Creating Socially Engaged Art: Can Dance Change the World?




Black women have been at the heart of social justice movements and making positive change in their communities the world over and their impact to the international dance ecology is no different.  This publication features the contributions of dance practitioners, who through their own activism and artistry have brought to light untold issues and taboos, codified techniques, developed and raised the profile of dance from the African and African Caribbean Diaspora and engaged with communities in innovative ways.

Contributors include Jeanette Bain-Burnett, Lizzy Cooper Davis, Chanon Judson, Wanjiru Kamuyu, Greta Mendez, Marlène Myrtil, Vivine Scarlett, Maya Taylor with an introduction by Anita Gonzalez and a preface by Pawlet Brookes.


Jeanette Bain-Burnett (UK) – director of participation at the Trussell Trust and Formerly Head of Community Engagement, she has supported the Mayor’s office in engaging with London’s diverse communities.  Jeanette’s background is as a senior leader and consultant focusing on culture, community engagement and equality and diversity. She has worked for a range of organisations including the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD), Arts Council England, the BBC, Middlesex University and the University of East London.

Pawlet Brookes (UK) – is the founder, CEO and artistic director of Serendipity, the diversity-led arts organisation in Leicester, whose flagship projects include Let’s Dance International Frontiers and Black History Month. An experienced and highly respected senior manager and producer, Pawlet has been at the forefront of the development of Black arts in the UK.

Lizzy Cooper Davis (USA) – is an artist and scholar interested in how the arts can facilitate community conversation, resistance, and change. She is currently a Ford Postdoctoral Fellow in Harvard’s Music Department where she is researching cultural workers of the civil rights-era and works as a consultant on Black cultural history and value based organising with Urban Bush Women.

Anita Gonzalez (USA) – writer, director and professor of Performing Arts/African American Studies at Georgetown University.  Anita’s innovative staging’s of historical and cross-cultural experiences have been seen in venue all around the world.  She is also Artistic Director of Art Boundaries Unlimited which fosters international exchange through the arts.

Chanon Judson (USA) – co-artistic director of Urban Bush Women and co-director of BOLD (Builders Organizers and Leaders through Dance), and choreographic director alongside Samantha Speis for UBW’s new evening-length work, “Hair and Other Stories,”

Wanjiru Kamuyu (Kenya/USA/France) – founder of the WKCollective, Wanjiru’s creates immersive, visceral experiences through the medium of contemporary dance.  Project-based works weave stories and express the universal experience.

Greta Mendez (Trinidad /UK) – movement and theatre director, choreographer, performance art artist, drama coach, carnivalist and film maker. As a choreographer Greta has explored themes such as silence and sensuality, body politics and ageism, and shifting cultures.

Marlène Myrtil (Martinique) – founder and choreographer of Cie Kaméléonite, Marlène uses somatic and therapeutic practices, introducing dance into hospitals and prisons, whilst her choreography exposes her profound view, poetry and political consideration of the Caribbean.

Vivine Scarlett (Canada) – founder and executive director for dance Immersion, an organisation that presents, produces and supports dancers and dances of the African Diaspora located in Toronto, Canada.  For 27 years this organizations unique mandate and vision has provided Canadian and international dance artists with opportunities that have laid a foundation for continued growth and representation.  dance Immersion has hosted the IABD Conference and Festival twice, in 2007 and 2012.

Maya Taylor (USA) – choreographer and movement director based in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Maya’s work is visible in multiple creative and commercial domains, ranging from television and film to fashion and stage performance, whilst remaining unapologetic.