Education and History of Vernacular Jazz Dance
We need to diligently remind ourselves that the dance we learn, choreograph, and perform was created in the African-American communities of Harlem. The origins of our dance form, itself, comes from Congo square in New Orleans, where in the late 1700s/early 1800s, enslaved Africans would gather to sing, dance, drum, and trade on Sunday afternoons. Prior to that, this area was used by Houmas Indians for celebrating their annual corn harvest, and was considered sacred ground.
The history of the dance, the reasons why people were dancing in the 20s-50s, and the BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) who were involved in its creation (and responsible for its popularity) need to be remembered always. How we remember is we pass on these truths through oral teaching/talks, written/visual documentation, and conversation.
We are blessed to be able to express ourselves, as artists, through this incredible art form. As such, we recognize the need to be more outspoken in celebrating the BIPOC voices of those who helped originate the dance.
Acknowledgement of Dance Inspiration by BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/Person of Color)
SKDC commits to be an intentional and consistent education of vernacular jazz dance history, both for our members as well as for the audience that consumes this dance at our performances, shows and classes. This can also apply to those from afar who follow our social media presence.
We commit to the following items moving forward:
- Acknowledgement of choreography inspirations in our YouTube videos, Cabaret show programs, and more.
- Proactively write more regular blogs and posts on social media featuring WOC-focused media and articles to celebrate their work and legacy (both historical and current BIPOC artists).
- Continuing to speak up and acknowledge to our students (and fellow teammates) about movements and inspirations from historic/current BIPOC dancers when in class/practice.
Personal Education and Growth
Finally, we (SKDC members) are actively working to hire a professional anti-racism and inclusivity coach to lead an internal training with our team (a BIPOC) to educate us on better leadership practices and inclusivity as a small arts business in Seattle
As individuals we are also conducting a lot of personal educational growth in the form of:
- Reading books about anti-racism and inclusion
- Attending professional lectures and trainings online
- Watching documentaries and interviews that address racism both historically and currently
- Continuing to examine our own practices within our group internally and if we are doing enough to celebrate BIPOC, holding ourselves accountable to always strive to be better about creating inclusive safe spaces
- Creation of new policies and updating of old documents, not only for our team internally, but for our students and cabaret attendees to acknowledge
Giving Back to the Community
Sister Kate Dance Company is committed to giving back to the community, both currently and in the future.
We commit to the following agenda items:
- Monthly donorship towards the Wa Na Wari house, which “creates space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection.”
- Leader level Membership (+ donors) to the Northwest African American Museum.
- As we are all living on Indigenous land, we are now monthly donors towards the Na-ah Illahee Fund, which is “an Indigenous women-led organization dedicated to the ongoing regeneration of Indigenous communities.”
- Annual donation to The Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) is a community development organization whose mission is to preserve, promote, and develop the Seattle Chinatown International District (CID) as a vibrant community and unique ethnic neighborhood.
- Committing to donating a portion of future cabaret ticket sales towards a locally focused community organization.