On February 17, at 2 pm, the Plainsboro Public Library will celebrate Black History Month — through dance and song — with Carol Watson-Johnson and a troupe of teenage dancers from her school in Trenton.
Entitled “From Africa to America,” the presentation will chronicle the history of African Americans in the US — from the time of slavery through the Civil Rights movement and the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president.
Gospel songs, music of the Harlem Renaissance, and songs of the Civil Rights movement will all be part of the program, for which Watson-Johnson has choreographed contemporary dance steps.
Director of her own dance studio for the past 27 years, Watson-Johnson says she first presented “From Africa to America” 20 years ago at the Solebury School in Pennsylvania. Over the years, of course, she has had to modify that original program, to incorporate relevant new songs and historical events.
For the past five years, she and her students have performed “From Africa to America” regularly in a variety of venues, including libraries and schools. “We are a travelling company,” she explains, “invited to different engagements.”
Her students, Watson-Johnson says, range in age from two and a half to adult. At her studio they can study ballet, jazz, tap, and modern dance. She recently hired a Hip Hop coach, as well.
Students have gone on to dance with Bill T. Jones, and with The Black Eyed Peas. Some of them have also won national television dance competitions. “All of the students who really wanted to pursue a career in the art, have done so and have done well,” Watson-Johnson says, adding that some students have even opened their own dance studios.
The Plainsboro Library is located at 9 Van Doren, Plainsboro, phone: 609-275-2897.
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