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2013 - 2016: DANSONDERZOEK/DANCE RESEARCH PROJECT "The representation of Afro Western heritage in contemporary dance"

- Laquelle D. Galdey & Vincent Verburg | COPE (repetitie) © Alexander van der Linden | MDDance

by Monique Duurvoort

Throughout 2013-2014 I am carrying out a dance research project ‘The representation of Afro Western heritage in contemporary dance’.

My research focuses on the conscious representation of themes pertaining to Afro Western ethnic heritage, as well as the impact of choreographic and creative processes upon these themes, such as the choice of repertoire, choice and training of dancers and staff, and development of educational and/or community projects.

African American theatre dance has always been of great inspiration and example for dancers, choreographers and other artists of color around the world. Its legacy bears straightforward examples of this conscious integration and representation of ethnic background and heritage into art/choreography, which also utilizes academic and/or urban dance styles and techniques as means of expression.

Finding considerably fewer examples of this here in The Netherlands and Europe, I have decided to take a look at several American dance companies, academies, and independent choreographers, artists and teachers, as an example to get a good impression of the large and specifically diverse representation of artistic interpretation and translation of African American culture and heritage into dance and the performing arts in general.

Regarding my own dance background, I am looking at dance companies, academies, and independent choreographers and artists who use academic dance (classical ballet-, modern and jazz dance), urban dance or a mix of these dance forms as their vocabulary.


The research has two objectives, the first one is personal, the second one more general:

1. Finding tools that can help me with the development of my own signature as an Afro European artist in the projects that I initiate in The Netherlands. By being able to expose myself to clear examples of embodiment of Afro diasporic culture into art and specifically dance, I hope to obtain a better insight and understanding of the processes I encounter when developing my own artistic work.

2. To establish firm theoretical stepping stones towards international exchange in the world of Afro Western contemporary dance.

Both in Europe and throughout the world, audiences and choreographers alike are inspired by the rich heritage of African American theatre dance. It’s a tradition developed in a way to a common legacy, a vocabulary tangible and recognizable for people of color throughout the world, and has influenced the way several artists of color explore themes like identity, historical legacy and creativity. For me it is interesting and essential to develop a creative and artistic dialogue with dance companies, choreographers, dancers and other artists, in other places of the Black Diaspora, which may be the basis for creative exchange projects.

First phase

In June 2013 I started the first phase of my research project. For this I traveled to the US, where I viewed many classes, rehearsals and performances of a diverse range of dance styles.

I spoke to directors of various dance companies, arts organizations, academies, independent choreographers, dancers, dance teachers and other artists, and was able to observe their artistic and working processes, hear their stories and exchange experiences, thoughts and ideas.

My biggest thanks go out to the following people and organizations who helped me carry out my research project in New York and Philadelphia (June-July 2013 & April/May 2014):

Abraham in Motion: staff & dancers

Adrienne Hurd

Ailey II: staff & dancers

Ailey Camp

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: staff & dancers

American Ballet Theatre: staff & dancers

Aminata Cairo

Anna Glass

Ben Kimitch / New York Live Arts

Bill T. Jones / Artistic Director Arnie Zane Dance Company | New York Live Arts

Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company | New York Live Arts: staff & dancers

Camille A. Brown / Artistic Director Camille A. Brown & Dancers

Carla Peterson / New York Live Arts

Cathryn Williams / Alvin Ailey Arts in Education & Community Programs

Dance Theatre of Harlem & Dance Theatre of Harlem School: staff & dancers

Darrell Grand Moultrie

Ella Baff / Director Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

Jacob’s Pillow Dance

Jamel Gaines / Artistic Director Creative Outlet

Janet Wong / Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company | New York Live Arts

Jawole Zollar / Artistic Director Urban Bush Women

Joan Myers Brown / Artistic Director Philadanco

J.R. Glover / Jacob’s Pillow Dance

Kojo Ade

Kyle Abraham / Artistic Director Abraham in Motion

Lane Harwell / Dance NYC

Liz Montgomery / Gibney Dance

Maija Garcia / Artistic director Organic Magnetics

Melanie Person / Artistic Director The Ailey School

Misty Copeland

Nasha Thomas-Schmitt / Ailey Camp

New York Live Arts

Norton Owen / Jacob's Pillow Dance

Philadanco: staff & dancers

Raven Wilkinson

Rennie Harris / Artistic Director Rennie Harris Puremovement

Rennie Harris Puremovement: staff & dancers

Rhea Roderick

Robert Battle / Artistic Director Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Roger C. Jeffrey

Sasha Dees

Shay Waver / Executive Director 651 Arts

Sylvia Waters / Artistic Director Emerita Ailey II

The Ailey Extension: staff & dancers

The Ailey School: staff & dancers

Theresa Ruth Howard

Timothy Stockton / Studio Museum

Troy Powell / Artistic Director Ailey II

Virginia Johnson / Artistic Director Dance Theatre of Harlem

Wynton Marsalis

In Spain:

Jean Emile

And in The Netherlands:

Artwell Cain

Barbara Martijn

Bart Krieger

Esther van den Brink

Eva Nijman van Zanten

Harriët Duurvoort

Hein Drost

Jan IJdema

Jennifer Karius

Jocelyn Bergland

Johanne Leemans

Juanita Conrad

Marijke van Velzen

Pascal Busch

Paul Bronkhorst

Petra Ponte

Sewan Mumcuyan

Ymme Dahlberg


This research is supported by the Performing Arts Fund NL (Fonds Podiumkunsten).

© 2024 Monique Duurvoort Dance