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Thank You, Ntozake Shange, for “Dance We Do,” a Gift of Black Art and Black Joy!

Halifu Osumare, Aisha Kahlil, and Ntozake Shange dancing in Oakland California, circ. 1970s.
Halifu Osumare, Aisha Kahlil, and Ntozake Shange dancing in Oakland California, circ. 1970s. Photo courtesy of the Ntozake Shange Revocable Trust & Barnard College Special Collections.

It was not so long ago when we said goodbye to renowned poet, novelist, playwright, and performer Ntozake Shange. Two years ago, we received news that she had passed while working with her on what is now her first posthumous book, Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance, her tribute to those who taught her and to her passion for rhythm, movement, and dance. It’s also a personal history and celebration of Black dance, featuring stunning photos along with personal interviews with Mickey Davidson, Halifu Osumare, Camille Brown, and Dianne McIntyre.

Massive thanks go to Reneé L. Charlow and Alexis Pauline Gumbs, who helped see Dance We Do to completion! Charlow is professor of theatre at Shepherd University and worked with Ms. Shange for four years before her passing. Gumbs is another close colleague of Ms. Shange’s. And we were overjoyed with the massive turnout of folks who expressed their gratitude for her and her book! This big a crowd is a party—a party worthy of a beautiful gift with BLACK JOY written in all caps on it from a brilliant artist. We join our gratitude with these awesome people.


“Through Ntozake Shange’s personal memories of dance—what it has meant to her, how she came to know, understand, and feel it—we are taken on a journey that chronicles some of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the latter part of the twentieth century.”
—Phylicia Rashad

“A gorgeous last offering from one of our most gifted and multifaceted artists. Her passion for dance, just like her passion for words, is among the many reasons she will be missed, though these insightful interviews, ruminations, and reflections will continue to be a balm, across generations, from her to us.rdquo;
—Edwidge Danticat, author of Everything Inside

“A workaholic to her last breath, Ntozake Shange has left us with a book that expands our knowledge of Black dance. Not only is it a textbook but it was composed by someone who created a new form. A true innovator.”
—Ishmael Reed, author of Malcolm and Me

“Ntozake Shange presents a language of movement that only she knew—relearned with clarity and courage, and unveiled to the world as a black American groove of words in commemorative motion.”
—Rebecca Carroll, author of Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America and host of the podcast Come Through with Rebecca Carroll

“Ntozake Shange delivered her gifts to us embossed with directions, and permission, to create our own magic and miracle and movement. Dance We Do is her final gift to us, but it is, like she was, a gift that will nourish and replenish us for generations to come.”
—Bassey Ikpi, author of I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying

“In Dance We Do, Ntozake Shange offers the living history of Black dance our current movements need. In these conversations’ exquisite choreography, we witness the artist’s incomparable poetic stretch, her dazzling theoretical reach, and her unparalleled ability to name the deep political necessity of Black bodily knowledge. Here, we see Shange as teacher and theorist, charting the spiral histories of Black dance with the eloquence of a lyrical rond de jambe. Her keen and tender reflections on dance greats such as Dianne McIntyre and Dyane Harvey set the beat for interviews with newer voices like Camille A. Brown and Davalois Fearon, alongside whom we learn from Shange’s great vision and pedagogy. To read Dance We Do is to move with a master. It is to learn not only what Black dance means, why Black bodies matter, but how. Dance We Do makes its meanings elegantly, fearlessly, with the endless precision of Blackness itself: a full vocabulary of bodies and lives, writing rhythms that out-move time.”
—Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, PhD, author of Blue Talk and Love

“Blessed are we to have a new work by the inimitable Ntozake Shange, whose writing is a balm for the soul. Sharing with readers her earliest body memories, Shange takes us into the most intimate spaces of her own fleshy form and, by extension, those of the oft overlooked Black dancers she spotlights. She makes us feel the connections between body and brain, the ache of overworked muscles, the discipline required to make jetés and fouettés appear effortless, as we linger on every word of this taut work of Black brilliance, wanting our eyes to forever dance on its pages.”
—Tanisha C. Ford, author of Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion

Dance We Do holds an eternal flame for the embodied work and life of Ntozake Shange. This new work is our spiritual relevé. It helps us rise to our toes and once again honor Black bodies as beautiful, magical, and elegant. Each chapter is a radical intervention that brings us closer to the Black Radical Tradition of exploring our rhythms. Shange has always known that Black lives matter, and this text is a reminder of her commitment to the nuance of Blackness. While reading I had to stand up, move around, walk, and signify with the text. Thank you, Shange, once again for bringing us home.”
—Jamara Wakefield, writer

“A dancer first, the irrepressible Ntozake Shange writes of her art with passion and humor.”
—Jennifer Dunning, author of Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance

’A celebration of poetry, mentorship, music, and the Black body in movement and art.”
—Aku Kadogo, chair, Department of Theater and Performance, Spelman College

“Remarkable—provoking—insightful. Ntozake Shange’s Dance We Do is a valuable document for those interested in the foundational elements that make dance what it is today, especially Black dance. A real look-see into a world many people knew about but that has never been explored. A must-read for those interested in identifying and understanding where much of American dance concepts today are derived.”
—Otis Sallid, producer, director, and choreographer 


About Ntozake Shange 

Ntozake Shange (1948–2018) was a renowned poet, novelist, playwright, and performer, best known for her Broadway-produced and Obie Award–winning choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. She wrote numerous works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, including If I Can Cook/You Know God CanWild Beauty, and Sassafras.