African American Influence on Dance

In our class with Dr. Mark Broomfield, we were encouraged to learn and practice African American inspired dancing within the first half of our class. Many of these moves can be seen stemming from New Orleans.  Historically, enslaved African Americans in Louisiana performed these dances on Sunday during their “day of rest”, as implemented by the French within their Code Noir in 1724. This free time allowed Africans to congregate and keep their culture alive. As time went on, and the colonies evolved, Louisiana didn’t force African American’s to assimilate as stringently as other states, allowing African food, dance, music, and religions to remain and flourish. The location New Orleans limited this congregation soon evolved into today’s French Quarter.

Steve Prince captures the spirit of African culture and its influenced dance in his work. For example, in the prints titled “Second Line“, we see a mimicking of the New Orleans’s Baby-doll poses within the stances of the horsemen. The baby dolls were born from racial segregation in New Orleans in 1912. This form of dress and dance were an act of liberation and self-expression for African Americans during Jim Crow laws. The “Walking Raddy” was one dance move, originated by the baby dolls, that is still seen today during Louisiana festivals like Mardi Gras.


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