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Tristen Davis (left), Dajah Howard (center), and KeShawn Mellon rehearse a dance move on Wednesday, Oct. 30 2019.

Athens Black Contemporary Dancers celebrate inclusivity

Athens Black Contemporary Dancers (ABCD) is a student organization at Ohio University that celebrates inclusivity, introduces students to different cultures and styles of dance and incorporates dance as an art form into performances around campus.

ABCD started with a group of dance majors who wanted to start something new and inclusive, and over time it has transformed into a diverse group of both dance and non-dance majors. The group seeks to culminate the appreciation of dance from both experienced and non-experienced dancers. It currently has 15 members, which are primarily African-Americans. However, the group welcomes talent from people of all backgrounds.

ABCD was founded in the fall of 2005, and Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, director of the OU Multicultural Center, was in graduate school at the time. She knew the founders as well as the people who took the group over, and was eventually asked to advise the group.

“I’m not a dancer, and I’m not in the arts,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “But the group was a good fit for me and I’m proud to advise them.”

Tristen Davis, a senior studying criminology, has been a part of the organization since the first semester of her freshman year.

“The main goal of the group is to expose different students, even non-dance majors, to different dance styles and different cultures,” Davis, the co-president, said.

The title of the group contains the word contemporary, but the group also incorporates hip-hop, jazz, ballet and African dancing. African is a style of dancing that is free-flowing, but also technical, Davis said.

“Everything requires a beat,” Davis said. “African requires a lot of endurance, dancers are constantly moving and it takes a lot of control.”

To Davis, ABCD has helped her learn a lot more about technique even though she has danced most of her life.

Dajah Howard, a senior studying translational biomedical sciences, said she is glad she joined and likes the diversity of the dance forms that the group incorporates.

“I joined because I love dancing,” Howard said. “I’ve been dancing since I was four years old. I had some friends in ABCD, and I liked their performances. Most organizations stick to one form of dancing, and I like that we do different styles of dancing.”

ABCD has several performances throughout the year. It has performed at events such as the Multicultural Student Expo, Harlem Nights, the Black Alumni Reunion Variety show, the Martin Luther King Jr. brunch and the Black Student Cultural Programming Board Kwanzaa Celebration.

Davis said the group usually hosts dance classes, but the fall semester has been very busy with all of the performances to prepare for. The group plans to get back into teaching the classes in November.

Cierra Hill, a senior studying dance, joined her freshman year to have something extra to incorporate dance with that was less serious than her studies.

Hill’s freshman year peer mentor, Kaitlin Wilson, was a part of the group and introduced her to it. Hill said Wilson groomed her and Davis into being co-presidents.

“Building a community out of ABCD is really important to me,” Hill, co-president, said.

Through ABCD, Hill said she learned how to be a president. 

“There is a lot I already knew,” Hill said. “But there’s a lot more that comes along with scheduling events and teaching.”

Hill also teaches hip-hop to Athens middle and high school dancers at Factory Street Dance Studio, 37 Ohio Ave.

Hill said ABCD helped her socially while getting used to the college setting.

“Coming to school as an introvert, joining organizations like ABCD helped me come out of my shell,” Hill said. “It’s a strong community focused on involvement and inclusiveness.”

KeShawn Mellon, a junior studying acting, said ABCD helped him become more accepted and comfortable because of its inclusivity.

“Coming to a school that is predominantly white, it makes it difficult,” Mellon said. “Joining an organization that focuses on inclusivity is nice because you get to have a group that goes through what you go through, and it also created a safer space.”


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