You Dance Because You Have To

In the 1930s and 40s, two pioneering African-American dancers and choreographers independently set out to reclaim their dance heritage.

Katherine Dunham travelled to Haiti and the Caribbean, Pearl Primus' destination was Africa.

They returned to America with the authentic rhythms and dances of Africa and the Caribbean, reinvigorating a tradition that had been degraded by years of slavery and then diluted into minstrel shows and vaudeville.

The dancer and writer Thea Barnes explores their work - its impact, its energy, and its political passion - and how their legacy has influenced today's generation of choreographers and dancers, including Judith Jamison, Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women; Robert Garland of Dance Theatre Harlem; and British choreographer Sheron Wray.

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In the 1930s and 40s, two pioneering African-American dancers and choreographers independently set out to reclaim their dance heritage.

Katherine Dunham travelled to Haiti and the Caribbean, Pearl Primus' destination was Africa.

They returned to America with the authentic rhythms and dances of Africa and the Caribbean, reinvigorating a tradition that had been degraded by years of slavery and then diluted into minstrel shows and vaudeville.

The dancer and writer Thea Barnes explores their work - its impact, its energy, and its political passion - and how their legacy has influenced today's generation of choreographers and dancers, including Judith Jamison, Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women; Robert Garland of Dance Theatre Harlem; and British choreographer Sheron Wray.