by Shonette Reed
It’s no secret that Black women have played important roles in the dance world, and paved the road for many of today’s dance stars. From Raven Wilkinson to Debbie Allen to Laurieann Gibson, we’ve seen and heard of Black women doing the seemingly impossible—and succeeding and breaking down barriers within a number of dance styles.
With Misty Copeland being the first Black principal dancer at American Ballet Theater, and even creating a program that allows more young girls of color room within the world of dance, she is not the only one making strides. Let’s celebrate the many other dancers and choreographers that have added to some of our favorite performances and dance routines.
1. Monica Wilson
Beginning her dance career at the age of three, Detroit native Monica Wilson studied under Gregory Hines and many other influential dancers. In 2002, she auditioned and was selected for the Detroit Pistons Automotion Dance Team, leading to her reputable career as a professional dancer and choreographer. Wilson has worked with an array of artists including 112, B.O.B., Trina, and Jennifer Edison.
|Photo: Monica Wilson / YouTube|
2. Kaelynn Harris
Though mostly self-taught, Kaelyn “KK” Harris began dancing at age 5. Early in her career, Harris performed on professional dance teams for the WNBA and the Entertainment Basketball League. Harris has assisted choreographers such as Laurieann Gibson and Dave Scott, as well as worked with artists such as Sade, Willow Smith, and Ciara. Among winning many awards, including the World of Dance’s Youth Choreographer of the Year Award, Harris was on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew with the group 8 Flavahz. She now works as a choreographer, selling out classes around the world.
3. Olivia Boisson
|Photo: Aaron Sanz Madrid|
4. Linda Celeste Sims
|Photo: Andrea Mohin / New York Times|
Sixteen year Alvin Ailey veteran Linda Celeste Sims began her training at the Ballet Hispanico School of Dance. Sims has been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine and won various awards, including Outstanding Performance at the 2014 New York Dance and Performance Awards. Sims has also been featured on So You Think You Can Dance, The Today Show, and has made guest appearances at the White House dance series and galas in Budapest and Vienna. She is a certified floor-barre instructor, teaching classes all over the world.
5. FKA Twigs
Despite her current music career, FKA Twigs (born Tahliah Debrett Barnett) pursued a career in dance at age 17 when she moved from her hometown Gloucestershire, England to London. FKA Twigs worked as a backup dancer in music videos for Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, Taio Cruz, and can be seen in Jessie J’s music videos for “Do It Like A Dude” and “Price Tag.” She was also a background dancer in a BBC Comedy Sketch titled “Beyoncé Wants Groceries.”
|Photo: Matthew Stone / i-D|
6. Charlize Glass
Charlize Glass is a hip hop dancer with the all-girl dance crew 8 Flavahz. Glass started dance lessons at two years old and has made some serious strides in her career—including performing for Willow Smith, Mindless Behavior, and Bruno Mars. She has also appeared in Ciara’s music video for “Got Me Good” and Maejor Ali’s video for “Lolly.”
7. Khadija Shari Nicholas
The face of Pharrell’s "Marilyn Monroe" single, Khadija Shari Nicholas (mainly known as Khadija Shari) began her dance career with training at the Ailey School, Harlem School of the Arts, and Creative Outlet Dance Theater in Brooklyn. The Trinidadian dancer has also performed multiple times with Beyoncé under the direction of Frank Gatson.
8. Ashley Everett
|Photo: Erin Baiano|
9. Nardia Boodoo
|Photo: Anna Wu|
10. Adji Cissoko
|Photo: Timothy Neesam|
Shonette Reed is regular contributor for Coloures and For Harriet from Los Angeles, Calif. With plans to break into the fashion industry as a fashion reporter, she runs her own style blog. Her aim is to highlight the important contributions of women of color in the fashion industry as well as give women of color more exposure within the leading magazines in fashion. You can follow her on twitter @ShonetteReed.