The construction of the Black dance/African Peoples' dance section in Britain: Issues arising for the conceptualisation of related choreographic and dance practices
This chapter will discuss the construction of the Black dance/African Peoples’ Dance sector (APD) in Britain in the 1990s. The debate about the definition of the terms Black dance and African peoples’ dance is shown to be part and parcel of the quest for appropriate infrastructure to sustain the work of black dancers and those using African and Diasporan dance forms and aesthetics in their productions. I argue therefore that a fuller understanding of this field of practice can only be gained by taking into account the socio-political context of British dance. The construction of the Black dance/APD sector was intertwined with efforts to develop the British dance ecology as a whole and ensure that the varied styles and practices of dance, both western and non-western, were supported. The use of ‘ecology’ as a metaphor to describe the network of organizations; dance companies, venues and support organizations that sustain the British subsidized dance sector was proposed in the report Stepping Forward published in the 1989. This report was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain to make recommendations ‘for the development of Dance in England in the 1990s’ (pp. 24-28). At about the same time, the Arts Council defunded, on the basis that its definition of Black dance was too narrow, the Black Dance Development Trust (BDDT), the first support organization for black dancers who worked with African and Caribbean dance forms. The Arts Council then commissioned a report to look into a new structure for an organization to support black dance. This opened up a discussion about the definition of Black dance itself. The struggle to find an appropriate definition to support professional practice led to the definition and redefinition of the terms ‘Black dance’ and ‘African Peoples’ Dance’, as seen in a number of Arts Council commissioned documents during this era. 1993 was a key moment in the history of these discussions. In this year, the reports, ‘Advancing Black Dancing’ and ‘What is Black dance?’ were published. The next major report ‘Time for Change’ (2000) offered new definitions and concluded that what was needed by the sector was a strategy to engage a wide range of organizations into providing support for the Black dance/APD sector as opposed to the reliance on one organization. Through an analysis of these and other reports, I will discuss the role of language and the nature of the rhetorical power struggle involved in the positioning of the Black dance/APD sector within British dance. I, therefore, interrogate the conceptualization of Black dance/APD as fields of professional subsidized dance practice in the British dance ecology of the 1990s. I will also discuss the questions arising from this particular historical account and the implications of these questions for generating the histories of black British based dancers.
Citation : Adewole, F. (2016) The construction of the Black dance/African Peoples' dance section in Britain: Issues arising for the conceptualisation of related choreographic and dance practices. In: (Eds) C. Adair and R.Burt, British Dance, Black Routes. Routledge. New York, pp. 125-148
ISBN : 9781138913707
Research Group : Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Dance (CIRID)
Research Institute : Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Arts