Fall 2015

Black Protest Traditions in American Dance

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-243  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-226


Constance Valis Hill (Section 01)


(Offered as THDA 226 and BLST 243.) African American dance and music traditions have played a critical role in the African-American struggle to sustain its humanity--to express joy and pain corporeally through a particular relationship to rhythm. This class explores the forms, contents, and contexts of black traditions that played a crucial role in shaping American dance, looking at how expressive cultural forms from the African diaspora have been transferred from the social space to the concert stage. Viewing American cultural history through the lens of movement and performance, we begin with an exploration of social dance during slavery and the late nineteenth century, when vibrant social dances insisted that black bodies, generally relegated to long hours of strenuous labor, devote themselves to pleasure as well. We will then look at how the cakewalking of Ada Overton and George Walker, proto-feminist singing of Bessie Smith, stair-dances of Bill Robinson, protest choreographies of Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus, and hip-hop performances of Rennie Harris can be viewed as corporeal embodiments of the centuries-long freedom struggle--whether non-violent, confrontational or contestational--and how these modes of performance reflect an increasingly independent free black voice demanding equal inclusion in the body politic.

Fall semester. Five College Professor Valis Hill.


Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015