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The Dance Historian Is In: Performance as Research in the Afrofuture

February 28 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Scholar Dr. Halifu Osumare explores how performance as research is at the heart of Katherine Dunham’s legacy, as she explores the Afrofuture

For this Dance Historian Is In, Dance educator and Black popular culture scholar Dr. Halifu Osumare speaks about her book, Dancing the Afrofuture: Hula, Hip-Hop, and the Dunham Legacy (2024), which chronicles the next stage in her life and career from dancer-activist to academic scholar following her 2018 memoir Dancing In Blackness. Hailing from the Bay Area in California, Osumare began studying with the great Katherine Dunham in the late 1980s, after founding her own Africanist dance center in Oakland. She also founded her own national dance initiative, Black Choreographers Moving Toward the 21st Century.

Dr. Osumare presents from Dancing the Afrofuture exploring her relationship with Dunham while studying hula in Hawai‘i and simultaneously researching and publishing a book about global hip-hop, all while earning her doctorate from the University of Hawai‘i. In so doing, Dr. Osumare demonstrates how performance as research is at the heart of Dunham’s legacy, as she explores the Afrofuture.

For more than 10 years, The Dance Historian Is In at the Library for the Performing Arts has highlighted a diverse range of dancers and choreographers across history. This series began when archivist and historian David Vaughan started volunteering at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Vaughan began a monthly program showing his favorite dance films from the Division’s extensive collection, through which he unearthed many treasures, and helped acquire in even more. Vaughan continued the series until the end of his life. Today, we honor his memory and work by inviting dance historians from all over the world each month to carry on the tradition of highlighting dance history through the Dance Division’s moving image collection.

Photo Credit: Headshot of Dr. Halifu Osumare. Photo from author’s personal archives.

This event will take place online via Zoom as well as in person at The Library for the Performing Arts.

*A streaming link will be emailed to everyone on the morning of the event for those wishing to attend virtually.

SEATING POLICY | Programs are free and open to all, but registration is requested. Check-in line forms 45 minutes before the advertised start time. Registered guests are given priority check-in 15 to 30 minutes before start time. Five minutes before the advertised start time, all seats are released, regardless of registration, to our patrons in the stand-by line. If you arrive after the program starts, you will be seated at the discretion of our front-of-house staff.

STANDBY LINE | If registration is sold out or has ended, do not fret! We welcome you to come to the Library regardless of registration status and wait in our standby line, which forms 45 minutes before the advertised start time. Five minutes before the program starts, all remaining seats are released. While this is not guaranteed, we will do our best to get you into any of our programs.

ASSISTIVE LISTENING AND ASL | ASL interpretation and real-time (CART) captioning available upon request. Please submit your request at least two weeks in advance by emailing

BRUNO WALTER POLICY | Please note that any unoccupied seat will be released five minutes before the show begins and holding seats for anyone beyond that is prohibited. There is no food or drink allowed inside the venue.

AUDIO/VIDEO RECORDING | Programs may be photographed and recorded by and at the discretion of the Library for the Performing Arts and will post signs indicating as such. If you would prefer your image not be captured, please let us know and we can seat you accordingly. Attending any program indicates your consent to being filmed/photographed and your consent to the use of your recorded image for any and all purposes of the New York Public Library.

PRESS | Please send all press inquiries to Alex Teplitzky at Please note that all recording, including professional video recordings, are prohibited without expressed consent from the Library.

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