The History of Black Dance in America 2016
- Theater Arts
The History of Black Dance in America (HBDA) is a spectacular multi-media dance concert showcasing the African-American contribution to American social dance. Born in 2009 as a dream to educate the world about the roots and importance of American vernacular jazz dance, this show began with grass roots community-based funding and has grown in size and scope each year since it's premier showing in 2011. We are planning to do the show again for Black History Month 2016. This upcoming show is very critical for us because we see it as our last best chance at getting the sort of recognition we need to move the show onto the national level. For that to happen, we are going to need a little help.
HBDA is an educational and entertaining history lesson on the cultural impact that the descendants of African slaves have had on the evolution of dance in the United States. Starting from the late 1800s and progressing to the modern era, audiences are mesmerized by authentic renditions of vernacular dances such as Zulu, Work Songs, Cakewalk, Spiritual Dances, Shim Sham, Lindy Hop, Foxtrot, the African inspired Latin-American dances, plus live singing and tributes to Black entertainment pioneers like Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr. This style of dance is known as “vernacular jazz dance”, or the original American dance style. The Black contribution to American social dance is a fascinating story, yet little known by the vast majority of the American public. Our dance company, The Central Avenue Dance Ensemble, is one of the very few American dance companies in existence which is singularly dedicated to preserving this history and educating people about it.
The 2016 show will mark the 5 year anniversary of HBDA productions. This upcoming show is a watershed event for us because we hope to finally demonstrate that it is ready and worthy of national exposure, and a national tour. But that won't happen until we get overwhelmingly good local exposure. And THAT won't happen unless we put on a damn good show. To that end, we have recruited and trained a whole new cast of younger, talented dancers who are bringing a new energy and excitement to the show, and who will help us to connect with a younger audience than we have in the past.
Fortunately, a good deal of our production costs are being covered. However, we still have need for additional funding for the following:
1) The young dancers we have recruited have committed themselves and worked tirelessly over the past few months to learn the various historic dance styles required for the show. They are all students, or just out of college, and struggling. It is a very unique dancer, in today's world of specialists, who will step out of her comfort zone to learn difficult new styles because she believes it is important for audiences to experience. We seek to reward that commitment to us with a small, per-rehearsal stipend for each dancer. Not much, but enough to pay for gas and perhaps a meal. Trust me, they have earned it.
2) Our show does not have very many props, and no sets. We use music, dance, video and costumes to take our audiences on an amazing journey through time. While we have most of costumes we need, we recently (today) lost our long-time costume designer. Needless to say, costuming is a very important element of our show, and we need to find someone to take up that responsibility – and fast.
We have determined a minimum amount needed to cover these costs, and that is what we are requesting. In the event that we are over-funded, we would like to use these additional funds as follows:
1) This year, we honor HipHop Dancer/Choreographer MaDonna Grimes for her contribution to the history of that very vernacular dance style. Ms. Grimes has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and we would like to make a donation to her fund.
2) The official photographer for our show is Gayle Goodrich. She shot the 2015 show, and arranged for our upcoming art gallery exhibit. She too has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and we would also like to make a contribution to her wellness fund.
3) The process of trying to put together a tour requires a lot of footwork, and some travel. We would like to put a few dollars away in order to cover some of the costs of meeting with potential Presenter Partners for HBDA.
We hope that you will find our goals worth of your support. We have come a very long way, and we have a long way to go, but I feel this is an important dance project which is unique in it's blend of education, entertainment, culture and history.
I created a small documentary titled “A Brief History of the Black Roots of the Argentine Tango”. A White Argentinian complained and asked “Why is it so important to spend so much time talking about the small contribution Blacks have made to the Tango?” I responded, “Because when you are a marginalized people, you tend to embrace every small glimmer of hope and accomplishment that you can.”
While African-Americans have found themselves marginalized for a good deal of their history in America, most people will be surprised at their huge contribution to American culture through dance. HBDA is a celebration of the best in America. Please help us continue to bring that story alive.
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