Gail Glover’s passion is tackling diversity issues in dance. (Photo by Shakeem Jones)
Columbia artists are expressing their culture and dancing to the beat of diversity.
Creatives in the city long have criticized the lack of diversity within the local dance community. But these local artists are bridging the lack of diversity through their art and activism.
Gail Glover, who is Black, is working to start a program called Community Dance Project where she’ll visit daycares, after-school programs and community programs to teach dance.
“Racism is in our culture, in our society’s DNA, and my sphere of influence is the dance world,” Glover said. “So, in the dance world, I want to liberate us, free us from racism.
When Glover was 7, her mother took her to see a ballet performance at the Township Auditorium.
“I saw a Black girl, and I was like, that’s it, I can dance, I can do that,” Glover said. “And, really, that was the catalyst for me.”
Her mother called local ballet companies to ask if they had openings. Glover said her mother could pass as white over the phone. They were told there were openings. When they arrived, they were told classes were filled, Glover said.
So, her mother called St. Andrew’s School of Ballet and spoke with an instructor there.
“When we called, she said, ‘Are you a Black lady?’ And my mom said, ‘Yes, does it matter?’” Glover said. “And she said, ‘No, come on, in.’ So, we jumped in the car, you know, not wanting the class to fill up before we got there.”
When Glover’s mother asked the instructor why she asked about her race, the woman told her there had been a conversation among some of Columbia’s dance schools and they had decided not to accept Glover.
The instructor said she told them, “‘If she comes to my studio, I will absolutely register her,'” Glover said.
“The next year, a couple more Black girls started to come in,” Glover said. “Because, you know, we need representation. They needed to see themselves as well. Just like I saw the dancer up on stage, now I was in a position to be the face of Black ballet in Columbia.”
Today, Glover works within the arts, traveling and educating children in Columbia schools about the cultural and historical value of dance forms such as African dance and influences, such as the Harlem Renaissance and Motown.
Terrance Henderson, like Glover, is a local artist who is working to diversify Columbia’s arts community.
Henderson, who was born in Newberry, is a choreographer, dancer and equity advisor who wants to see Columbia be more inclusive of diverse dancers.
“There are people out here, myself being one of them, that have been creating space for Black folks to dance and train and do whatever they want to do with their careers,” Henderson said.
Davon “LionHeart” Bush further explores culture through dance by specializing in krumping.
Krumping is a form of street dance known for its energetic and expressive movement, Bush said.
“It is a very hard-hitting dance,” he said.”People typically associate it with anger and being wild, but it’s so much more than that. It’s more aggressive in terms of movement. But in terms of emotion, that’s not always the case.”
Bush said krumping has traveled far and wide from its South Central Los Angeles origins.
“Krump was created by Black people, for Black people, and now has spread out beyond Black people all over the world now, in places like Russia,” Bush said. “Even in communities where Black people are scarce — you know, Japan, you name it, Korea. It’s everywhere.”
Bush said krumping can be used as an outlet to express emotions.
“I can’t say how many times I’ve been in the session going off, dancing, and I just smile, you know,” Bush said. “It’s a certain joy being able to express yourself.”
Glover is working to start a dance company. Its dancers will put all shapes, sizes, races and cultures on stage, Glover said.
“My father always said, ‘If it bothers you, then it’s your burden,’” Glover said. “So, it’s my burden. And even though I’m past the age of performing, technically, I still try to kick the leg.”