Why do you get all these strange looks,” he demanded. “They’re not real. And if you want to dance, I’m glad you came with us. But you’re gonna learn to dance, not like this, if you’re not going to learn to dance.”
That seemed to take most people by surprise — it’s not something most people in the music business get in to. “Most people don’t know I’m a dancer,” says John McDonel, who is president of the New York-based National Jazz Dance Alliance, a nonprofit organization. “If they do, I’m surprised they have the courage to bring it up. It’s about dancing as a tool. If you’re going to use your body to create a sound, the best way to use it is via dancing. You have to dance to create a sound, right?”
He cites two recent incidents in which young hip-hop artists — some young enough to be your children — used their bodies in the service of their art, in part by dancing with white women and white men in white tuxedos. In the “We Are the World” video by Jay West, some dancers perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Dancing is Life,” with a chorus that calls for a more “humble and virtuous” America. In the video, West performs with dancers that include Michael Phelps, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson, who also performed at President Obama’s inauguration.
And in the same year, an Atlanta-based artist, Tae-Seop Lee, took over the National Black Jazz Jazz Music Society, a nonprofit organization that raises money for local community organizations. Lee had been the president of the Jazz Orchestra. “It’s about building community and sharing,” says Joe Williams, the head of the association. “I’m all about empowerment.”
“So is the white man in charge?” I asked.
“I think so,” he said. “He has great vision and imagination.”
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