1930’s

  • Black dancers began to engage in “modern dance” performances.
  • The first professional black dance company was established by Helmsley Winfield in 1931 in New York.
    • The company was first called Bronze Ballet Plastique, and was later changed to Negro Art Theatre.
    • Dancers included Edna Guy, Frances Dimitry, Ollie Burgoyne, and Randolph Sawyer.
    • Debut concert called, “First Negro Dance Recital in America.”
  • African dance on stage was considered a novelty by critics because they did not regard it as serious dancing.
  • In 1933 Winfield and his company were involved in the first black dance featured at the Metropolitan Opera House.
  • Dance programs were being created at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
    • One of the first being the Hampton Institute Creative Dance Group.
  • Asadata Dafora made a tremendous impact in the public perception of African dance and of black concert dance.
  • In 1935 the Works Progress Administration agency established under Franklin D. Roosevelt put The Federal Theatre Project into work at the Height of The Great Depression.
    • This program paid artist to create for all people.
    • Lasted for 4 years.
  • The first black concert dance company called the First American Negro Ballet made it’s New York Debut in 1937.
    • Started by a white German named Eugene von Grona.
    • The company struggled unable to get bookings.
    • Not accepted by white critics.
  • The new dance craze of the late 1930’s was the Jitterbug.

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