DOI: 10.1177/00961442231211307 ISSN: 0096-1442

Civic Education and Artistic Innovation on New York City’s Dancemobile, 1967-1988

Emily Hawk
  • Urban Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • History

The Dancemobile—an initiative of the Harlem Cultural Council and New York City (NYC) Department of Cultural Affairs—was a flatbed truck that brought free dance concerts to over one million New Yorkers, in all five boroughs, between 1966 and 1988. The program had an artistic aim to showcase the work of Black choreographers within communities of color, and thus became a vital forum for defining “Black dance” within the broader Black Arts Movement. But Dancemobile also had a political mission within the framework of violence prevention and “cool out,” aiming to provide communities with an outlet for channeling grievances into fellowship with neighbors. Dancemobile choreography addressed issues of importance to their audiences, including drug addiction, mass incarceration, and police brutality. This article examines Dancemobile’s origins, operations, and outcomes, revealing how the program used live performance as cultural activism, combatting the isolating effects of urban renewal with entertainment and political education.

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