No doubt turning the dream of owning a dance company into a fully operational business is a tough feat. From finding studio space, marketing, securing funding and more, it can all be very daunting. The challenge of taking a dance-related business to new heights can be even greater if you are a person of color. However, it's not impossible. According to the 2012 census, there are 27.6 million businesses in the United States, and only 2.6 million are black-owned. In honor of Black History Month, DT spoke with several black-owned dance studios and companies and asked them to reflect on the significance race has had on their efforts to run the dance company of their dreams.
Kevin Iega Jeff, Co-founder/Artistic Director, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Chicago
Photo via Deeply Rooted's Facebook page
"There are definitely added adversities when leading a minority business in dance. One of the primary challenges is the wealth gap that blacks face in America due to racist socialization and our eventual ability to overcome it. Blacks' ability (and willingness) to financially support African-inspired cultural institutions is in question. In light of these challenges, defining and upholding one's own criteria for authentic expression or success is an issue. Too often, organizations that genuinely challenge oppressive norms go under- or unsupported. In this environment, staying on mission requires inhuman discipline, stamina and a resounding need to defend/protect one's spiritual and cultural consciousness. In America, giving to the performing arts is a relatively nebulous and elite concept, and due to race socialization, I'd argue even more nebulous and new to African Americans. Yet the intrinsic implications of the fine and performing arts in African civilizations is historic, and Deeply Rooted strives to engage, cultivate and grow its diverse community in alignment with those intrinsic values—spiritually, intellectually, systemically and economically."