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:
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 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 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, 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.
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.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.