Black Women, Dance, and Social Critique

Different parts of identity are what shape a person’s experience in the world, how they interact with it, and how the world responds to their actions. This is particularly true for marginalized communities, as well as other groups of people that have historically and culturally been subject to discrimination or scorn. Black people in America have had to continuously fight for their rights, freedoms, and agency in a country that often tried its best to take them away.

Nowadays, however, the interactions between the establishment and the people in black communities are more nuanced than in the past, but some trends can still be seen even today. The experiences of black women provide an interesting and important perspective on the matter. The female gender has always been a special group in society, and the problems faced by women are unique in their composition. Similarly, its use and the connotations coming with it in the term itself have often been negative, or imply a diversion from the “male norm”. Uses of the word “female” throughout history and culture could often signify the enforcement of strict gender-conforming roles or a disregard for the agency of women. Therefore, discussions of female dance, or related cultural subjects must be viewed with a critical lens.

How women fight oppression and show their voices can often be different from what is commonly understood. As a sub-group, black women have historically been subject to different treatment from black men and white people, creating their uniquely compromised status. As seen in the outlined course materials, the capacity of women to navigate their experiences and live while being black is often squandered, and such women have no way to escape this fate. Dance, then, can be seen as a form of a culturally-relevant answer to the struggles of today. Through dance, black women can showcase their unique traditions or customs, ones that have developed in their communities, while also making a political point relating to their struggles, visibility, power, and agency.

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