In celebration of Black History Month, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a special event in honor of the contributions women of color have made to dance.
The first lady moderated a panel discussion with several living legends, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Judith Jamison, Debbie Allen, the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Virginia Johnson, and Hip-Hop choreographer Fatima Robinson.
“Today is a very special day at The White House. It’s very special for me personally because I absolutely love dance. I think it’s probably my favorite art form,” said Mrs. Obama.
The audience for the Q&A session included 51 dance students from the Washington, DC area who were presented with the exclusive opportunity to listen to the iconic dancers, and be apart of dance workshops where they learned from the experts themselves.
An official press release from The White House described today’s festivities as young enthusiasts “telling the story of African American history and culture through dance.”
Prior to the start of the event, Mrs. Obama explained the importance of paying homage to the women that broke barriers in the realm of dance. “It wasn’t that long ago that many major ballet companies wouldn’t hire Black dancers,” she said. “And the few Black dancers that were hired were sometimes asked to wear white pancake makeup to hide their face from the audience. Some of the women who are with us today felt the sting of the discrimination first hand.”
Mrs. Obama went on to encourage the young women not to take their opportunities for granted. She reiterated that because of women like Jamison, Allen, Johnson and Robinson, they too could impact the lives of others through dance. “Prepare yourself to seize that opportunity when the moment comes,” added the First Lady.
Check out photos and videos from the exciting day below!