Roy Gilbert

From the Lindy Hop to Hip-Hop in One Improvising Body

If you want to understand the connections between jazz dance and its progeny you could read a book or take a course. But how much more efficient and fun just to watch LaTasha Barnes do her thing .

Barnes is a scholar of dance in the academic sense, recently credentialed with a master’s degree from New York University. But it’s her embodied knowledge that’s more rare and influential. A tough-to-beat champion in the club-derived form known as house, she has, without conceding that field, also become a leader in Lindy Hop, a form that despite being created by Black dancers has long suffered a deficit of Black practitioners. LaTasha Barnes is a dance bridge between genres that seldom intersect.Credit…Nathan Bajar for The New York Times This all makes Barnes a bridge between worlds that seldom intersect, a connector, or a rather a re-connector, since the styles and subcultures that she joins — encompassing much of the world-conquering dance that gestated in African-American communities in the past century or so — are all branches of a family whose members often don’t recognize one another.

It’s this lack of recognition that Barnes can repair, seemingly with ease. To watch her dance, especially to jazz music, is to watch historical distance collapse. Steps and attitudes separated by eras flow through her improvising body not as some premeditated fusion but as a single language she appears to have always known and yet is creating on the spot. The links are self-evident, unforced, authentic without a […]

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