Black History Month Committee hosts hand dancing event, documentary screening

Rob Samson-Krebs


Emma Jeter, Reporter

Students attended a hand dancing event at AACC on Thursday in support of Black History Month.

The National Hand Dance Association showcased a documentary on the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death on the black community, especially in relation to dance. Afterwards, members of the National Hand Dance Association performed for the audience.

“This is a time to learn about the history of African-Americans, people of color and people of African descent,” human services professor and BHM coordinator, Dr. Nicole Williams said.

According to Williams, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, black teenagers across DC dealt with the trauma of ongoing riots through dance. At first, black teenagers were not allowed to dance on white teen dance shows.

“We don’t understand how many ways we’ve been discriminated against and you wouldn’t think dance is one of them,” Williams said.

In response, WOOK-TV, the first all-black television station in the United States, developed “Teenarama Dance Party.” This was the first all-black teen dance show and, according to Williams, it empowered the black community.

“[Hand dancing] means everything,” dancer William Mattocks said. “It’s cultural and it’s historical. Dancing is like music; it transcends with time.”

For 13 years, he has been a hand dancer.

The dancers at this event showcased DC hand dancing, a form of swing.

“Swing has different meanings and different forms,” Mattocks said. “[DC hand dancing] is just the form that’s relevant to this area.”

Hand dancing is recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as a form of folk and traditional art.

“It’s a way for us to do expressions through body movements,” dancer Sheila Parker said.

“I think [this event] is really important, especially with where we live,” Gillian DiNicolo, a first-year nursing student, said.

“In reference to black history, music and dance has always been a part of our culture,” President of the National Hand Dance Association Jacque Ballard said. “The joy for me today is to showcase the dance that makes us happy.”