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A multi-media performance of African-American dances that have been popularly danced in the United States for over a century.
A spectacular multi-media dance concert showcasing the African-American contributions to American social dance. Starting from the late 1800s and progressing to the modern era.
A spectacular multi-media dance concert showcasing the African-American contributions to American social dance. Starting from the late 1800s and progressing to the modern era.
206 backers pledged $26,549 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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The History of Black Dance in America

$26,549

206

"The History of Black Dance in America" (HBDA) is a multi-media dance retrospective celebrating over 100 years of American dances that originated in the African-American community.  It is a family-friendly blend of education and entertainment that will leave you tapping your feet with a new found appreciation for American dance history. 

The dances we celebrate in HBDA aren't just Black dances, they are American dances. The history we present is mostly unknown by the  American public, history that has been largely ignored by the popular media, major dance companies and dance funding organizations. It is our singular goal to change this, and do it in a positive, entertaining and educational way.

We do not have a sponsor or investor for the 2015 show.  In order to cover the expenses required to make the show happen, we need your support here on Kickstarter.  

The Plan

We will have 3 performances over a weekend in late February. We believe that the audience for a show like ours, so fully dedicated to Black history, is maximized by performing it during Black History Month.  The performances will be at the beautiful Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Angeles.

The Mission

The history of Vernacular Jazz dance is the history of Black dance which is the history of American dance.  We must preserve this history, because it is the knowledge of where we come from that informs us on where we are, and where we are headed.  Vernacular jazz dance is the first true American dance form, and our goal is to spread this history to as many people in America, and the world, as we possibly can.  If our major dance companies and dance funding organizations won’t do it, then we must do it.  And, we will do it.

We hope you will help us make this goal a reality.

Please note that Artspectrum/A Company of Dancers is our fiduciary for giving which makes your gift to us tax deductible.

The Team

HBDA is the creation of Chester Whitmore and Ron Parker, borne out of their mutual love and respect for Black dance history.  

Chester Whitmore is a world-renown choreographer, tap dancer, lindy hop instructor and dance historian who toured the world with the original HBDA for over 15 years beginning in the late 1980s. Chester is one of the last surviving members of the famed "Hoofers Club" and has studied under and worked with some of the greatest vernacular jazz dancers of the 20th century.  He has endeavored his entire career to preserve and promote American vernacular jazz dances and their history. 

Ron Parker is a Ballroom dancer and dance historian who came to dance from the world of business and was also swept up by the importance of educating the community on it's dance history.

Chester and Ron at Apollo Theater
Chester and Ron at Apollo Theater

Chester and Ron worked as the directorial team on the Frankie Manning 100 Year celebration show at the Apollo Theater in New York earlier this year.  It was acclaimed as “the best show at the Apollo in 25 years”.

Central Avenue Dance Ensemble with Fayard Nicholas
Central Avenue Dance Ensemble with Fayard Nicholas

The Central Avenue Dance Ensemble (CADE) is a vernacular jazz dance company named after the famous "Central Avenue" district of Los Angeles which was the center of Black LA culture and entertainment in the early part of the 20th Century.  CADE was founded by Chester and Ron and has performed HBDA for Black History Month in 2011, 2012 and 2014 to sold out audiences.  

What Your Donation Will Fund

The HBDA team has 5 years experience in working on and performing this show.  What it needs now is funding to perform the show for Black History Month in 2015.

Your donation to our program will be the gift that keeps on giving even after the performance.  The monies we earn from the 2015 show receipts will be used to do something we have never been able to do up to this point:  

a. Start work on touring HBDA (we're looking at New York).

b. Start work on new projects: A look into the Black roots of the Argentine Tango, The History of Black Dance in Latin America, and more...

c. Produce DVD of full show for use in attracting future sponsorship and for the historical archive.

d. Develop programs to encourage younger dancers to get involved.  The long term success of our mission depends on attracting, motivating and enabling youth to get involved in learning and spreading this knowledge.

The anticipated 2015 show expenses:

  • Director

  • Choreographer

  • Artistic Director

  • PR  Person

  • Equipment  Purchases/Rentals

  • Rehearsal  Space

  • Crew

    • Lights / Sound

    • IT  and computing

    • Stage Director / Stage hands

    • Ushers

    • Security

    • Ticket Office

  • Costumes

  • Copies and Programs

  • Banking  / Pay Pal

  • Venue Rental

  • Postage  / Courier

  • Marketing

  • Videographer  / DVD

  • Music  (Licensing/Clearance)

  • Insurance

  • Dancers

The Show

CADE performs at USA Dance LA 2011 Holiday Party
CADE performs at USA Dance LA 2011 Holiday Party

This dance journey begins in Africa, then moves to the plantation dances of slaves in America, and continues with the work songs and spirituals of the reconstruction era. With the turn of the 20th Century, early ragtime dances give way to the Charleston in the 1920s, which gave rise to the Lindy Hop and Swing dances of the 30s and 40s. Also, in the 1940s and 50s we see the introduction in America of African inspired Latin dances: Rumba, Samba, Cha Cha and Mambo.

In the 1950s, Swing morphs into Bop, then slowly loses favor with the American public as the popular music begins to change again. A series of fad dances follow through the 1960s, and in the 1970s a new form of Swing develops: Disco Dancing (Hustle). Also in the 1970s, we get a new form of Mambo: Salsa. Campbell Locking is also developed in the 1970s. This form of body popping/locking continues to develop through the 1980s, first in Break Dancing, then into a new form of dance called “Hip Hop”. A whole range of new fad dances emerge during this period, danced primarily in Black communities across the United States and broadcast to the world via a television program called “Soul Train”. 

As the journey brings us into the 21st Century, more dances have evolved from Swing danced primarily by middle-aged American Blacks: Detroit Ballroom and Chicago Style Step. There is also a very strong resurgence of perhaps the oldest social dance: Argentine Tango.

Reviews

Don't just take our word for it!

We like and appreciate all of the reviews, but this one really touched us:

From: "Laura Thornhill"
To: BlackDance@centralavedance.com
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 11:21:43 PM
Subject: HISTORY OF BLACK DANCE

Ron!!!! What a superb production !!! The choreography, the narrative, the video when you superimposed the dancers against the backgrounds,  the costumes...fabulous !!!  The ability to combine the history with the wonderful visual is why my 90 yr.mom said it was "the best dance program she's seen in her life",and that's alot coming from a New Yorker,who has seen so many dance programs. Really ,Ron this production should be seen by the country! Tour major cities, send video to PBS, send video to Ken Burns,Spike Lee. Educate and delight everyone. Thank you for the work and the experience!!      Laura [from Rusty's]

Gallery

Meet the principal Central Avenue Dance Ensemble members:

  • Chester Whitmore: 

  • Ron Parker: 

  • Reginald T. Thornton: 

  • Beatriz Eugenia Vasquez: 

  • HBDA 2012 Photo Montage: 

Additional Items Added to Rewards

Click here to see the additional Chester and Ron DVDs added to rewards: 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/515985446/the-history-of-black-dance-in-america-0/posts/1061761

Risks and challenges

As mentioned above, the principals involved in this project have 5 years experience producing, rehearsing and performing "The History of Black Dance in America". If fully funded, we are easily able to put the show together in the 2 months we would have from the end of the funding period. We have actually already started limited rehearsals and anticipate full cast rehearsals as early as it appears that the funding effort will be successful.

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    Thank you on Facebook.

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    Thanks on Facebook and our website. In addition you will receive an LED Promotional Key Light with our CADE logo as well as a tax-deductible charitable receipt.

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    Thanks on Facebook and our website. In addition you will receive an original HBDA 2012 poster as well as a tax-deductible charitable receipt.

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    You will receive all the rewards for the $50 pledge level. In addition, you will receive an original 2010 CADE Diversify Your Dance T-shirt.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    You will receive all the rewards for the $100 pledge level. In addition, your poster will be signed by CADE members and you will receive 2 VIP tickets to the 2015 show. If you can not attend the show personally, please consider donating tickets to a local school or other youth organization. We can also donate the tickets to our selected organizations on your behalf.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You will receive all the rewards for the $250 pledge level, except you will receive 4 VIP tickets to the 2015 show. In addition, you will also receive a DVD of the 2015 show once completed. This DVD will be created for the purpose of attracting sponsors for future shows and will not be made available to the general public.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    You will receive all the rewards for the $500 pledge level, except you will receive 10 VIP tickets to the 2015 show. If you can not attend the show personally, please consider donating tickets to a local school or other youth organization. We can also donate the tickets to our selected organizations on your behalf.

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    You will receive all the rewards for the $1,000 pledge level. In addition, you will be credited as an Associate Producer on the show.

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Funding period

- (30 days)