The Story of Black History and Culture Through Dance

Celebrate Black History Month through the rich history of movement

By Google Arts & Culture

Dionne Eleby; MigrationSTEP AFRIKA!

Dance is more than the pirouette of a ballet dancer and the fast-footed rhythm of tap. Each movement has a history, each angle wordlessly expresses an emotion, and a whole story can be embodied in a single step. In honor of Black History Month, Google Arts & Culture takes a look at top dance companies and individuals who use their talents to create a moving commentary on the black experience.

Kyle Abraham for INDY by Tatiana Wills (2018) by Photo by Tatiana WillsA.I.M

The stories being told by these dancers and choreographers uphold the fact that black dance doesn’t stand independently of black history, but rather wordlessly expresses the narrative of a people through movements, productions, and an individual’s career. Their work raises social issues with their choreography, strengthens community through their programming, and uses history as a source of inspiration.

Photo of Gesel Mason in Donald McKayle's "Saturday's Child" poised on the ground (2006) by Enoch ChanNo Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers

The performances created by these dancers are connected to the most iconic places, people, and events in history; with them you can explore themes spanning activism, women’s rights, LGBT intersectionality, and iconic literature and art.

Mel Tomlinson as the snake in Arthur Mitchell’s ballet, "Manifestations" (1975/1976) by MarbethDance Theatre of Harlem

Discover how Arthur Mitchell, the first black principal dancer of New York City Ballet was inspired by the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to provide the children of Harlem with the opportunity to study dance and transform their lives by establishing the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Moses(es) premiere at FringeArts Philadelphia (2013) by Artistic Director/Choreographer: Reggie Wilson and Photo credit: Peggy WoolseyReggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group

Watch clips of choreographer Reggie Wilson’s reinterpretation of writer Zora Neal Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain or learn the story of how the Lindy Hop was born in Harlem.

The story of black dance is the story of black history and culture.

Explore more stories, now.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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