British Dance and the African Diasporas 1946--2005

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: School of Arts

Abstract

The British Dance and the African Diasporas 1946-2005 project will increase knowledge about the achievements of British-based dance artists who are black through the collection and dissemination of their histories and dance practices. The project seeks to write Black British dance artists and their legacies back into history and to develop new approaches to generating and recording kinetic and somatic memories.

The contribution of Black choreographers to contemporary dance culture has begun to be theorised by dance scholars, primarily in the United States (DeFrantz, Gottschild, Long, Kraut, Manning). Limited scholarship exists on their British counterparts (Adair, Adewole et al). The specificity of the work which British-based dancers who are black have created comes from the particular routes by which dance and music practices and traditions have reached Britain through the African Diaspora.

The collapse of Les Ballets Negres, the first significant initiative by Black British dancers (1945-53), was echoed in the closure in 2005 of Adzido Pan African Ensemble which is arguably symptomatic of the problems which have persisted within cultural policies applied to dance practices. A critical understanding of these problems is a necessary part of the process of writing the histories of Black British dancers. Initiatives such as the archive project by the Association of Dance of The African Diaspora (ADAD) and events celebrating the work of Black British dance artists held at De Montfort and York St John Universities have highlighted a need both to create and preserve resources and to facilitate an informed critical debate about histories of Black British-based dance artists.


Through conducting in-depth research on their dance forms, cultural contexts and re-evaluating their achievements, this project aims to address the nexus of aesthetic and institutional problems that have stopped British-based dance artists who are black from gaining the appreciation and support they deserve. The project also aims to provide a research base that will facilitate further research and scholarly debate into the subject. The re-framing of these artists' legacies will be located in the context of theoretical developments in Africa, Europe and the United States and will add to the transatlantic knowledge. The transmission of artistic practices from the African Diaspora to a younger generation of dancers will be through master classes and discussions with artists.

The project has many potential applications and beneficiaries. Through professional associations, the research will reach scholars not only in dance and theatre but in a wider range of disciplines including postcolonial studies and cultural studies. The project will also reach the general public through an exhibition which will be mounted with the assistance of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool which will use text, photographs, and videos to highlight selected findings of the project. Archival resources created through three day-long events will be held in conjunction with dance agencies in Liverpool, Birmingham, and Leeds bringing together dance artists and others such as dance administrators, promoters or producers and dance scholars. Each of these cities has a substantial history of dance activity by dancers who are black. Study days will create forums to investigate the research questions of the project which will be disseminated in published articles and a book. All events will be recorded. De Montfort University will design and host a website with information about all these activities and related resources.

Copies of recordings, together with transcriptions of the interviews and roundtables will be placed in the libraries of De Montfort University and York St Johns University. They will also be offered to other libraries and resource centres nationally and internationally.

Planned Impact

This research will be of primary importance for academic beneficiaries nationally and internationally. It will influence scholars and research students not only in dance studies but also in other disciplinary areas with an interest in 'race' and cultural histories and representations. It will also make an impact on local and national communities of dancers, choreographers, dance companies, teachers, dance programmers and administrators, and those involved in funding and cultural policies, as well as those who have a general interest in dance and regularly attend dance performances and dance-related events.
There are a number of ways in which these groups will benefit from this research. Scholars and research students will have more historical information with which to work. They will benefit from a better understanding of methodologies for analysing and conceptualising diasporic dance practices, and from new insights into cultural and aesthetic issues concerning these practices. Dance artists and those involved in the dance sector will benefit from a more informed knowledge and appreciation of the histories and achievements of British-based dancers who are black, and a better understanding of the breadth and diversity of their practices because of the way this has informed the context in which dancers are currently working. The University sector also offers them a relatively neutral and independent forum in which to debate the way cultural policies have impacted on these practices. Dancers and scholars will benefit from opportunities to interact with one another.
A greater appreciation of this diversity of dance practices in Britain and of issues surrounding disaporic dance practices will also benefit producers and funders. A recognised problem has been that, when performances and workshops by British-based dancers who are black have been programmed, these have sometimes been neither well attended nor successful. As a result of this research, producers and funders will have a better understanding of the nature and historical context of the work they wish to present which will enable them to make more informed choices about the artists who would be most appropriate and relevant to the particular audiences they wish to reach, and a better understanding of the work itself will enable them to market it in more appropriate and effective ways.
Those who make decisions about cultural policies within the dance sector will gain benefit from the new information and insights produced by this project. They too will find it useful to have a better understanding of the breadth and diversity of the practices of British-based dancers who are black. Furthermore, an independent assessment of the way cultural policies have impacted on these dancers in the past has the potential to influence future decision-making procedures.
This research will also have an impact on the museum sector. At the moment dance is very rarely included within exhibitions beyond those museums where it is part of, or related to existing collections (e.g. the V&A and the Tate). Museums are already, however, becoming interested in the performative as a means to inform visitors about aspects of their exhibitions and collections and as a means for them to facilitate new kinds of interactions with artefacts (e.g. through applied theatre, concerts, storytelling and other kinds of performances and related workshops). The project will present an example of how intangible cultural assets within the field of dance culture can be presented and used in a museum context and develop a model for this through collaboration between the International Slavery Museum, the collaborating dance organisations and the two Universities.
 
Description We have developed what is in effect a new way of engaging with members of the Black British dance sector through what we have called 'Roadshows'. These are one day events that consist of a combination of private and public discussions and panels that focus on particular approaches to professional dance practice presented in the form of a 'master class' by a key practitioner, and discussions of the social and historical context in which this approach to dance movement developed in the UK.
We have also developed a new approach to presenting information to a wide public through an exhibition, and at the time of writing, we are still working on a documentary film (DVD) and are at an advanced stage in negotiating a contract for an edited collection of our findings with Routledge.
During the project we found useful information about the relation between the work of British based dancers who are Black and important, recognised aesthetic characteristics of dance and music traditions from the West African region. We have also
the way people in this sector thought historically about dance and community, and about dance and spirituality. We found new information about dancers, choreographers and dance companies that had already been recognised as important, and also found out about dance artists who we had not previously known anything about.
As well as the information we have discovered about important developments among these unjustly ignored artists, the model of the Roadshow and an exhibition are ideas that might be taken forward by others.
Exploitation Route This project only finished relatively recently and we are still working with and disseminating our findings. Nevertheless members of the team of State of Emergency's Black Dance Archive project have informally consulted us and inspected our exhibition as part of their preparation for their own exhibition. Ramsay Burt and Christy Adair have also been invited to join the organising committee for a conference that the Black Dance Archive project will give at the National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey in 2015. De Montfort University is one of the partners organising ADAD's Re:Generations Conference (for members of the Black British Dance sector) in November 2014.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/research-faculties-and-institutes/art-design-humanities/dance/british-dance-african-diaspora/british-dance-and-the-african-diaspora-research-project.aspx
 
Description By ADAD in their process of amalgamating with other dance organisations to become the new umbrella organisation One Dance UK.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Re:generations 2014 
Organisation Association of Dance of the African Diaspora
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie! and Pavilion Dance in holding the Re:generations conference 2014 at Pavilion Dance in Bournemouth. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee. Professor Burt was one of the key organisers during the conference.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Pavilion supplied the venue, facilities, front of house and technicians etc. for the conference.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers Commissioned dance works 'Kalabanda' performed by Tabu Flo (Uganda) working with Jonzi D (UK)
Start Year 2013
 
Description Re:generations 2014 
Organisation IRIE! Dance Theatre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie! and Pavilion Dance in holding the Re:generations conference 2014 at Pavilion Dance in Bournemouth. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee. Professor Burt was one of the key organisers during the conference.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Pavilion supplied the venue, facilities, front of house and technicians etc. for the conference.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers Commissioned dance works 'Kalabanda' performed by Tabu Flo (Uganda) working with Jonzi D (UK)
Start Year 2013
 
Description Re:generations 2014 
Organisation Pavilion Dance
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie! and Pavilion Dance in holding the Re:generations conference 2014 at Pavilion Dance in Bournemouth. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee. Professor Burt was one of the key organisers during the conference.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Pavilion supplied the venue, facilities, front of house and technicians etc. for the conference.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers Commissioned dance works 'Kalabanda' performed by Tabu Flo (Uganda) working with Jonzi D (UK)
Start Year 2013
 
Description Re:generations 2016 
Organisation ACE Dance and Music
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie!, Dance Immersion Canada, andACE Dance and Music, in holding the Re:generations conference 2016 at MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee and both acted as key organisers during the conference, as well as chairing panels and presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Dance Immersion brought over dance artists who performed and taught workshops.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers
Start Year 2015
 
Description Re:generations 2016 
Organisation Dance Immersion
Country Canada 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie!, Dance Immersion Canada, andACE Dance and Music, in holding the Re:generations conference 2016 at MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee and both acted as key organisers during the conference, as well as chairing panels and presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Dance Immersion brought over dance artists who performed and taught workshops.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers
Start Year 2015
 
Description Re:generations 2016 
Organisation IRIE! Dance Theatre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie!, Dance Immersion Canada, andACE Dance and Music, in holding the Re:generations conference 2016 at MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee and both acted as key organisers during the conference, as well as chairing panels and presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Dance Immersion brought over dance artists who performed and taught workshops.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers
Start Year 2015
 
Description Re:generations 2016 
Organisation One Dance UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution De Montfort University was partner with ADAD, Irie!, Dance Immersion Canada, andACE Dance and Music, in holding the Re:generations conference 2016 at MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham. Professor Burt and Professor Adair were on the conference committee and both acted as key organisers during the conference, as well as chairing panels and presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Irie! obtained an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to support the conference. Dance Immersion brought over dance artists who performed and taught workshops.
Impact The conference itself, and a forthcoming edited collection of conference papers
Start Year 2015
 
Description British Dance and the African Diaspora: Plymouth lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture

invitation to give another lecture at the University in the future
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description British dance: Black routes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exhibition at International Slavery Museum, Liverpool.
total attendance estimated by ISM: 171,007

press coverage of exhibition
DATE MEDIA PUBLICATION TOPIC
13/09/2013 Radio BBC Radio Merseyside Interview with curators
02/09/2013 Website Culture 24 Preview of exhibition
05/09/2013 Local newspaper Daily Post Preview of exhibition
09/09/2013 Website Liverpool Echo Preview of exhibition
09/09/2013 Local newspaper Liverpool Echo Preview of exhibition
20/09/2013 Website Guardian Feature piece on the history of Black British dance
02/10/2013 Website London Dance Dance Historians Professor Ramsay Burt and Professor Christy Adair curate new exhibition
01/10/2013 Website Best of British Listing
13/10/2013 Newspaper The Sunday Times Listing (My must sees by Jonzi D)
01/11/2013 Magazine Pride Listing
01/10/2014 Magazine The American Listing
04/2014 Magazine The Dancing Times 'Talking Point' article by Bill Harpe


Exhibition of 8 panels with video projection and video booth and a display case.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
URL http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/exhibitions/dance/
 
Description British dance: Black routes - press conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press conference to launch exhibition

press coverage in Local and National newspapers and on local radio
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Dance Britannia: British Dance and the African Diaspora 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact lecture

Lecture by invitation at the Annual General meeting of the Society for Dance Research, venue The London College of Fashion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Dance studies, Performance studies, and C21st European dance. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote presentation at the Conference "Thinking the Theatre. New Theatrology and Performance Studies" of the Consulta Universitaria del Teatro, University of Turin, 29-30 May 2015. The presentation included a discussion of the findings of the British Dance and the African Diaspora research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.comunicazionedams.unical.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2971:convegno-in...
 
Description Le danseur masculin √† l'intersection du genre, de la race et de la sexualit√© 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Paper delivered during panel at 1er Congrès Études de Genre en France at École National Superieur, Lyon, 3-5 September 2014.

Informing French colleagues about findings from this British research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://genrelyon2014.sciencesconf.org
 
Description Radio interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact interview on BBC Liverpool Breakfast radio show about exhibition

Exposure on local radio contributed to attendance at the exhibition and related events
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Re:Generations - Rethinking the past to reimagine the future. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A three day event with Performances, dance classes and presentations aimed at members of ADAD - Association of Dance and the African Diaspora, who are an artist-run association for British-based dancers who work with contemporary African dance forms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/research-faculties-and-institutes/art-design-humanities/dance/british...
 
Description Re:generationing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An article in Hotfoot On-line in which Ramsay Burt and Christy Adair reflect on their role as planning committee members for the 2014 Re:Generations Conference for ADAD (Association of Dance of the African Diaspora.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.adad.org.uk/metadot/index.pl?id=23276