DARLENE BLACKBURN

"Hearing Stone and Camryn talk about all these dances, I said,'Well Lord, I don't know what they're talking about.' Let me go to the library."

Her Chicago Dance Teachers

"[My mother] definitely didn't want me to get involved in dancing because, at that time, Blacks were only doing exotic dancing and making money."

Her Love for Social Dance

Darlene Blackburn, the founder of the Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe, started dancing at an early age in Chicago. Her international dance studies and experiences in Ghana and Nigeria, including three years as the Artist-in-Residence at the University of Calabar in Nigeria, helped to shape her work as a dance instructor and choreographer at Chicago institutions such as the Calumet Career Preparatory Academy, the Chicago Boys and Girls Club, and the Goodman Theatre.

October 06, 2017: At her home in Chicago, Darlene Blackburn details her lifelong involvement in dance, from social dancing and early training to various collaborations and forming her own company, the Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe. She describes the racial tensions she experienced, especially while growing up, but also the issues her students have faced in recent years. Blackburn speaks at length about teaching, both in Chicago and also in many situations in Africa. She describes how experiencing different cultures influenced her work.

"They'd tell me to ignore that stuff. I tried to but it didn't work. I'm not going to pretend it worked."

Racial Discrimination in the '60s

"I wanted them to know what this movement meant, and how it's part of the country and about the people. "

Becoming Rooted in African Dance

"I didn't want to go over there and show them I could do African dancing, I wanted to show them the stuff we are doing IS African dance."

Representing US Dance at FESTAC

"I choreographed a piece called 'From Africa to America' where I showed that relationship between African dance and social dances of Black Americans."

Cultural Exchange with the Ghanan Dance Ensemble

"They need someplace to put that energy and dance is one of those good places."

Dance, Gardening, and Survival