HBDA 2015 PR

Press Release Notes


  • A show 10 years in the making.  An event 150 years in the making.

  • Returning for 3rd year after sold out performances in 2011 and 2012

  • Funded by a successful Kickstarter Campaign.

  • During our campaign, we were a Kickstarter Staff Pick as well as Featured Dance Project

  • This year we commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Juneteenth Celebration (the longest running celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation and freeing of the slaves in the United States).

  • Proceeds from this show will be used to a) fund next year’s performance, b) get youth involved and c) work on touring show.

  • This year, no Buck Dance, no Black Bottom.

  • This year we include Spirituals, live singing and Tributes to Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr.

  • This year we include the Argentine Tango.

  • This year we include Kizomba, which is one of the first dances to be popularly danced in the United States which actually comes from Africa (as opposed to being created by the descendants of African slaves).

  • This year we include Hip Hop.

  • Company consists of:

    • Ron Parker

    • Chester Whitmore

    • Reginald T. Thornton

    • Beatriz Vasquez

    • Rosa Harris

    • Ande Allure

    • Kiana Stringfield

    • Paul Thornhill

    • Linda Simms

    • Karin Santiago

    • Harry Bowens Jr.

    • Brian Yip

    • Sury Misrayim

    • Rosalind Cook

    • Fumi Bankole


PR Questions


Thanks very much for this. I’d like to get some quotes from you and also to try to weave a story around this performance so could you think about these and elaborate? I realize some of these questions overlap, so where it seems redundant no need to answer again.


1.Can you talk from the heart about why you took over this show from Chester who toured it previously.


2.Also, can you talk about your decision to expand the repertoire and why you did it.


3.Talk about the cultural significance of this show and why people should see it. From the performance perspective, and also about Juneteenth.


4.How much of your time do you dedicate to this show and since you are not getting paid for this why do you do it?


5. Anything else significant you think the public should know?


  1. In 2005 I had been working with Chester and performing vernacular jazz routines in the group for a couple of years.  We were preparing to do our biggest show titled “The History of Black Dance in America” for the UCLA African-American Music Festival at Schoenberg Hall.  We worked for a couple of months on some 20 or so routines.  I thought then that we really needed to present this show to the general public.  It was filled with so much rich and interesting and generally unknown history, and it was a shame to do all this work for just one presentation to a small audience.

  2. The original HBDA show that Chester had toured around the world 20 years earlier, and the one I was a part of in 2005, focused primarily on vernacular jazz dances of the early 20th Century.  It did not include Argentine Tango, the Ballroom dances, the Latin dances, Disco, or Hip Hop.  I recognized that many of these were also vernacular dances, created or inspired by the descendants of African slaves, and were indeed a part of the History of Black Dance in America.  As it happens, I had a degree of experience and expertise in many of these dances that would be useful in incorporating them into the presentation.

  3. The Charleston is a dance that had been danced in Black communities for several years before it appeared in a Broadway show titled “Running Wild” in 1923.  I dare you to Google “Charleston dance” and find one period photo of African-Americans dancing the Charleston.  How many people even know that the hit song, “Charleston”, that started the dance craze in America was written by a Black man, James Price Johnson?  This phenomena of a dance or music with Black roots, somehow forbidden or marginalized, suddenly becoming popular in the White mainstream repeats itself in history again and again: Cakewalk, Ragtime, Jazz, Blues, Tango, Black Bottom,  Lindy Hop, R & B, Disco, Soul Train dances, Hip Hop, Kizomba….  The list goes on and on.  It is important that people know and understand their history.  Also, most of these dances are “vernacular” dances, meaning that unlike Ballet or Waltz or African, these dances originate in America by Americans.  Additionally, unlike modern jazz (a performance dance form that also originates in America), these are “social” dances -- that is, dances that were and are popularly danced by everyday Americans.

  4. When preparing for a show, I spend most of my time working on it.  I not only have to work on the logistics of putting on the show: theater location, marketing, etc... but also the content of the show: history, choreography, training, etc…  While Chester Whitmore provides tremendous help as artistic director, he’s usually traveling around the world teaching and performing.  So, I am left with the director, producer, choreographer, etc.. tasks here.  It’s a lot of work, but I do it because it is important work.  We are telling dance history that is not told anywhere else.  Vernacular jazz dance, the original American dance form, and it’s history is not performed by major American dance companies, nor is it funded by the major arts funding organizations.  If we don’t do it, no one else will.  It is our hope that somewhere in this journey, a young Chester Whitmore will be inspired to pick up the mantle and keep this history alive for future generations.

  5. This year, we are performing HBDA in commemoration of  the 150th anniversary of the Juneteenth Celebration.  In my mind, there is no more important Black “holiday” because without the Emancipation Proclamation, and for that matter, the Civil War itself, American Black History looks nothing like it does today.  No King Day, no Black History Month, no BET Awards….  And with that, perhaps no Cakewalk, Charleston, Black Bottom, Lindy, etc...  I like the fact that, in addition to educating the public about Black dance history, I am also making everyone more aware of a celebration that is perhaps our most culturally significant in this country after Independence Day.

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