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Iconic Dance Items at the Newest Smithsonian Museum

Sammy Davis Jr.'s childhood tap shoes. Photo courtesy Smithsonian NMAAHC

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened last fall in Washington, DC, covers a wide and deep swath of the history of black Americans. Included are many items that demonstrates the importance dance holds for the community and the tremendous contributions African Americans have made to the dance world. Here are a few of the many notable dance items on display:

  • Sammy Davis Jr.'s childhood tap shoes (shown above)
  • Virginia Johnson's costume from Dance Theatre of Harlem's Creole Giselle
  • A sequin-covered black jacket worn by Michael Jackson on his 1984 Victory Tour, on the heels of his Thriller album
  • Selected photos of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from the 1960s and '70s
  • A portrait of dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker
  • A pair of American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland's pointe shoes
  • A case on musical theater detailing the history of minstrel shows and the evolution of black dance from blackface and the cakewalk to Broadway's The Wiz and The Tap Dance Kid
  • A wildly popular interactive video-tutorial on step dancing, featuring Step Afrika!, Washington, DC's much-in-demand touring troupe, teaching classic step-dance moves

For more information or free passes, visit nmaahc.si.edu.

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