Tell us who you are & what you do... My name is big tara. I am a dancer, an NYC culture keeper, a health /wellness coach and an herbalist.
When did you start dancing? Why? I started dancing when I was 4. Well that was when my ma first put me in jazz, tap and ballet classes. When I was 6, I started breaking since that was how we danced in my hood and I loooved Beat Street. Since it was a social thing, it transitioned with time to more hip hop and I could learn hip hop easier from friends and tv.
Do you feel like black women are represented in mainstream and underground dance culture? I actually don’t. We fought to get our Black Girl Magic recognized but we still don’t get full credit for our contributions. I feel like certain types of black women are more easily represented and embraced. I don’t feel like there are so many black women like me who are bgirls and women who are more natural (natural hair, light to no make up). I would love more variety in terms of our individual stories. This is supposed to be art. When I first started I couldn’t get by with my natural hair, without tons of make up and being sexualized. I just wanted to dance but not under those conditions. It took away from my enjoyment and freedom. Social media and people learning to embrace different types of beauty have improved things but I think it’s still distorted. I do think there is colorism, ageism, and too much catering to industry standards.
What are the typical beauty/image standards synonyms with black women dancers? When I think of black woman dancer stereotypes, I think of Ciara, Megan, Teyana so generally speaking it’s that kind of build like a toned stripper, long hair or weave, big booty, in their 20’s or 30’s and ready to slay. Meanwhile dancers come in all types of shapes, shades of skin, sizes, and ages. I recently was learning this dance piece to Arianna Grande’s “God is a Woman” and while the message of the song said one thing the choreographer chose to only cast a certain “look” and age to be part of this piece. It was a great learning experience to see how closed minded people are when it comes to casting and also how scared people are to take risks when it comes to thinking outside the box and having a real vision that can include more than one type of woman.
Does social media take away from the authenticity of dance? I think that social media takes away from dance in the sense that it provides more of an opportunity to spread wrong information, more opportunities to plagiarize, and it sometimes takes away from the integrity of a dance if it’s appropriated in the process. Social media does have its pros. You can connect with and discover awesome dancers, learn more dances from all over the world and it is a healthy outlet to share your gift.
What do you want people to know about black dancing bodies? When it comes to Black dancing bodies, it would be great if people loved black lives, black bodies, and the black history that created the black dances everyone is so excited to learn and emulate.
Any last thoughts? I would love for us to keep strengthening our community, protecting the integrity of all the culture that black dancing bodies create and for black people and all that they bring to be honored with dignity and love.