Classically trained in dance, DeAma Battle became interested in Africa-rooted dance in the 1960s. She started performing the traditional dances from Africa that spread, via the Atlantic slave trade, to the United States, the Caribbean, and South America. She not only has performed those steps and movements, Battle has studied them, with master dancers from West Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba. One of her teachers and mentors was Chuck Davis, a leading African American teacher of traditional African dance. Her research has probed deeper, into the field abroad, on dance-study tours to Haiti, Jamaica, Ghana, Senegal, Morocco, and other countries with an African cultural heritage. Battle regards modern dance pioneer Katherine Dunham, who studied the cultural traditions of Haiti, as a role model. A dancer, artistic director, and choreographer, Battle also considers herself to be a dance archivist.

In 1975, Battle founded the Art of Black Dance and Music in Somerville, Massachusetts, to perform and teach Africa-derived dances. One of the company’s goals has been to unify people of African descent “through the study of African-rooted dance, music, and folklore” to illustrate “cultural similarities within the African Diaspora.”

In this interview with Trotter Review editor Kenneth J. Cooper, Battle discusses specific dances that Africa-descended people partake in in the Americas that incorporate traditional movements still performed in West Africa. Within the Diaspora, she identifies similarities between the traditional capoeira of Brazil and the break dancing popular in America in the 1970s. The African way of moving is so embedded, Battle notes, that it shows up even in the way black people who live on different continents walk. The interview was conducted in late 2013 at the Boston Conservatory of Music, where Battle teaches.


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