British Dance and the African Diaspora

A York St John University academic is co-leading a major research project looking at the memories of British-based dancers who are black and celebrating their contributions to British dance.

‘British Dance and the African Diaspora’ is a two year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, which began in February 2012. Professor Christy Adair of York St John University is working with Professor Ramsay Burt of De Montfort University on the project which seeks to write black British dance artists and their legacies back into history.

One strand of the 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’. The project also explores the way recent writing about African-American dance offers ways of recognising and analysing the specificity of the aesthetic forms.

Professor Christy Adair said:
“One main motivation behind our research project is to explore the absence of stories about major British dancers from the history books who happened to be black.

She added:
“I am delighted that our project has the opportunity to delve into this history and give these wonderful British-based dance artists who are black the appreciation and support they deserve.”

Findings from the research project have formed the basis of a major exhibition ‘British dance: Black routes’ at Liverpool International Slavery Museum, running from 13 September 2013 to 24 March 2014. This exhibition explores the experiences of Black British dancers from 1946 to 2005 and highlights their contributions to British dance. More details can be found at

Christy Adair is Professor of Dance Studies at York St John. Her research interests focus on gender and ethnicity in relation to dance studies and performance. Previous research which centred on the Phoenix Dance company resulted in a CETL Teaching Fellowship which presented Professor Adair with the opportunity to apply some of this research to new teaching modules. Currently, her research interests focus on the development of contemporary dance in East Africa.

For more information on the project, please visit

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