HBDA 2016 Hatchfund Notes
Ever since our show at the UCLA Festival of African American Music back in 2005, I have had the dream of presenting “The History of Black Dance in America” to the general American public. I felt that the story of Vernacular jazz dance, the original American style of dance that dominated social and show dance in this country for most of the 20th Century, was such a rich and important educational experience that surely we would find the funding to make it happen.
That just shows to go you how little I knew. After a couple of failed attempts at obtaining grant monies, I decided to go old school: In a style reminiscent of Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Spanky and Alfalfa from Our Gang, I got a group of my homies together and shouted: “Hey Gang, let’s put on a show!”
In 2009, with the help of the great Chester Whitmore, the man who first introduced me to the history of vernacular jazz dance, I put together a group of professional, semi-professional and non-professional dancers who were all dedicated to the same goal: Presenting this history go the general public.
After a year and a half of rehearsals and a series of successful community fund-raisers, we put the money together, obtained a theater and performed our first show in 2011.
We did a second show in 2012. After more unsuccessful attempts at obtaining grant monies in 2013, we raised funds again and performed two more shows in 2014.
I realized after the 2014 shows that we were never going to get national attention unless we were able to tour the show. And, to tour the show nationally, we would need to train a new cast of young, professional dancers to carry the torch forward.
To that end, I organized and launched the successful Kickstarter campaign that financed our last big show in 2015. The monies raised from Kickstarter allowed us to finally get a decent video of the entire show, which would be necessary to attract potential presenters for a tour. That show also put us in a position to attract the young dancers we would need to execute a successful tour.
We are now in rehearsals for our next show, which will take place during Black History Month 2016. Most of the new cast will consist of young dancers we have recruited from local colleges and dance schools. The show is being sponsored by El Camino College in Torrance, California. They are covering almost all of the cost of production. Except for one thing.
As most of our dancers are young and either in college or recently graduated, they are, for the most part, struggling economically. Being committed to the several months it is going to take to train in the various historical dance styles required for our show will be difficult.
In order to help ease some of this economic hardship, we hope to be able to pay our dancers a small per-rehearsal stipend. Not much, just a few dollars, but enough to take care of fuel costs and perhaps pay for a meal. It may not seem like much, but if you can remember what it was like to be young with a dream and committed to an important goal, then perhaps you can see how big a difference a small financial assist like this could make.
So, that is what I am coming to you and asking for today. We want to make the 2016 presentation of “The History of Black Dance in America” our best show ever, worthy of a national tour, and, eventually, Broadway. I believe a little help for our new dancers will help us get there.