African People & Ballroom Dancing

African people and ballroom dancingBallroom dance encompasses a broad range of dances and among them is African dance. It historically traces its roots from the 16th-century French renaissance social dance. Evidently, it can be said that from this dance evolved the African dance ostensibly due to the social interactions of Africans who were shipped to America as slaves and Europeans who came to colonize America. The codification of the dance as ballroom is said to have been direct translation of the act itself where, ball is a Latin word “ballare” meaning “to dance” while a ball-room being the huge room designed for such dances and therefore ballroom dance.

Ballroom dance is done in pairs often couples during social functions as it originally was among the French for recreation and pleasure. In the contemporary world, competitions have been designed where a man and woman, not necessarily a couple showcases their moves in the effort and with intent to win a price.

Ballroom dancing was a social dance designated only to the privileged in the society while folk dances were left for the lower classes however these notions have since crumbled and you concur with me that ballroom dancing is a common feature of stage movies and television. The onset of dance sport saw the dance diffused into five International Standard and five International Latin style dances that differ in technique, rhythm and costumes but uphold the cardinal components of ballroom dancing such as control, coherence, and hip position.

Captive Africans from across the African continent flooded the American continent from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries as slaves and as many are the societies among Africans, so were their culture and dance. Remarkably heterogeneous. Africans, therefore, carried with themselves all the dance moves and songs to a foreign continent which had its own form of dance. Nevertheless with two cultures socializing, nature dictates that you are bound to get quasi-cultural result hence African dance.

The African dance came about after the association of the African hippy dance culture with the western ballroom dance. The conspicuous African hip seemed a charmingly beautiful blend in the Ballroom dance. Whereas in the 19th century European ballroom dances had a vertical body carriage inclination, otherwise called the waltz, or leaned towards the direction of travel, as in the polka, Africans infused in a different move; the counter-sway. Characteristically, the body inclined against the direction of travel, with the hip leading the direction of travel. Arguably this is due to the typical African practice of bending emphatically at the waist and hips, an effect related to the African practice of carrying heavy loads on the head which requires a high balancing spine. The African counter-sway in ballroom dancing first appeared in some Ragtime Era dances at the turn of the century and it remained a hotly debated body motion in the US for over half a century as evidenced by Dick Clark’s ban of any hip movement on his 1950s American Bandstand Show.

Jive is a dance among the swing dances (Lindy Hop, Charleston, Shag and Balboa) that started in African ballroom dance clubs in the former years of 1940s as a variation of on the common Lindy Hop, also known as the Jitterbug. During World War II, American servicemen took the dance to England and once they left, the girls they had danced with kept dancing it. It was later refined to give a more precise competitive form. Other influences of Africans on Western ballroom dancing included the Afro-Brazilian counter-sway, very prominent in the Brazilian Maxixe and Afro-Cuban counter-sway, in the Rhumba that gained enormous popularity in the United States in 1931 and finally adopted and standardized by the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing.

The Greater Chesapeake area originally Chesapeake colonies that engulf Virginia, Maryland, and much of North Carolina are the earliest and perhaps the most influential location of the Black-white cultural interchange that produced African-American Ballroom Dance.
May 7th, 2012, an American website, Monday Open Thread wrote an article on “Blacks In Ballroom.” A story is told of Margot Webb and Harold Norton, African-American ballroom dancers from Virginia that made stage appearances from 1933-1946-47, the vaudeville circuits of nightclubs and theaters in the Northeast and Midwest. The two were professionally known as “Norton and Margot.” At that time in history, very few African-Americans were dancing Ballroom. The career carried with itself acute frustrations, unexpected racial judgments and generally discrimination that sailed down to demoralization. They were practicing in an era where almost all the night clubs and pubs had “for whites only” emblems. The racial discriminative and segregated era of 1930s and 40s gave them no chance to succeed and had they lived after the declaration of civil rights furiously campaigned by Martin Luther King, probably the career climate would have given them an opportunity to succeed.

Though initially a social dance, African dance together with all other approved Ballroom dances have taken the route of stage performance on an extremely competitive basis. It has gradually turned from a social dance by couples into a booming business across the world. It has become an industry on its own associated with luxuriously women’s shoes, men’s dance shoes and especially women Ballroom dresses. Some modeling companies has also scoped the chance of marketing themselves through this industry in making costumes. Several schools have cropped up with a curriculum to develop a ballroom, dancer. African-American ballroom schools, clubs, and studios are now booming businesses in the United States. It’s an interesting turn of events noting that in the recent past flowing through to the current trends; kids are being born with ballroom dance talents. Very skilled instructors and dancers at the same time.

Rufus Dustin is probably the most accomplished Afro-American in this field. He was a United States champion in three years, American Style and International Latin and Theatrical Arts. He was too a World Exhibition Champion and represented the United States in five World Champions. Even with the dance becoming a business, there are a number of notable African-American modern dance companies using African-American such African-American ballroom dancing as an inspiration and recreation. Among these are the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Lula Washington Dance Theatre.