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Before #BlackLivesMatter: A Timeline
Weidman leading a rehearsal of Lynchtown. Photo by John Daughtry, Courtesy DM Archives.
Charles Weidman’s Lynchtown depicts a mob hunting an outsider and surrounding him like vultures, an experience that Weidman himself witnessed as a child. The piece was part of a larger suite of works entitled Atavisms.
How Long Brethren? (1937)
Helen Tamiris choreographed a suite of eight pieces called Negro Spirituals, a protest of the discrimination against African Americans. The most famous was How Long Brethren?, which shed light on the lives of unemployed Southern blacks.
Strange Fruit (1945)
Pearl Primus’ Strange Fruit is a commentary on the panicked culture of lynching as seen through the eyes of a woman who witnesses the brutal event.
A two-part work about lynchings in America, Katherine Dunham’s Southland premiered in Chile, shocking the American embassy. It had only one other performance, in Paris. The U.S. government denied funding for future works by Dunham for her negative portrayal of the U.S. at the height of the Cold War.
Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder. Photo by Rosemary Winkley, Courtesy DM Archives.
Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder (1959)
Donald McKayle’s dramatic masterwork reveals the frustration of oppression and aspirations for freedom of a chain gang toiling in the American South.
Blues for the Jungle (1966)
A signature work that came to the stage in the Civil Rights era, Eleo Pomare’s Blues for the Jungle shed light on struggles like the Harlem riot of 1964.
Ceremony of Us. Laurie Gruenberg, Courtesy DM Archives.
Ceremony of Us (1969)
Following the Watts race riots in Los Angeles, Anna Halprin choreographed Ceremony of Us. She developed choreography for dancers from Studio Watts, an African-American arts organization, and separately for her all-white dance company, the San Francisco Dancer’s Workshop. The groups came together for a short rehearsal period before performing.
Alvin Ailey created Cry for “all black women everywhere—especially our mothers.” Judith Jamison, who originated the role, wrote: “She represented those women...who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations...she has found her way and triumphed.”
Deep South Suite (1976)
Dianne McIntyre’s Deep South Suite shares realities of the 1940s South, set to Duke Ellington’s music.
Creole Giselle. PC Leslie E. Spatt, Courtesy DM Archives.
Creole Giselle (1984)
Frederic Franklin’s restaging of Giselle for Dance Theatre of Harlem sets the work in antebellum Louisiana, where Giselle can’t marry Albrecht because of her family ties to slavery.
Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990)
In this three-hour work, Bill T. Jones, then known mostly for pushing the avant-garde, dealt directly with his black heritage, confronting slavery and racism.
Minstrel Show (1991)
Donald Byrd created Minstrel Show in light of the slaying of Yusef Hawkins, a Brooklyn teenager killed by a white mob. Byrd reworked the piece in 2014 as The Minstrel Show Revisited after Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal.
Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk (1996)
Savion Glover’s musical revue showcased a history of African-American men from slavery to present day (the mid-’90s), with numbers like “The Chicago Riot Rag,” “The Lynching Blues” and “Slave Ships,” as well as a parody of Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Invisible Wings. PC Alan E. Solomon, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow
Invisible Wings (1998)
Joanna Haigood’s site-specific Invisible Wings is set on the grounds of Jacob’s Pillow, illuminating its history as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Come home Charley Patton (2004)
In the third part of The Geography Trilogy, Ralph Lemon focused on various sites from the Civil Rights period, with a recording of a James Baldwin lecture about race.
Walking with Pearl (2004–05)
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women, created an homage to Pearl Primus in Walking with Pearl...African Diaries and Walking with Pearl...Southern Diaries, which received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie).
Mr. TOL E. RAncE (2012)
Camille A. Brown’s Mr. TOL E. RAncE looks at intolerance and the modern dance minstrelsy.
What did we miss?
Share which dance works about racism and social injustice have spoken to you. Write to us on Facebook or Twitter @Dance_Magazine.
Mash-ups aren't uncommon in the dance world: Performers of varying styles have been known to share the stage, from ballerina Tiler Peck and famed clown Bill Irwin to Michelle Dorrance, who's mixed tappers and break-dancers. Likewise, collaborations between choreographers and artists from seemingly mismatched disciplines have produced magical creations, such as Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, featuring Mark Ryden's whimsical and even grotesque designs and costumes.
But the Israeli troupe Ka'et Contemporary Dance Ensemble has found success in one of the most unlikely partnerships: Secular contemporary choreographer Ronen Itzhaki creates movement for a group of rabbis.
While undoubtedly best known for her dancing, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston has also been getting noticed for her style by Allure and Vogue—and with good reason. Her Instagram feed features a mix of on-trend athleisure wear and detailed dresses from runway designers like Valentino and Anna Sui, none of which would be complete without the makeup and hair to match. With a penchant for skin care and an ever-growing lipstick collection, Boylston talked us through some of her beauty must-haves on and off the stage.
Photo by Jayme Thornton
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
DanceBreak came roaring back to life on Monday after seven years on hiatus, and six choreographers now have the opportunity to be the next Andy Blankenbuehler. Or Joshua Bergasse, Kelly Devine, Casey Nicholaw, Josh Prince or Josh Rhodes. These stellar Broadway choreographers all got their first big shows after Melinda Atwood's musical-theater launching pad let them show the industry what they could do.
Since 2002, DanceBreak has been a sort of "So You Think You Can Choreograph" for Broadway. Although not everyone goes straight there—Mandy Moore and Mia Michaels are alumni, too—the program is meant to funnel talented choreographers to the Broadway stage by providing a platform for their work. Prince, who introduced Atwood to the cheering crowd, has paid DanceBreak the ultimate compliment, creating his own non-profit incubator for theater choreographers, Broadway Dance Lab. On Monday, he recalled the story of how he was offered the role of choreographer on Broadway's Shrek just days after its director saw the 2007 edition.
When caring for your feet or trying to make them look good, it's tempting to seek shortcuts. Bad ideas—like dangerous stretches that promise perfect lines or ointments that were never meant to go on your toes—catch on all too easily backstage.
We asked podiatrists who've seen their dance clients try it all share the habits they'd like to see gone for good.
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country: