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7 Up-and-Coming Black Dance Artists Who Should Be On Your Radar

Jumatatu Poe's Let 'im Move You. PC Theo Cote, via 18th Street Arts Center

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:

Davalois Fearon

Choreographer Davalois Fearon brings high energy and tenacious virtuosity to all her work. Her upcoming Time to Talk unpacks Fearon's research around systemic racism, racial identity, American history and dance history. I've had the opportunity to dance with Fearon as part of Skeleton Architecture, a collective of 20 black women and gender non-conforming artists invested in collective improvisation.

Kara Jenelle

Kara Jenelle is a African and dance hall showstopper currently based in Los Angeles. She has danced for artists like Pharrell Williams, Jidenna, Wiz Kid, Will Smith, Fantasia, Lil Jon and more. You can catch her funky-fabulous choreography in videos like "Panda" and "Shake Body."

Amanda Morgan

Amanda Morgan is a corps de ballet member of Pacific Northwest Ballet who is vocal about how important it is for brown girls to see themselves onstage. She's danced leading roles in Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite and Dani Tirrell's Suckle.

Tendayi Kuumba

Tendayi Kuumba, an Atlanta native turned Brooklynite, is currently bringing her dynamic, earthy movement quality to the world while on tour with Urban Bush Women. She also shines in her work as a singer/songwriter, offering a vintage and jazzy vibe that works its way into your bones.

Tyke the Entertainer

You can try to catch Tyke the Entertainer jammin' somewhere on the NYC subways. You don't know where Tyke and his crew may pop up, but catching them in action is always a surprising treat. What is most impressive is his ability to flip, turn, fly and slide around poles without hitting passengers. His fluidity and control are mesmerizing.


Bronx-based NIC Kay is a performing artist working on transdisciplinary projects throughout the United States and internationally. Their recent autobiographical work Lil Black combines vogue, ballroom, butoh and praise dance to respond to their queerness and gender nonconformity. Up next, NIC Kay is off to Germany to participate in the Queer B-Cademy: Teachings of Post-Academic Knowledge.

Jumatatu Poe

Philadelphia and New York-based performer and choreographer Jumatatu Poe's recent Let 'im Move You highlights his research around J-Sette. Poe draws from myriad of styles including J-Sette, African, modern and voguing to create a thoughtful, inclusive and celebratory viewing experience. During this year's American Realness Festival, Poe had audiences up and dancing. The journey was documented with #_move_you_ on Instagram.

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Cover Story
Jayme Thornton

Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.

An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.

"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."

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Dance As Activism
Nathalia Arja as the Novice in Jerome Robbins' The Cage. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet

The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.

This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.

Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.

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Rant & Rave
Is this the turning point when we'll finally see an end to dancer mistreatment? Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield/Unsplash

Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:

If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.

The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.

Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:

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Dancer Voices
Emily Ramirez as "Meg Giry" in The Phantom of the Opera. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

I always knew my ballet career would eventually end. It was implied from the very start that at some point I would be too old and decrepit to take morning ballet class, followed by six hours of intense rehearsals.

What I never imagined was that I would experience a time when I couldn't walk at all.

In rehearsal for Nutcracker in 2013, I slipped while pushing off for a fouetté sauté, instantly rupturing the ACL in my right knee. In that moment my dance life flashed before my eyes.

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What Wendy's Watching
Jaqlin Medlock rehearsing Signals, with, seated, Rashaun Mitchell, Melissa Toogood and Petronio, PC Paula Court

Stephen Petronio brings a bracing season to New York City's Joyce Theater, where he has performed almost every year for 24 years . His work is exciting to the subscription audience as well as to many dance artists. He delves into movement invention at the same time as creating complex postmodern forms. The new work, Hardness 10, is his third collaboration with composer Nico Muhly. The costumes are by Patricia Field ARTFASHION, hand-painted by Iris Bonner/These Pink Lips. Petronio's work still practically defines the word contemporary.

Stephen Petronio Company also continues with its Bloodlines series. That's where he pays homage to landmark works of the past that have influenced his own edgy aesthetics. This season he's chosen Merce Cunningham's playful trio Signals (1970), which will be performed with live music from Composers Inside Electronics.

Completing the program is an excerpt from Petronio's Underland (2003), with music by Nick Cave. Video footage courtesy of Stephen Petronio Company, filmed by Blake Martin.

Career Advice
Photo via Unsplash

Never did I think I'd see the day when I'd outgrow dance. Sure, I knew my life would have to evolve. In fact, my dance career had already taken me through seasons of being a performer, a choreographer, a business owner and even a dance professor. Evolution was a given. Evolving past dancing for a living, however, was not.

Transitioning from a dance career involved just as much of a process as building one did. But after I overcame the initial identity crisis, I realized that my dance career had helped me develop strengths that could be put to use in other careers. For instance, my work as a dance professor allowed me to discover my knack for connecting with students and helping them with their careers, skills that ultimately opened the door for a pivot into college career services.

Here's how five dance skills can land you a new job—and help you thrive in it:

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Health & Body
Via Instagram

When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.

"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."

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Dancer Voices
Photo by Rachel Papo for Pointe

We all know that companies too often take dancers for granted. When I wrote last week about a few common ways in which dancers are mistreated—routine screaming, humiliation, being pressured to perform injured and be stick-thin—I knew I was only scratching the surface.

So I put out a call to readers asking for your perspective on the most pressing issues that need to be addressed first, and what positive changes we might be able to make to achieve those goals.

The bottom line: Readers agree it's time to hold directors accountable, particularly to make sure that dancers are being paid fairly. But the good news is that change is already happening. Here are some of the most intriguing ideas you shared via comments, email and social media:

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Advice for Dancers
Lee Cherry; Courtesy Tricia Miranda

With dancer and choreographer credits that cover everything from touring with Beyoncé to music videos and even feature films, Tricia Miranda knows more than a thing or two about what it takes to make it. And aspiring dancers are well aware. We caught up with the commercial dance queen last weekend at the Brooklyn Funk convention, where she taught a ballroom full of dancers classes in hip-hop and dancing for film and video.

How To Land An Agency

"At times with the agencies, they already have someone that looks like you or you're just not ready to work. Look has to do with a lot of it, work ethic and also just the type of person you are. Do you have personality? Do people want to work with you? Because you can be the greatest dancer, but if you're not someone that gives off this energy of wanting to get to know you, then it doesn't matter how dope you are because people want to work with who they want to be around. I learned that by later transitioning into a choreographer because now that I'm hiring people, I want to hire the people that I want to be around for 12 or 14 hours a day.

You also have to understand that class dancers are different from working commercial dancers. A lot of class dancers and what you see in these YouTube videos are people who stand out because they're doing what they want and remixing choreography. They're kind of stars in their own right, which is great for class, but when it comes to a job, you have to do the choreography how it's taught."

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Members of METdance and Bruce Wood Dance rehearsing Bridget L. Moore's new work. Photo by Sharen Bradford, Courtesy METdance and BWD

Houston's METdance and the Dallas-based Bruce Wood Dance have teamed up to commission a new work from Dallas native (and former Dallas Black Dance Theatre artistic director) Bridget L. Moore. The two contemporary companies will take the stage together in Dallas at Moody Performance Hall on March 16 and at Houston's Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on April 13–15. Visit and for details on the respective engagements.


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