This October marks the 31st annual celebration of Black History Month in the UK. As street dance was born out of hip hop culture in the states, founded by incredibly influential black dancers, we wanted to consider the importance of black history month within the street dance industry.
How does Black History Month relate to dance?
Although sometimes contested, Black History Month allows us to celebrate the achievements, and world-leading contributions, of dancers of colour. The international dance community is undeniably enriched through its diversity, and without black choreographers, leaders, dancers, teachers, students, fans, and supporters, the dance industry would not be half as successful as it is today. In fact, without the contributions of black dancers, street dance may never have entered the mainstream.
On the international stage, black dancers are arguably the most recognisable names in the industry: what would hip hop culture be without Beyoncé? Her recent Formation tour encourages women to take pride in their identities, asserting the importance of pride and self-worth through her music and non-stop dance routines.
Inspiring young dancers to take pride in their identity didn’t begin with the Crazy in Lovesinger; for generations, dancers have been following in the footsteps of prominent black dancers, copying moves from early Michael Jackson videos or Prince tracks. Founding Father of hip hop, Buddha Stretch, noted in an exclusive interview with UDO that the popularity of street dance culture is in its unifying nature. “[Hip hop] brings people together, it gives everyone a platform for self-expression. You’re expressing yourself, but you are also part of a greater whole, the bigger picture.” Hop hop dance allows us to celebrate our differences while asserting our individuality, welcoming dancers of all racial identities to share ideas and learn from one another.
Like many cultural phenomenon that take over the USA, hip hop culture didn’t take long to reach the UK. With it, many influential dancers entered the spotlight. Kloe Dean, founder of Myself Dance Co in London, formed her dance collective “to not only inspire females but also the wider society. They promote empowerment, ambition, individuality and self-worth through the medium of Hip-Hop dance.” In a similar vein, the ground-breaking work of ZooNation founder Kate Prince recently led to an all-female, multiracial cast to take to the Old Vic stage with their production ‘Sylvia’. This Suffragette-inspired musical rewrites black women into the narrative of female emancipation, and encourages dancers of all ages to take inspiration through representation on stage.
Dance offers people of all ages the chance to get creative, express themselves, and unite with others through shared passion. Representation is key to the success of the dance industry, and we are proud to welcome dancers of all ethnicities to take part in our street dance events.
At UDO, we are thankful to participate in the celebration of black artists and dancers this October.