Guest curator Ramsay Burt on the visitor response to our British dance: Black routes exhibition which looks at the experience of Black British dancers including the late, great, Elroy Josephz.
"A friend recently visited the International Slavery Museum and said he liked the way the British dance: Black routes exhibition is placed: 'After you walk through the main collection, with all its painful associations, it is great', he said, 'to end up with something so affirmative'.
"He also liked the section ‘Did the critics get it right?’ because he said it made you think. One of the students, who came to a symposium we held back in October, said something similar. She picked out one of the quotes in particular – I won’t say which – and I had to admit it was from a review I’d written in the early 1980s.
"Looking back now, I don’t think I always got it right. The students all said that the exhibition introduced them to a history that they hadn’t known and no one previously had told them existed. The biggest surprise for them, and for most people it seems, is the information about Elroy Josephz.
"During the symposium Sue Lancaster and Steve Mulrooney told us about his beginnings as a young Jamaican immigrant who got a small part in one of the last performances by Les Ballets Negres, then went on to work in television and on stage, starting one of the first community dance projects in London before coming up to Liverpool to teach at I M Marsh, becoming the first Black British University lecturer teaching dance.
"While Elroy was teaching there, they told us, he found the time to write a thesis about the policing of the riots in Toxteth. The more we find out about him the more fascinating he becomes. He’s definitely someone whose life and career needs more research."
Ramsay Burt is Professor of Dance History at De Montfort University and has co-curated this exhibition with Christy Adair, Professor of Dance Studies at York St John University.
British dance: Black routes runs until 23 March 2014 at the International Slavery Museum. The exhibition explores the experiences of Black British dancers from 1946 to 2005 and highlights their contributions to British dance.
Read more about this exhibition in a recent Guardian article by journalist Sanjoy Roy.