The oral history of the sector is that at some event in 1994 a number of artists discussed with Marie McCluskey, a senior dance practitioner, the idea of starting an organisation for Black dancers and at the end of the discussion they said something along the lines of ‘Let’s do it’. By the end of the 1980s there was a groundswell of dancers were working independently, outside of company structures and black dancers had the added challenge of trying to build relationships with organisations that did not necessarily understand their dance practices. ADAD has supported the careers of many artists working in this field over the years directly through fellowships and performance opportunities and indirectly by developing links between organisations, supporting collaborations and creating a context for their work. And now the organisation as it celebrates its 21st year is at another time of great change in the Arts sector.

Next month The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD) will enter into a consortium with three other organizations. The 21st birthday celebration for this reason explores the theme of Then, Now and the Future for the Dance of the African Diaspora in the UK. Taking place on the 24th of March the celebration will include the launch of the 21st anniversary edition of ADAD’s newsletter Hotfoot, which will capture in its pages some of the milestones of the 21 years; and the presentation of the ADAD Life Time Achievement Award to Beverley Glean for her contribution to dance, and her promotion of African and Caribbean Peoples’ dance culturally, artistically and academically. Her company IRIE! Dance theatre which turned 30 last year will be performing and the event will be rounded off by a party.

For those new to the organization, here’s ADAD’s history in bullet points.

The organisation started in 1994 as a platform to support the professional development of Black dancers and to raise their profiles.

  • The ADAD newsletter, choreographic platforms, and road shows raised the profile of choreographers providing opportunities to work with a greater range of institutions.
  • In 2000, ADAD change direction and began to place an emphasis on promoting the practice of the dance of the African diaspora, putting an emphasis on practice over race and moving the dance ‘from the margins to the mainstream’. The Dance of the African Diaspora has become a term many dance practitioners are happy to use in relation to their work, which is no mean feat consider the history of debate around terminology in this sector!
  • ADAD has supported the development of leadership of dance practitioners working with African Diaspora forms by starting the Trailblazers professional development fellowships in 2003. There are 36 Trailblazers Alumni to date.
  • The ADAD Heritage project ‘Moments’ was launched in 2006 at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, a yearlong programme which was the first public engagement project in Britain to provide an overview of practice by black choreographers from the 1930s to date. The photographic exhibition has toured nationally reaching audiences and a footfall of over 60,000 people to date.
  • ADAD published Voicing Black Dance in 2007, a complimentary reader to the Heritage exhibition ‘Moments’.
  • In 2009 ADAD launched the biennial Bloom festival at the South Bank Centre in London to celebrate and showcase dance styles rooted in the African Diaspora. It later developed into The Bloom National Festival touring nationally in partnership with venues and other festivals nationwide and as a result has impacted tens of thousands of audiences at new indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • In 2010 ADAD hosted the biennial International conference Re:generations in partnership with IRIE! dance theatre, London Metropolitan University and State of Emergency Productions. The conference brings together artists, practitioners and academics together to discuss perspectives of Dance of the African Diaspora. The next 3 day event is slated for 3-5th November 2016 at MAC in Birmingham, with partners DeMontfort University, ACE Dance and Music, IRIE! dance theatre and dance Immersion (Canada)
  • In 2010, ADAD piloted a hub in the north region hosted by Phoenix Dance in Leeds. The South West hub followed in 2011.
  • In 2012 ADAD was included in the National Portfolio of regularly funded organisations by Arts Council England to deliver its remit of ‘Achieving Great Arts and Culture for Everyone’.
  • In 2014, ADAD received a special award by public vote. It was ‘The Ebony Business Recognition Award’ for promoting African and Caribbean cultural dances.
  • On 1st April ADAD will merge with Dance UK, National Dance Teachers Association and Youth Dance England to become One Dance UK, a single industry support body for dance in the UK.

ADAD’s material and documents will be placed with the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in Brixton, when it joins its partners in the consortium. The new organisation will work with BCA to develop a programme and events around its archive.

If you have any questions about the archive please email info@ or with the subject line ‘Information for ADAD’s archive’.

Join in the celebrations this Thursday 24th March at 7.00pm at The Oval House Theatre,  52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW. Call 44 (0)20 7841 7357 or here   for tickets -£20.

By Mercy Nabirye and ‘Funmi Adewole.