Dancing at the White House for Black History Month

Dancing at the White House for Black History Month


Robin Mazyck
Guest Blogger

When I was a young girl, my parents enrolled me in dance class -- tap, jazz and ballet. I loved it!

I remember learning pirouettes, the passe and the shuffle step. My mom even joined me for the ballet class. We had so much fun together! And so I jumped at the chance to go to the White House as they celebrated African-American dance for Black History Month. Tuesday, 51 girls from Washington, D.C. went to the White House for a day of learning. They listened to Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, choreographer/dancer/ producer/director Debbie Allen, Virginia Johnson of the Harlem Dance Theater and Hip Hop choreographer Fatima Robinson. They also performed a variety of dances for first lady Michelle Obama and others.

Since the beginning of time, people have danced! There are at least 26 Bible verses that mention the word "dance" or "dancing." One of the first passages that comes to mind is from 2 Samuel 6:14 "And David danced before the LORD..."
Some consider dancing a sin. Others consider it fun. No matter what you think of it, dance has played a pivotal role in the history of our country.

Dance has also been an important part of African and African-American culture. Unfortunately, racism reared its ugly head in this art form. For example, Raven Wilkinson, a premiere ballerina in the 1950s was required to wear "white makeup," so she wouldn't look black when she was on stage. Because Debbie Allen wasn't allowed to admission to a Ballet school in Houston, her family moved to Mexico, so she could study her craft.

And those were the lessons the young girls learned at the White House Tuesday.

"We remember those who struggled for our rights and our freedoms, and we reflect on how far we've come and how much farther we have to go," the first lady said. "And when it comes to the world of dance, we have come such a very long way" noting that Misty Copeland, an African American, is the principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre.

"And this Black History Month, I am so proud to celebrate those who inspire us along this journey, those who paved the paths in which we still walk and who set the standards to which we aspire," said Mrs. Obama.

Let's Dance!

Debbie Allen, dancer/choreographer/actress/director, taught the girls African dances. Click on the link to watch them perform.

Judith Jamison, of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, taught the girls a portion of the famed piece "Revelations" which draws on African-American spirituals for its inspiration. Click on the link to watch them perform.

Virginia Johnson, famed ballerina and founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, taught the girls ballet. Click on the link to watch them perform.

Fatima Robinson, music video director and choreographer, taught the girls a dance from The Wiz Live, which she choreographed. Click on the link to watch them perform.

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