African Americans Who Changed History through Dance
In honor of Black History Month, we decided to pay homage to the amazing African American dancers that helped create the world of dance we know today. These people paved the way for African Americans through hard work, creativity, innovative thinking, and sacrifice. All of these people lived through a time that did not support or appreciate successful Black people. So, for all that they sacrificed and all the beauty that came from their sacrifices- we dedicate this post to them.
Pearl Primus, born in Trinidad and immigrated to New York, is the first African American modern dancer. She used her talent to shed light on social injustice in American society with performances such as Strange Fruit. Throughout the 1940s, Pearl incorporated Caribbean and west African dance styles to create her own style of dance. One of her most famous dances was the Fanga, an African dance that introduced traditional African dance to the stage.
One of the most well-known dancers of all time is Josephine Baker, also known as the “Black Pearl”, the “Bronze Venus”, and the “Creole Goddess”. She was born and raised in America but renounced her U.S. citizenship to become a French national and eventually aid in the French Resistance during World War II. Josephine’s career started while she was still living in America and soared as she became known to all of France as a sensual dancer.
Another well-known dancer is Katherine Dunham, also referred to by The Washington Post as “dancer Katherine the Great”. She was one of the very first African American modern dancers and a leader in the field of dance anthropology. She took what she learned from Caribbean-style dancing and incorporated it into ballet, ultimately creating her own unique style. She even toured the world from the 1940s to the 1960s with her dance company and founded a school in New York to teach the Dunham Technique.
Buddy Bradley, who is American but saw his success reach its peak in Europe due to racial insensitivity in America, was a mostly self-taught dancer who left his impact on the world of dance. He made his debut in the Florence Mills Revue in New York and took his talent to London, England. Buddy became the first African-American to run a British white company in the 1950s.
These are not the only African Americans that influenced the dance world, rather, they are people who heavily inspired African American dancers to use body movement to create art and leave their mark on the world. The ever-evolving world of dance was and always will be tied to these great people.