Recognizing that Higher Education Dance programs have taken a stance on who’s cultural movements, codes, and reflexivity's to honor, I wanted to share a short excerpt from my Literature Review that I hope shines some light on these issues.
Note: This piece is a work in progress, and do plan on sharing more of my research as it comes to fruition. Look forward to honoring our voices and spaces with you all. If you have any recommendations of readings, research or educators I should read/speak to please let me know. Here to continue to learn and listen.Background
To understand the connection between dance and settler colonialism/white supremacy, we must first understand the origins of African dance in the U.S. In her Book “Black Dance From 1619 to Today”, Author Lynne Emery writes:
“The African was forced to dance in bondage and under the lash. He danced because the white ruler wanted his stock in good condition, nor even to pass the time; he danced in answer to whip. He danced for survival.” (Emery, 1988, p. 12)
Dance was forced upon people of color during their enslavement through bondage, whips, oppression and marginalization over the centuries. Emery’s example describes the lack of control enslaved Blacks had not only over their bodies, but also space. They were bondsmen visitors without rights who were told when and how to move in a white dominated space for the benefit of a white audience (Woodson, 2010).
Blacks visitor/guest status continues today, and is particularly visible within the world of dance where Black bodies, dance, movement and vernacular are subjugated in a practice that responds to the codes of white hegemony. (Prickett, 2013) Being a Black dancer or a dancer who performs African diasporic dance within Higher Education Dance programs is problematic because Blacks are visitors/guests who have temporary and restricted rights to the space that is dance. Dance is a “white” space, and dancers are expected to learn the “white” heritage and “white” culture of dance. By white culture I mean… Whiteness is pervasive in dance and it functions to empower those of European descent and assimilate POC. Furthermore, the continuum and reverberations of ingesting such hegemony from these “white” spaces overtime tends to manipulate and restrict POC’s own backgrounds and heritages, or through the words of Prickett “alterations to the form.” (Prickett, 2013, p. 176) Through such alterations, (or what is referred to as “white washing,”) art forms, such as Hip Hop Dance, morph into voiceless reiterations of practices that are at-risk of losing their African American Diaspora identity. (Prickett, 2013)