In her first posthumous work, the revered poet crafts a personal history of Black dance and captures the careers of legendary dancers along with her own rhythmic beginnings.
Product Code: 8395
ISBN: 9780807091876
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 160
Published Date: 10/13/2020
Availability:In stock
Price: $19.95

Many learned of Ntozake Shange’s ability to blend movement with words when her acclaimed choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf made its way to Broadway in 1976, eventually winning an Obie Award the following year. But before she found fame as a writer, poet, performer, dancer, and storyteller, she was an untrained student who found her footing in others’ classrooms. Dance We Do is a tribute to those who taught her and her passion for rhythm, movement, and dance.

After 20 years of research, writing, and devotion, Ntozake Shange tells her history of Black dance through a series of portraits of the dancers who trained her, moved with her, and inspired her to share the power of the Black body with her audience. Shange celebrates and honors the contributions of the often unrecognized pioneers who continued the path Katherine Dunham paved through the twentieth century. Dance We Do features a stunning photo insert along with personal interviews with Mickey Davidson, Halifu Osumare, Camille Brown, and Dianne McIntyre. In what is now one of her final works, Ntozake Shange welcomes the reader into the world she loved best.

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Outlive: Dance and the Eternal Life of Ntozake Shange
Foreword by Alexis Pauline Gumbs


Dance in My Life

Fred Benjamin

Raymond Sawyer

Dianne McIntyre

Mickey Davidson

Halifu Osumare

Ed Mock

An Interview with Dyane Harvey

Eleo Pomare

Otis Sallid

An Interview with Camille A. Brown

An Interview with Davalois Fearon

Afterword by Reneé L. Charlow

Biographies of Dancers and Choreographers by Mickey Davidson

Glossary by Mickey Davidson, Dianne McIntyre, and Halifu Osumare

A Note from the Ntozake Shange Revocable Trust

Photo Credits


“Of interest to those familiar with Shange’s written work, and generally to dancers and dance historians.” - Library Journal

“Ntozake Shange’s Dance We Do is a gorgeous last offering from one of our most gifted and multifaceted artists. Her passion for dance, just like her passion for words, is among the many reasons she will be missed, though these insightful interviews, ruminations, and reflections will continue to be a balm, across generations, from her to us.” - Edwidge Danticat, author of Everything Inside

“A workaholic to her last breath, Ntozake Shange has left us with a book that expands our knowledge of Black dance. Not only is it a textbook but it was composed by someone who created a new form. A true innovator.” - Ishmael Reed, author of Malcolm and Me

“In Dance We Do, Ntozake Shange presents a language of movement that only she knew— - elearned with clarity and courage, and unveiled to the world as a black American groove of words in commemorative motion.” - Rebecca Carroll, author of Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America and host of the podcast Come Through with Rebecca Carroll

“As a dancer and a writer and a Black girl in a Black body with Black dreams and Black fears and Black hopes and no idea how to shape the world or the words, Ntozake Shange was my teacher and my mother. The magic and the magician. She was the blueprint. She was the road map. She was the beacon; the light. Dance was my first language, the way I learned to speak before I knew the written word would be my weapon of choice. Dance We Do is a praise song for dance and dancers. It is a love poem for anyone who has ever looked in wonder as a dancer defies gravity with their body and casts spells with their presence. In her most noted works, Shange taught us how to sing a Black girl’s song; in Dance We Do, she teaches us how important it is to move with it too.” - Bassey Ikpi, author of I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying

“In Dance We Do, Ntozake Shange offers the living history of Black dance our current movements need. In these conversations’ exquisite choreography, we witness the artist’s incomparable poetic stretch, her dazzling theoretical reach, and her unparalleled ability to name the deep political necessity of Black bodily knowledge. Here, we see Shange as teacher and theorist, charting the spiral histories of Black dance with the eloquence of a lyrical rond de jambe. Her keen and tender reflections on dance greats such as Dianne McIntyre and Dyane Harvey set the beat for interviews with newer voices like Camille A. Brown and Davalois Fearon, alongside whom we learn from Shange’s great vision and pedagogy. To read Dance We Do is to move with a master. It is to learn not only what Black dance means, why Black bodies matter, but how. Dance We Do makes its meanings elegantly, fearlessly, with the endless precision of Blackness itself: a full vocabulary of bodies and lives, writing rhythms that out-move time.” - Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, PhD, author of Blue Talk and Love

Dance We Do holds an eternal flame for the embodied work and life of Ntozake Shange. This new work is our spiritual relevé. It helps us rise to our toes and once again honor Black bodies as beautiful, magical, and elegant. Each chapter is a radical intervention that brings us closer to the Black Radical Tradition of exploring our rhythms. Shange has always known that Black lives matter, and this text is a reminder of her commitment to the nuance of Blackness. While reading I had to stand up, move around, walk, and signify with the text. Thank you, Shange, once again for bringing us home.” - Jamara Wakefield, writer

“A dancer first, the irrepressible Ntozake Shange writes of her art with passion and humor. She examines the relationships of movement and words and of ‘natchel’ to formal dance, plunging the reader into the special camaraderie of the studio. Her subjects, renowned and lesser-known Black teachers and choreographers, offer revelations of their own.” - Jennifer Dunning, author of Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance

“Ntozake Shange’s Dance We Do gives us a glimpse into the methods of some of the most dynamic African American dance scholar-choreographers, whose influences from the ’70s to today can still be felt and experienced. In this jewel of a book, Shange also reveals her relationship with each of the featured dancers and their impact upon her multifaceted artistry. Dance We Do is a celebration of poetry, mentorship, music, and the Black body in movement and art.” - Aku Kadogo, chair, Department of Theater and Performance, Spelman College

“Remarkable - provoking - insightful. Ntozake Shange’s Dance We Do is a valuable document for those interested in the foundational elements that make dance what it is today, especially Black dance. A real look-see into a world many people knew about but that has never been explored. A must-read for those interested in identifying and understanding where much of American dance concepts today are derived.” - Otis Sallid, producer, director, and choreographer

“Amazing! Through Ntozake Shange’s personal memories of dance - what it has meant to her, how she came to know, understand, and feel it - we are taken on a journey that chronicles some of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the latter part of the twentieth century. These masters of dance and movement, known to some yet unknown to most, are now archived through excerpts of interviews and passages of remembrance.” - Phylicia Rashad

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