Current Trends in African American Dance
The past 20 years in African American dance have been rich in innovations as well as connections with the past. The definition of dance has broadened beyond ballet, modern, and jazz. Popular and social dances, including the urban black dance forms of break dancing and hip-hop, have been recognized for their artistry and expressiveness. All-female companies such as Urban Bush Women have been formed, as has a company devoted exclusively to hip-hop dance, The Pure Movement Dance Company.
Tap dance found a new audience in the late 1900s as performers, scholars, and students recognized it as a uniquely American genre. Female tap dancers, who once danced in relative obscurity, have also achieved recognition and encouragement. As they tell their stories, they bring to light the legacy of women who have matched male tap dancers—from Bill Robinson to Honi Coles, the Nicholas Brothers, and Gregory Hines—step for step.
Dance created and performed by African Americans has become a permanent part of American dance. Contemporary dance companies founded by blacks tour both nationally and internationally. The diversity of dance styles and genres is represented by such groups as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Garth Fagan’s Bucket Dance Theater, Philadelphia Dance Company, The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Kariamu & Company, and Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.
Many African American dance companies have specialized in reconstructing traditional African dances, keeping these dance forms alive in America. They have influenced a generation of choreographers who blend African styles with movements from modern and popular dance. These groups include the African American Dance Ensemble; KanKouran West African Dance Company; Ko-Thi Dance Company; Dinizulu and His African Dancers, Drummers, and Singers; and Muntu Dance Theater.