“I came back to Baltimore because I believe in the city and want to help heal the trauma,” said Breai Mason-Campbell. “I understand what causes so much grief. I’m an artist, so I help heal through dance.”
Mason-Campbell, Baltimore mom of three, is the founder of Moving History, a dance curriculum that explores movement traditions that began as American folk art. Why? Mason-Campbell and her colleagues saw a need to build creative self expression and community in Baltimore. The curriculum’s core repertoire – – Breakin’, Locking, Lindy Hop, Baltimore Club, West African Dance, Vernacular Jazz, Tap and East Coast Swing – – are rigorous disciplines with international impact. But they didn’t want to teach movement in a vacuum. The curriculum combines teaching technical dance skills with developing student awareness about significant, historical events such as the Harlem Renaissance, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Great Migration.
“‘Moving History’ tells the story of African people through movement,” said Mason-Campbell. “We build the same sense of cultural appreciation that you might build through ballet – but through African dance.”
Moving History began as a project of Guardian Dance Company, a cooperative of teaching artists, “who have crafted an educational methodology for achieving a more just society through a cultural awareness curriculum that promotes the respect of self and others.” As you can imagine, Moving History played an enormous role in fulfilling that mission; however, leadership realized that in order to serve a larger audience, Moving History needed to spin off and become its own non-profit organization.
Even as a relatively new non-profit – and coming into its own amidst a global pandemic – Moving History has been making an impact. Last year alone, they served over 1000 Baltimore City students through Charm City Virtual and local rec center programs. This year, they’re on track to serve even more Baltimore kids.
Beginning in February, Moving History is partnering with The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center to develop a new studio approach to the transmission of culture and history: Moving History Dance Studio. During their first session, the new studio is offering youth classes in Lindy Hop, Baltimore Club, West African, and Breakin’.
“I want parents to consider signing up their children for Lindy Hop or West African dance class in the same way that they think about signing up their child for ballet or piano lessons,” said Mason-Campbell. “There is so much technique and perseverance that goes into those dance forms. Those classes are a great building block for any child, including those who are looking for a pre-professional program.”
Want to try a class? Moving History Dance Studio is offering FREE classes in the African American Tradition this February at the Eubie Blake Center in celebration of Black History Month. Instruction includes classes in Breakin’, Lindy Hop, Tap, West African, and Baltimore Club. Join them for food, movement and fun – but be sure to preregister! Please note that masks are required for participation.
FREE Moving History Dance Classes
Dates: Sundays Feb. 6 and Feb. 20
Location: Eubie Blake Center • 847 N Howard St. • Baltimore, MD 21201
2:00p – 3:00p Lindy Hop (Feb 6) / Tap (Feb 20)
3:15p – 4:30p West African
4:45p – 5:45p Baltimore Club
6:00p – 7:00p Breakin’
Editor’s Note: Images were provided by Moving History.