It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada
An Exhibition Curated by Seika Boye
by Rhea Daniels
February 24, 2023
It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada is a touring exhibition and online archive that highlights the unrecorded dance histories of Canada’s Black population from 1900 to 1970. Curated by scholar, artist and educator Dr. Seika Boye, and first commissioned by Dance Collection Danse in 2018, the exhibition offers insight into representations of Blackness and media reception of Black people dancing — from the dance floor to dance lessons, from the stage to public protests and activism. Dr. Boye visited The National Ballet of Canada in 2021 to give a presentation on the project to the company and staff. Here she shares a few highlights from the expansive collection.
“It's About Time draws attention to performing artists, Black citizens, and the contexts they were dancing and living within from 1900—1970. It has also expanded to include artistic responses which are resulting in a collection of works - visual art, poetry, performance, and otherwise - that has Blackness and dancing as its subject. This is a thrilling development.” – Seika Boye
Len Gibson, c. 1950. Leonard Gibson Electronic Archives, Dance Collection Danse.
Boye plans to keep expanding the collection by sharing the project with other researchers and artists. She says, “As we move forward and continue to tour across Canada, I look towards building a platform for other researchers and continuing to meet artists and community facilitators working in the contemporary moment. As with all expanding projects, rest, reflection and generating resources in order for the work to continue are priorities. It has been a tremendously rewarding and busy few years."
Colour palette guide for mixing make-up to achieve “accurate”, “ethnic” complexions. Reproduction from Stage Make-up, 4th edition by Richard Corson (Appleton-Century-Crofts Education Division, New York, 1970 ed. from original publication in 1942). On loan from the personal collection of Seika Boye.
The exhibition has travelled to various locations across the county and a component of the Edmonton and Vancouver iterations was an invitation by Boye for contemporary performing, literary and visual artists to respond to the archive and consider what the history of Black people dancing in Canada reveals about our contemporary moment.
Artistic Response by Preston Pavlis @prestonpavlis. Courtesy of the artist Commissioned response to archival exhibition, It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900-1970.
You can explore the exhibition online to learn about the various artists, choreographers, dance forms, venues, geographic locations, cultural backgrounds and heritage, artistic visions and community initiatives that make up the history of Black dancing in Canada. Boye continues to work in collaboration with Dance Collection Danse on It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada as it evolves and you can follow the journey as they share additional information and artistic responses on Instagram Facebook and Twitter.