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British Dance and the African Diaspora research project, School of Arts, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

British Dance and the African Diaspora

A research project that explores the memories of British-based dancers who are black and celebrates their contributions to British dance.

British Dance and the African Diaspora is an ongoing project that started as a two year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board. The investigators are Professor Ramsay Burt|, De Montfort University, and Professor Christy Adair|, York St John University. The project is associated with ADAD| (Association of Dance and the African Diaspora)

This project seeks to write Black British dance artists and their legacies back into history. By initiating in-depth research on the dance forms and cultural context of their work, the project also aims to address the nexus of aesthetic and institutional problems that have stopped British-based dance artists who are black gaining the appreciation and support they deserve. 

It does not aim to give a comprehensive, all inclusive survey but focuses on three among many areas of professional dance practice in which Black British dancers have made significant but largely underappreciated contributions to British dance culture over the last 40 years. 

One of the reasons for this invisibility, and, in some cases, exclusion of this work from most accounts of British dance history is because of the inadequacy of existing frameworks to provide a basis for its analysis. 

One strand of this research project is to develop new ways of thinking about the work of British-based dance artists who are black. It does this through applying post-colonial theory to unpack the problematic label ‘Black Dance’. It also explores the way recent writing about African-American dance offers ways of recognising and analysing the specificity of the aesthetic forms found in much of the work of British-based dancers who are black. In this way, the project aims to shift discussions about the work of British-based dance artists who are black beyond issues concerning funding and cultural policies and initiate new discussions about it as a field of artistic production.

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Key events

Key events that happened during the project were three ‘Roadshows’ in:

Each involved a master class, a focus groups, and a  panel discussion each focusing on histories of British-based  dancers who are black based in these cities. 

There were also two Study Days:

Each brought together dance scholars, practitioners, and people involved in administration and cultural policy to share and discuss current research. 

Following the first Study Day, an additional Think Tank was convened. As part of the project a Time Line of significant events involving British-based dancers and other resources is being developed. 

Findings from the research project were presented in an exhibition at Liverpool International Slavery Museum in late 2013. A symposium was held at the museum during the run of the exhibition.

Following on from the British dance and the African Diaspora research project, De Montfort University are partners for the Re:Generations 2014 conference. Click here for further details and for the Call for Papers|.

If you would like further information about the project, please email Ramsay Burt|.

Funded by


In partnership with:


In association with:

The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora| |


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