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How Was The Beginning Of African American Concert Dancing?

African American dancers faced problems with stereotyping when they entered the art of concert dance.

Tap, soft-shoe and jazz routines were considered acceptable for African American dancers. The image of Black dancers was that of natural rhythm.

The Harlem Renaissance inspired Black artists in every field, including dance. Among the early pioneers in concert dance were Hemsley Winfield, Edna Guy and Charles Williams.

The Negro Art Theatre in Harlem, organized by Hemsley Winfield, gave its first concert on April 29, 1931. The group was later renamed the Negro Art Theatre Dance Group.

In 1925 Charles H. Williams formed the Creative Dance Group at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. Williams was director of the physical education department.

The Negro Dance Company founded by Wilson Williams in New York City was another pioneer group in concert dance. It gave its first performance in 1943.

How Was The Beginning Of African American Concert Dancing?

Eugene von Grona, a German, founded the First American Negro Ballet Company. He ran an advertisement in a Harlem newspaper in 1934. The advertisement resulted in one hundred and fifty responses. von Grona narrowed the group to twenty-two. The company made its debut on November 21, 1937.

Reviews of Black concert dance performances were mixed. White audiences were uncomfortable with Blacks dancing in any form other than tap or jazz.

Just as early artists had a difficult time getting their works exhibited, African American concert dancers struggled for recognition.