African-American Dance Culture and its Influence in the Contemporary Dance Culture Music Essay

African-American Dance Culture and its Influence in the Contemporary Dance Culture

Free to Dance Episode 1: “What Do You Dance?” (Part 1)


  1. What is the title?

The title of the PBS Documentary is Free to Dance Episode 1: “What Do You Dance?” (Part 1).

  • Who is/are the main artist(s) featured?

The main artists featured Ruth St. Dennis, Edna Guy and Miss Varrel.

  • Who are the collaborators, if any, and how did they collaborate? For instance, Merce Cunningham collaborated for about fifty years with musician/composer John Cage.

The main collaborators are Ruth St. Dennis and his husband Shaw who sought to express the Gospel through dance.

  • Based on what you see, what do you think are the salient features of this artist’s technique and movement vocabulary?

The artists’ movements are spiritual in nature. They incorporate traditional African-American dance from the South with the European white dance predominantly in North America.

  • What are some interesting features of their process? What process(es) do they use? What kinds of questions do they ask? Do they look to subject matter for inspiration? If not, where do they look?

There are very interesting features associated with their dance processes such as traditional European dance, upcoming aesthetic dance and traditional Africa-based folklore songs. The black dancers try to adopt their dances such as those carried out during agricultural activities within the contemporary North American setting. The dancers look to various subject matters such as racial discrimination and segregation for inspiration. The dances are also influenced by the aura of liberal values and ideals that transpires throughout the USA. The urban environments of North America play a crucial role in their dance moves. There is also admiration of the African-American art which is imbued with North American white dance mostly borrowed from European caste where there was cast and hierarchy that permeated the society.

  • Are there any facts or features of this person(s) life or the historical context in which they are working that you find interesting?

The person’s life in focus was Edna Guy’s. Edna Guy had a strong determination and will power that she would one day live to her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Nevertheless, she was naïve of the challenges that reverberated across the American society of racial discrimination. She was frequently barred from joining prestigious dance schools since she was considered a person of colour. In spite of such insurmountable problems there was still a burning desire and ambition within her to accomplish the dream of being a professional dancer and perform in theatres alongside other respected artists.

  • Is there anything you did not understand? Did this work raise any questions for you or inspire you in any way?

This piece of work was vividly understood. I had no challenge in comprehending the various parts of the story. This work inspired me since in spite of dire consequences that Edna Guy faced she was able to realise her dreams.

  • How would you rate this video in a 4-star rating? What would your rating be based on?

   I would give this video a 4-star rating. It vividly plays a key role in opening up the mind of student or whoever watches it to the challenges in the real world. There is a vivid flow in the presentation of its ideas.

References (2015). PBS Documentary on African American Dance History and Influence.

Published on 27th January 2015.Retrieved on 4th June 2015 from