American Society for Aesthetics Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize in Dance Aesthetics
“Osumare has engaged with black dance as performer, choreographer, educator, arts administrator, researcher, and activist in the United States, Africa, and Europe, and through multiple careers. In this equal parts memoir, autoethnography, history, encyclopedic catalog, and sociocultural analysis, she traces her activities from the 1960s through the late 1990s, as she becomes a tenacious advocate for black dance. . . . An eclectic mélange.”—Library Journal
“Osumare draws a picture of a focused young artist shaped by the cultural forces converging on the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s, including the Black Power and Black Arts movements. . . . Underpinning all her activities on the stage and in the studio is Osumare’s goal of nourishing, developing and promoting black dance and black cultural traditions.”—Times Literary Supplement
“A lovely example for any dance student to see that art does not exist in a vacuum but is a response to and reflection of artists’ experiences, conflicts, and boundaries created by themselves or society.”—Journal of Dance Education
“Explores the relationship between dance and culture from the perspective of someone who celebrated both, intertwined.”—Sacramento Bee
“[Osumare] recounts four decades’ worth of poignant personal experiences using dance as a tool for social change and justice. . . . Her perspective on black dance in America will benefit the whole dance community.”—Dance Teacher
“Expands the memoir genre, makes a strong argument for the importance of the West Coast in the development of mid-twentieth-century dance, and greatly expands our understanding of dance’s role in the Black Arts Movement. A tremendous resource for the field of dance studies’ big names.”—Dance Research Journal
"Finally someone who knows a dancer's process and a choreographer's vision that has tackled the mystery that is the magic of contemporary African American dance. In Dancing in Blackness, Halifu Osumare has extricated the fundamental influence of Dunham, the choreographic strategies of Rod Rodgers, Eleo Pomare, Chuck Davis, Donald McKayle, and Alvin Ailey, as well as illuminating the paths they created for Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, and Diane McIntyre. What a wealth of treasure and scholarly and aesthetic understanding Osumare brings to this often misunderstood and woefully neglected American art. Bravo!"—Ntozake Shange, author of for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
"Dancing in Blackness belongs on every dancer's and artist's shelf. It is a wonderful personal telling of the black experience in dance, in art, in life, and of the dance world in Boston, New York, and the whole Bay Area. It is beautifully written—an engaging and fact-filled narrative where you meet the choreographers of the period, their work and visions, trials, successes, and triumphs."—Donald McKayle, choreographer of Rainbow Round My Shoulder
"Halifu Osumare is a relevant voice from the Black Arts Movement of the '60s and '70s. She has danced the talk, music, and history of that period and beyond. This is a must read for insight into a black artist's personal and professional journey."—Kariamu Welsh, editor of African Dance: An Artistic, Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
"Coming of age amid the counterculture and Black Power in San Francisco, Osumare becomes a professional dancer in Europe and New York before returning home to realize her mission as an artist, activist, and thinker. Her memoir reveals an astonishing ability to evoke and to historicize her lived experience."—Susan Manning, author of Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion
"An unapologetic, rapturous travelogue detailing life, love, and an abiding mission to further the place of black dance in global histories."—Thomas F. DeFrantz, author of Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture
"Osumare affirms the spiritual and tangible power for dance to teach, energize, heal, and inspire all peoples on this human journey."—Joselli Audain Deans, consultant, Black Ballerina
Dancing in Blackness is a professional dancer’s personal journey over four decades, across three continents and twenty-three countries, and through defining moments in the story of black dance in America. In this memoir, Halifu Osumare reflects on what blackness and dance have meant to her life and international career.
Osumare’s story begins in 1960s San Francisco amid the Black Arts Movement, black militancy, and hippie counterculture. It was there that she chose dance as her own revolutionary statement. She moved to Europe, where she taught “jazz ballet” and established her own dance company in Copenhagen. Returning to the United States, she danced with the Rod Rodgers Dance Company in New York City and played key roles in integrating black dance programs into mainstream programming at the Lincoln Center. After dance fieldwork in Ghana, Osumare returned to California and helped develop Oakland’s black dance scene. Along the way, she collaborated with major artistic movers and shakers: among them, Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Jean-Léon Destiné, and Donald McKayle.
Now a black studies scholar, Osumare uses her extraordinary experiences to reveal the overlooked ways that dance has been a vital tool in the black struggle for recognition, justice, and self-empowerment. This is the inspiring story of an accomplished dance artist and a world-renowned dance scholar who has boldly developed and proclaimed her identity as a black woman.
Halifu Osumare, professor emerita of African American and African Studies at the University of California, Davis, is the author of The Hiplife in Ghana: West African Indigenization of Hip-Hop and The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip-Hop: Power Moves.
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American Society for Aesthetics Selma Jeanne Cohen Prize in Dance Aesthetics -
Explores the relationship between dance and culture from the perspective of someone who celebrated both, intertwined.