent way to release this negative energy. Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise is the acronym.
I’ve observed cyphers in the past month and I didn’t know it is a form of bonding. The circle is a space where there is encouragement. Finding and claiming space for one’s own identity is the purpose behind many of these dance forms.
The Soul Train Line–the dance/music show from 70’s was about building community. There was no lead person and license to be your own person. You have that support as a whole but have the freedom of individuality. I love that!
The evolution of dances, where what you see, has been done before. Seeing historical footage via images and video in comparison with more current media is proof of reinvention and repurposing.
Earth vs heaven. Earth being grounded vs. European dance forms where there is more reach to the sky (heaven). There exists a Eurocentric ideology of the hierarchy of dance that certain forms are more important than others. I’m all about studying different styles and it’s critical to know that one style is not more valuable than another.
We haven’t realized the value of gestures, and there is so much meaning behind them. I am fascinated with dance styles that use hand gestures, similar to mudras in Yoga.
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