From Slave Ships to Center Stage

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Dance, Miscellaneous, Zita Allen

Author: Zita Allen


“Hunched low to the ground, flat feet pounding the earth with rhythmic intensity as they moved counterclockwise in a circle, a group of men and women wearing the drab, tattered, everyday clothes of southern plantation field hands danced. Their only musical accompaniment was the crisp sound of their hands clapping time and the low, guttural rhythms rumbling in their throats. They had no audience. They danced for themselves and one another. It was the end of a day spent picking somebody else’s cotton, cleaning somebody else’s house, caring for other folks’ children. This was their time to come together and thank God they had survived another day.

Every part of their bodies danced, from their shuffling feet and bent knees to their churning hips and undulating spines, swinging arms, and shimmying shoulders. Even their necks bent like reeds to balance heads rolling from shoulder to shoulder before pulling upright to reveal faces filled with the joy and the ecstasy of dance.”


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