Starting with slavery, Katrina Hazzard-Gordon discusses how African cultures had specific dances for many different cultural events and even daily events, linking their religious beliefs with dance and movement. But as people were enslaved and placed on slave ships, they were often forced to dance for exercise on the deck of the ship. If they didn’t dance they were beaten, and dancing often hurt them because it would leave flesh wounds as the chains ripped at their skin. Often when we talk about African American dances, we jump right to discussing African origins and forget to even mention the slave ship history. Given such a history surrounding these dances as they came to the Americas, how do we take time to remember the painful and difficult years of the history of the dances we study and perform? How does that inform our study of the dances?
Discussion Question for the Week of Jul 28 – Aug 3
How does the information about “la placage” (53) and quadroon balls in New Orleans, which were particularly unique in their setup for rich white men to acquire concubines, change the way you understand power dynamics in interracial relations when it comes to dance?
Discussion Question for the Week of Aug 4 – Aug 10
How do migration and the spaces people gather to dance influence the evolution of different dance forms?Discussion Question for the Week of Aug 11 – Aug 17
How does dance serve to foster community unity, health, and peace, especially considering the context of why the parties and events were (are) often held?
Discussion Question for the Week of Aug 18 – Aug 24
How did US politics affect what dance spaces were available to African Americans in urban environments?
Discussion Question for the Week of Aug 25 – Aug 31
What differences do you see between black elite dance affairs and the other dance spaces and events described in the book? Why is it important for us to recognize the differences?