Africanist Contribution to American Dance Theater
First all Black musical "Shuffle Along."
The Cotton Club opens in Harlem, featuring Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, the Nicholas brothers, Clarence Robinson and Earl "Snakehips" Tucker.
The Savoy Ballroom opens in Harlem and becomes a venue for significant innovation in music and dance, notably the Lindy Hop and swing.
Bill Robinson, known for his distinct style of tap, stars in Blackbirds of 1928, bringing his signature stair dance from Vaudeville to Broadway.
Josephine Baker, having first made her name in Sissle and Blake’s Chocolate Dandies, makes her Paris debut in La Revue Nègre.
In New York Hemsley Winfield and Edna Guy present their choreography in what they call “The First Negro Dance Recital in America.”
The Workers Dance League organizes a forum on “What Shall the Negro Dance About?” in Harlem. Hemsley Winfield performs.
In New York, Asadata Dafora stages Kykunkor, a native African opera, to great acclaim.
Edna Guy and Allison Burroughs organize a “Negro Dance Evening” at the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YHMA) on 92nd Street, with works by themselves as well as Katherine Dunham and Asadata Dafora.
The American Negro Ballet makes its debut at the Lafayette Theatre.
On Broadway the Swing Mikado, originated by the Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre Project in Chicago, plays opposite the Hot Mikado, starring Bill Robinson and the Savoy Lindy-hoppers.
Dr. Gaynell Sherrod
30 April 2019
Dunham moves to New York with her company, and the program Tropics and Le Jazz “Hot” becomes a sensation, launching Dunham and her company on a cross-country tour, engagements on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Talley Beatty, a former member of the Dunham company, premieres his work Southern Landscape, based on Howard Fast’s left-leaning historical fiction of Reconstruction.
Alvin Ailey enrolls in dance classes at the Lester Horton Dance Theatre in Los Angeles and joins the company two years later. A white dancer and choreographer, Horton integrates black dancers into his company and school to a greater extent than his contemporaries.
Pearl Primus travels to Africa with support from the Rosenwald Foundation, and after her return two years later, she drops social protest dances from her repertory and focuses on teaching and performing African dance.
Twentieth-Century Fox releases Stormy Weather, a fictionalized biopic of Bill Robinson that features Lena Horne, the Nicholas Brothers, Fats Waller, Katherine Dunham and her troupe.
Janet Collins, a former dancer at the Lester Horton Dance Theatre, becomes the first black ballet dancer employed by the Metropolitan Opera. During her three seasons at the Met, she also tours a program of her own solos set to spirituals and classical music.
Ailey moves to New York and appears in the musical House of Flowers, choreographed by Herbert Ross. Other dancers in the production are Donald McKayle, Carmen de Lavallade, Geoffrey Holder, and Arthur Mitchell.
Arthur Mitchell is the first black dancer to join George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet.
Donald McKayle, who had first studied dance with Pearl Primus, premieres Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder at the 92nd Street YMHA, a work dramatizing life on a southern chain gang and abstracting the movement motif of bondage and freedom.
Ailey company premieres Revelations at the YMHA on 92nd Street, a suite of dances set to spirituals that dramatizes the passage from suffering through initiation or baptism to rebirth. Revelations becomes the mainstay of the company repertory and the single-most performed work of modern dance and black dance on the concert stage.
Tap dancers from mid-century—Chuck Green, James Buster Brown, Jimmy Slyde—come out of retirement and perform regularly at a Times Square hotel, sparking a tap revival and disproving the Stearns’ fear that jazz tap is a dying tradition.
Cholly Atkins, a leading tap dancer in the 1930s and 1940s, finds a new career coaching and choreographing for bands on the Motown label. Among the many groups he coaches are the Supremes and the Temptations.
Dunham retires from performing and settles in East Saint Louis to pursue arts as a means for community development. Her school and student company become a model for how the arts can empower urban youth. The East Saint Louis school later becomes the center for professional training in Dunham technique.
Eleo Pomare’s company premieres Blues for the Jungle at the 92ndStreet Y. The dance provides a black nationalist view of African American dance, with sections titled “Slave Auction,” “Behind Prison Walls,” “Preaching the Gospel,” “View from a Tenement Window,” “Junkie,” and “Riot.”
Joan Myers Brown founds Philadanco, a repertory company in Philadelphia devoted to the works of black choreographers. Philadanco becomes a model for other regional black dance companies.
The First National Congress on Blacks in Dance is held at Indiana University.
Chuck Davis founds the annual festival, Dance Africa, to bring together the many African-dance companies now established in the U.S. with companies from abroad.
Ishmael Houston-Jones puts together a two-week series at Danspace called Parallels featuring eight downtown artists, including Gus Solomons Jr, Ralph Lemon, Bebe Miller, and Blondell Cummings.
Dianne McIntyre, who had danced with Gus Solomons Jr., founds Sounds of Motion in Harlem, a school and company dedicated to developing an improvisational aesthetic through collaboration with jazz musicians and poets. Ntozake Shange studies and performs with McIntyre, and McIntyre choreographs several of Shange’s stage productions, including Spell #7 in 1979.
Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane start a company. Over the next six years, until Zane’s death from AIDS in 1988, the company premieres over 30 new works.
Michael Jackson releases the music videos Beat It! and Thriller. Thriller recalls a long tradition of “dances of death.” Michael Peters, who had worked with Alvin Ailey and Talley Beatty, choreographs both music videos.
Jawole Zollar, a student of Dianne McIntyre, founds her own company Urban Bush Women, and three years later she joins other downtown artists from the Parallels series for a brief European tour.
Joan Myers Brown spearheads the founding of the International Associationof Blacks in Dance.
Rennie Harris, a break dancer turned hip-hop choreographer, tours Rome and Jewels, his adaptation of Shakespeare and West Side Story.
Two years after the death of Arnie Zane, Bill T. Jones premieres Last Night at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land, a full-evening work that deconstructs Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel and ends with a scene of nude dancing for the company members and community volunteers.
Savion Glover, a tap prodigy who had performed with many of the elders in the tap revival, premieres Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, which parodies Bill Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers in its embodied history of percussive dance from the Great Migration to hiphop.
Brenda Dixon Gottschild publishes Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts, a study that pushes the thesis of Africanism in American culture to its limit and generates the potential for an intercultural historiography.
Ralph Lemon premieres Geography, a full-evening work for a group of male dancers from the United States and from the African diaspora and the first in a trilogy of works exploring race and culture.
Jawole Zollar premieres a collaboration with Germaine Acogny titled Les écailles de la mémoire (The Scales of Memory). Zollar’s all-female company teams up with Acogny’s all-male company.
Reggie Wilson collaborates with a dance company in Trinidad and a music group in Zimbabwe to tour Black Burlesque (Revisited). The work juxtaposes and combines Africanist and postmodernist elements.
PBS releases the three-part documentary Free to Dance, which interrelates the history of black dance and modern dance, inspired by the ADF initiative on “The Black Tradition in American Modern Dance.”
Taylor Bonadies graduates from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, beginning artistic journey toward professional career.
(1962) Judson Dance Theater established at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan
(1965 ) Twyla Tharp forms her own company
(1966) Helen Tamiris dies
(1968) Ruth St. Denis dies
(1969 )Martha Graham retires from active performing
(1953) Lester Horton dies
(1954) Paul Taylor forms his first company
(1956) Maud Allan dies
(1958) Doris Humphrey dies
(1941) Ted Shawn founds Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival
(1944) Charles Weidman forms his company
(1946) Jose Limon forms his own company
(!948) Establishment of American Dance Festival at Connecticut College
(1930) Jose Limon joins the Humphrey-Weidman company
Mary Wigman tours the U.S.
(1933) Ted Shawn organizes all male company Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers
(1922) Denishawn enters its most successful years of touring
(1926) Martha Graham forms her first company
(1927) Isadora Duncan dies
(1928) Loie Fuller dies
(1972) Jose Limon dies
Ted Shawn dies
Steve Paxton develops contact improvisation
(1975) Charles Weidman dies
Pina Bausch leads Tanztheaater Wuppertal
(1980) Mark Morris Danc Group founded
(1982) Joyce Theater established
(1983) George Balanchine dies
Postmodern works by Twyla Tharp, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham
Emerging choreographers Ohad Naharin, Elizabeth Streb, William Forsythe
(1991) Martha Graham dies
Gibney Dance founded
(1992) Wayne McGregor founded Random Dance
(1998) Jerome Robbins dies
(2003) Liz Lerman publishes Critical Response Process
(2008) Daniel Nagrin dies
(2009) Pina Bausch dies
(2010) Michelle Dorrance forms Dorrance Dance
Kristopher K.Q. Pourzal made artist in residence at Movement Research, making experimental dance works about being queer, black, white, and Iranian-American.
Sidra Bell's company SBDNY made one of 25 inaugural companies to receive the Dance Advancement Fund Award from Dance/NYC in 2017.
MK Abadoo named a U.S. Fulbright Fellow where she conducted eight months of intensive creative research at dance institutions in Ghana.
Dr. Gaynell Sherrod publishes Dance Pedagogy of Katherine Dunham and Black Pioneering Dancers in Chicago and New York from 1931-1946.