Revelations premiered in New York City, New York on January 31, 1960. It is an iconic piece performed every season by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Revelations tells a story of faith in the African-American experience from slavery to salvation.
Flamenco is an art form comprised of song, dance, and instrumental music— mostly guitar. Flamenco is commonly associated with the Gypsies of southern Spain.
Fatima Robinson is a world-renowned choreographer and creative director for artists, television, movies, and more. Her distinct hip-hop style can be seen in performances by Britney Spears, Meghan Trainor, Pharrell Williams, Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Gwen Stefani, Lana Del Rey, Usher, Sade, Prince, Rihanna, Major Lazer, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J Blige, and the late great Aaliyah. Her choreography has been seen on American Idol, The Voice, Dancing With the Stars, and So You Think You Can Dance, and American Soul.
Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire in Swing Time! This classic premiered on August 27, 1936 in New York City. It is the story of a performer and gambler (Fred Astaire) who travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer (Ginger Rogers).
The Dance of a Thousand-Hands, also known as the Thousand-Hand Guan Yin Dance, is a performance consisting of 63 performers who are all hearing impaired. Chinese choreographer Zhang Jigang, the creator of this piece, penned the following message about this unique work:
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others
A young, 24 year-old George Balanchine achieved international success with his second ballet Apollo, marking the first of his lifelong collaborations with composer Igor Stravinsky. Balanchine highly regarded Apollo as it paralleled his own coming of age.
Apollo, originally known as Apollon Musagéte, premiered on June 12, 1928 at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, performed by the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The ballet tells the story of the young god Apollo as he is ushered into adulthood by the muses of poetry, mime, and dance. It is a 28-minute ballet usually performed as a quartet. Apollo made its American debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, performed by the American Ballet Theatre.
“Apollo I look back on as the turning point of my life. In its discipline and restraint, in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling, the score was a revelation. It seemed to tell me that I could dare not to use everything, that I, too, could eliminate.” —George Balanchine
Katherine Dunham is probably best known as a legendary dancer who propelled the awareness of the cultures of the African Diaspora through her choreography. Dunham was a true renaissance woman. She was an artist, anthropologist, author, activist, manager, movie star, producer, educator, wife, mother and so much more. She created the Katherine Dunham technique which is codified. The technique involved breathing exercises and building stamina and core strength. The torso is the center of the Dunham Technique as the isolations are completely different from ballet. Having a strong core helps with the articulations and undulations to the percussive rhythms. The technique expands to full body movements from Dunham walks to prances, turns, and jumps. These movements are grounded and rhythmic. Dr. Albirda Rose, Director of the Dunham Technique Certification Board, encourages her students to “ think of themselves as African queens carrying something on their heads that must not be dropped,” so that they will always keep their heads high.
Bharatanatyam is a classical dance of India, indigenous to the Tamil Nadu region and prevalent in southern India. Bharatanatyam serves the expression of Hindu religious themes and devotions. Bharatanatyam was originally performed exclusively by female temple dancers and was not brought to the stage for public performance until 1930.
A program of Bharatanatyam usually lasts two hours without interruption and includes a specific list of procedures, all performed by one dancer, who does not leave the stage or change costume. The accompanying orchestra—composed of drums, drone, and singer—occupies the back of the stage, led by the guru, or teacher, of the dancer.
In pure style, Bharatanatyam is classically clear in technique. The feet beat out complicated counter rhythms; the legs are bent in a characteristic low squat; arms, neck, and shoulders are part of the movement. In the pantomime sections, the hands tell the story through conventional gesture language, while the face expresses the mood. In the pure dance the hands are restricted to 11 mudras (symbolic hand gestures).
Excerpts from the Encyclopedia of Britannica, Bharatanatyam
The Lindy Hop (or Lindy) is a partner dance that originated in Harlem, New York in 1920's. The Lindy consists of both 6-count and 8-count steps including footwork borrowed from the Charleston and Tap. One of the most unique qualities of the Lindy is that it can be wild and spontaneous with kicks, twists, and acrobatics, or it can be cool, smooth, and sophisticated.
The Lindy Hop is considered a cultural phenomenon because it broke through the race barrier when segregation was still the norm in many ballrooms. The Lindy blends African rhythms with the European structured dance to create a social dance that continues to live in the ballroom culture today.
Savion Glover is an American dancer and choreographer who became known for his unique pounding style of tap dancing called “hitting.” He brought renewed interest in dance, particularly among the youth and minorities.
As a young child, Glover displayed an affinity for rhythms. At age four, he began taking drumming lessons. Deemed too advanced for the class, however, he then enrolled at the Newark Community School of the Arts and soon became the youngest person in the school’s history to receive a full scholarship. At age seven, Glover began taking tap lessons and quickly developed a passion for rhythm tap, a form that uses all parts of the foot to create sound. His talent attracted the attention of a choreographer for the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid, and Glover served as an understudy before taking the lead role in 1984. He returned to Broadway in 1989, performing in the musical revue Black and Blue, and was nominated for a Tony Award. A role in the motion picture Tap followed. Glover, who had long made a point of learning as much as he could from old tap masters, soon began teaching tap classes. He, also, developed his own tap style, which he christened “free-form hard core,” while working with dancers such as Gregory Hines, Henry Le Tang, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
In 1990, Glover created his first choreography for a festival at New York City’s Apollo Theater. Two years later he became the youngest-ever recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. He portrayed a young Jelly Roll Morton in the musical Jelly’s Last Jam, which debuted in Los Angeles in 1991 before opening on Broadway the following year and touring in 1994. In 1995, Glover choreographed and starred in the musical Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk which featured a series of vignettes that chronicled African American history. Its premier Off-Broadway was a huge success, leading the show to Broadway. In 1996, Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk won four Tony Awards, including a best choreographer award for Glover.
His numerous other appearances included a regular role on the children’s television show Sesame Street (1990-1995). In 2000, Glover appeared in director Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled and in 2001 made an appearance in Bojangles, a television biopic of tap dancer Bill (“Bojangles”) Robinson starring Gregory Hines. He premiered “Classical Savion,” a production that featured him tapping to classical music in New York City in 2005. The show later toured the United States. In 2006, Glover choreographed the tap dances performed by the penguin Mumble in the computer-animated movie Happy Feet. That year, he also formed his own production company, which oversaw his HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap and produced later shows, including Sole Power (2010).
Glover returned to Broadway in 2016 to choreograph the musical Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, earning Glover a Tony nomination for this work.
Excerpts from the Encyclopedia of Britannica, Savion Glover
Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen. At fifteen, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Misty joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000, joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in August 2007 became the company’s second African American female Soloist and the first in two decades. In June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history.
In 2008, Misty was honored with the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, a two-year fellowship awarded to young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent providing them additional resources in order to attain their full potential. Performing a variety of classical and contemporary roles, one of Misty’s most important roles was performing the title role in Firebird, created on her in 2012 with new choreography by much sought after choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In December 2014, Misty performed the lead role of “Clara” in American Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker, also choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. In the fall of 2014, she made history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of “Odette/Odile” in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake during the company’s inaugural tour to Australia. Misty reprised the role during ABT’s Metropolitan Opera House spring season in June 2015, as well as debuted as “Juliet” in Romeo & Juliet.
Misty has been featured in numerous publications and television programs, including CBS Sunday Morning, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry, Vogue, Essence, Ebony, and People Magazine. She was honored with an induction into the Boys & Girls Club National Hall of Fame in May 2012 and received the “Breakthrough Award” from the Council of Urban Professionals in April 2012. She was named National Youth of the Year Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in June 2013. She received the Young, Gifted & Black honor at the 2013 Black Girls Rock! Awards.
Her endorsements, past and present, include American Express, COACH, and Diet Dr. Pepper. In 2014, Under Armour launched Misty as one of the faces of their “I Will What I Want” campaign with a commercial that went viral, gaining over 9,000,000 views to date.
Misty’s passion is giving back. She has worked with many charitable organizations and is dedicated to giving of her time to work with and mentor young girls and boys. In 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
Misty is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, Life in Motion, co-written with award-winning journalist and author Charisse Jones, published March 2014. She has a picture book titled Firebird in collaboration with award-winning illustrator and author Christopher Myers, published September 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford in November 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet and helping to diversify the art form.
Biography from Misty Copeland’s Official Website
This photo is from a shoot recreating famous ballet paintings.
Photographers: Ken Browar & Deborah Ory.
Martha Graham is one of the most influential American dancers and choreographers of modern dance. For more than 50 years, Graham created more than 180 works, from solos to large-scale works, in most of which she starred in. She gave modern dance new depth as a vehicle for the intense and forceful expression of primal emotions.
Graham’s professional career began in 1916 at Denishawn, the schools and dance company founded in Los Angeles by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, where as a teenager she was introduced to a repertory and curriculum that, for the first time in the United States, explored the world’s dances—folk, classical, experimental, Asian, and Native American. She was entranced by the religious mysticism of St. Denis, but Shawn was her major teacher; he discovered sources of dramatic power within her and then channeled them into an Aztec ballet, Xochitl. The dance was a tremendous success both in vaudeville and in concert performance and made her a Denishawn star.
Graham created The Graham Technique which focused on contraction and release of the body, dualing the “fall and recovery” of Modern Dance pioneer Doris Humphry’s technique. The Graham Tehcnique also focused on spiraling the body and floorwork, creating tension with the contraction and release in and out of the floor.
Founded in 1926, The Martha Graham School is the oldest professional school of dance in the United States and the only one primarily focused on the Martha Graham Technique and repertory.
Willi Ninja is affectionately known as a Godfather of Vogue. In the 1980s, Vogue thrived in the underground ballroom culture of New York City where the LGBTQ community would gather and compete. The dancers would walk and pose in positions that would mimic haute couture seen on the covers of magazines, thus the name of the style Vogue. Willi Ninja founded the House of Ninja in 1982. They competed with a style that blended martial arts into their performances.
Willi Ninja became the focal point of the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning which chronicles the life in the ball culture of New York City— exploring race, gender, sexuality, and social class in America. In 2016, the United States Library of Congress selected Paris is Burning for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The ancient art of fire dancing began hundreds of years ago by the people of Polynesia. It is believed that the Maori people of New Zealand were pioneers of poi. Poi, a Maori word meaning “ball on a string”, was originally used by warriors as a form of exercise to train for battle and hunting. Swinging the balls developed wrist strength and flexibility which helped in handling different weapons or tools. Gradually though, poi began to be used as a form of storytelling and dance, which translates to our modern uses. However, it did not actually become a tool for fire dance until the mid-20th century, after Uluao Letuli performed the first ailao (Samoan knife dance) on fire.
Fire Poi manipulates fire in time and space by spinning the weighted flame for dramatic effect rhythmically in geometric patterns.
Carnival brings the very heart of the people to the streets of many cities throughout the world every year. The streets become filled with the rhythms of drums, singing, dancing, and parades in celebration of a vibrant life when cultures unite as one. It is a beautiful way to bring dance back to its roots—the people.
Photo taken at the Guadaleoupe Winter Carnival.