Dance is all about being in the moment, which is why dance history can be a hard sell. Unless, like brilliant choreographer Camille A. Brown, you tell that history not on paper, but on bodies.
Brown, who's a TED Fellow, just made a TED-Ed video that describes the history of African-American social dance in 25 moves—as performed by kids, members of Camille A. Brown and Dancers and Brown herself. As someone who's spent her career telling dance stories that connect the past to contemporary culture, she's the perfect person to bring that history to vibrant, detailed life.
In the video we see the Juba, which enslaved Africans used to communicate on plantations when slave owners banned drumming. We see the Cakewalk, which subversively poked fun at the snooty mannerisms of Southern aristocrats. We see the Twist, whose crossover appeal gave people of all colors a common dance language just before the Civil Rights Movement. And we see the Cabbage Patch, and the Running Man, and the Dougie, and the Nae Nae, which take on a new significance within the larger context.
(Screenshot via ted.com)
It's beautiful, it's joyful, it's fascinating—and it's critically important. Because in these dances, as Brown says, "we see over 200 years of how African and African-American traditions influenced our history. The present always contains the past. And the past shapes who we are and who we will be."