February is Black History Month, which means we are diving into Black dance excellence all month long!
The dance industry is more than just iconic dancers and performances and fun classes. Dance organizations are vital to many diverse communities and populations that face obstacles when it comes to arts education and dance training. A few of the organizations we chose to highlight focus on expanding resources and opportunities to young dancers of color. Another one focuses on preserving the history and aesthetics of dance by people of African descent.
All of the organizations listed have multiple ways to support and learn from black dancers of color. Being a dancer means being a good teammate and advocate for fellow dancers so be sure to become a community member of the organizations that inspire you the most!
Chloe + Maud Foundation
If you take tap classes on CLI Studios, you probably know who Chloe and Maud Arnold are. Even if you’re not a tap dancer, you may know that these two sisters are a force to be reckoned with in the dance world.
When they’re not teaching classes, they are hosting tap festivals and fundraising tap-a-thons, creating programs that provide dance classes to underserved communities, and hosting conversations and seminars with leaders from around the globe. The topics of these conversations are often about the inequalities that are part of life with black or brown skin, and how self-respect, self-empowerment, and community are some of the best salves and tools in the fight for equality.
The Chloe + Maud Foundation had an extremely active 2020. They started online programming as a direct response to the pandemic before even we did at CLI Studios. They continued to expand that programming, and were able to offer internships to over 25 young people and continue to offer different class series and opportunities for young black and brown dancers in places as far as Brazil!
How You Can Stay Involved:
Brown Girls Do Ballet
The performing arts organization Brown Girls Do Ballet was created from an active and inclusive Instagram page that you may be familiar with. In 2013, founder TaKiyah Wallace set out on a quest to highlight diversity in dance through photography. The goals of the organization have since expanded to include a diverse array of initiatives focused on helping young black and brown dancers.
Brown Girls Do Ballet hosts summer intensives, ambassador and mentorship programs for youth, and offers scholarships for dancers in dance programs or full 4-year college programs. They also continue the Brown Girls Do Ballet photo project on Instagram and their website. For young brown dancers stumbling upon the Brown Girls Do Ballet Instagram, the effect of seeing dancers of color represented and celebrated in the media can be extremely powerful.
BGDB has also created many inspiring initiatives that respond directly to concerns in the dance community. For example, their Pointe Shoe Program helps offset the cost of pointe shoes for dancers in need. Pointe shoes can be one of the costliest parts of a dance education, since not only are they expensive but by design, they need to be replaced so frequently. BGDB partners with Gaynor Minden and Bloch to provide pointe shoes to dancers who might not otherwise have the opportunity to dance en pointe.
How You Can Stay Involved:
Apply for assistance from the Pointe Shoe Program or their Relief Supply Closet which was started in response to natural disasters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas.
Other ways to get involved include sponsoring a financial campaign, becoming a mentor, or donating to the Pointe Shoe Program or supply closet.
Share the Movement
Share the Movement’s mission is to provide financial, educational, and inspirational support to young BIPOC dancers. Their inspiration comes from the story of Daniel Gaymon, a member of the board of the organization and a new professional dancer on Broadway. When he was growing up, Daniel’s family was not able to afford his dance training. But, through the sponsorship of local donors and his hard work cleaning at his dance studio with his father, he was able to train and pursue his dream.
The organization partners with quality dance studios in areas with diverse populations to provide scholarship opportunities to young dancers who could not afford dance training otherwise. Throughout 2021, Share the Movement was able to send 17 BIPOC young dancers to summer dance intensives across the country!
Share the Movement also hosts a community page where young dancers can see and connect with professionals in the community who look like them. CLI instructor Mel Mah is a part of the community, as well as dancers Gaby Diaz, Akira Uchida, Britt Stewart, and many more!
How You Can Stay Involved:
You can donate directly, become a part of their community, or contact the organization about receiving support for your home studio on their Get Involved page.
The International Association of Blacks in Dance “preserves and promotes dance by people of African ancestry or origin, and assists and increases opportunities for artists in advocacy, audience development, education, funding, networking, performance, philosophical dialogue, and touring.”
Joan Myers Brown, the founder and Executive Artistic Director of IABD, launched the first International Conference on Black Dance Companies in 1988 with the help of Philadanco! dance company staff. By 1991, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance in Denver, Colorado, and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Dayton, Ohio, had joined forces with Joan Myers Brown to create IABD.
IABD is an important force in the global dance world and is the first national and international organization that focuses specifically on preserving and promoting dance by people of African descent. The organization has a large network of archival projects all across the country since one of its goals is “documenting and addressing Black aesthetics in dance.” The organization does this by publishing an annual newsletter, holding annual international conferences of renowned instructors, and funding and organizing scholarships and smaller organizations committed to similar goals.
Fun Fact: The IABD has a list on their website of black-owned dancewear companies including brands like Aurora Tights, Blendz, and Fleshtone. Many of these companies responded to the same issue: the ubiquitousness of pink tights and light suntan as the only “flesh-colored” options in dance apparel. The impact of the statement these companies made and the subsequent momentum of public demand has increased the availability of dance apparel in diverse shades from bigger dance apparel companies as well— but it’s awesome to be able to support the black-owned businesses that got the ball rolling!
How You Can Stay Involved:
You can apply for membership, utilize their resources that include archives, lists of books on black dance, and a robust list of other organizations that align with their mission. And like all of these organizations, you can donate directly to the organization for general operations, or you can choose to donate to specific scholarships and funds as well.
We have highlighted organizations that focus on Black, Brown, and/or BIPOC dancers in their mission statement and their actions. But, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of terminology and specificity when talking about diversity and skin color.
You’ll notice we have used the terms people of African descent, Brown, Black, and BIPOC throughout this article. We are not using them interchangeably— these terms mean different things to different communities, and language is really important when we’re talking about historically marginalized groups. When we write about other organizations, we try to honor the terminology they use in their programming.
Black History Month at CLI Studios
We are celebrating and learning about Black Dance Excellence all month long, starting with our Movement Speaks collection.
The Movement Speaks collection celebrates our Black dance instructors and gives CLI members a chance to take classes in styles that are strongly influenced by or rooted in African American dance.
Once you’ve checked that out, keep tabs on the blog for more Black dance history and some other ways that you can support and learn from dancers of color this month!