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

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

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.

NIC Kay

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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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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