Preston Pavlis, when the jig is up, when the act is finished, when the curtain descends (detail), 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900 – 1970 and Now


Leonard Gibson photo.

Photograph of Leonard Gibson, date and photographer unknown.

It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900 – 1970 and Now illuminates the largely undocumented dance history of Canada’s Black population before 1970, with responses from contemporary performing and visual artists reflecting on how the archival resonates in this moment, and in Alberta.

Curated by Seika Boye, PhD, this archival exhibition exposes the representation of Blackness on Canadian stages, as well as audience and media reception of Black performance in Canada during this era. It’s About Time also explores legislation of leisure culture, dance lessons and the role of social dances at mid-century. Featured are individual dance artists such as Leonard Gibson, Ola Skanks, Ethel Bruneau, Joey Hollingsworth and Kathryn Brown.

This is the fourth presentation of the archival materials in It’s About Time. New to this iteration, Boye has invited contemporary performing and visual artists — either from or currently based in Alberta — to respond to the archive and consider what the history of Black people dancing in Canada reveals about our contemporary moment.

Featuring dance artists Michèle Moss and Ashley “Colours” Perez, visual artists Braxton Garneau and Preston Pavlis, author Cheryl Foggo, with graphic response by Adriana Contreras and photography by Mike Tan.


Archival exhibition commissioned by Dance Collection Danse in 2017, copyright Seika Boye.


Virtual exhibition


Welcome to the virtual exhibition of It’s About Time: Dancing Black in Canada 1900-1970 and Now. Please consider this version of the exhibition a bridge between the bricks and mortar installation (September 15 – December 5, 2020) and the upcoming website to be launched in the coming weeks. What is offered here is a glimpse into the installation choices, the scope of the work and the relationship between the original archival exhibit and newly commissioned artworks by Cheryl Foggo, Michèle Moss with Mike Tan, Ashley Perez with Adriana Contreras, Braxton Garneau and Preston Pavlis.

Following the ‘i’s will give you access to didactic panels that provide context for the archival ephemera on display. These include the Curator’s Message; Legislation and Protest; Dance in and for Communities; Reception and Representation; and Performing Artists and the Stage. While you will be able to see the general arrangement of archival work, this virtual bridge does not provide details about each object. That is coming via a forthcoming website dedicated to the exhibition.

I invited artists to respond to archival materials and historical contexts about the Black population and dance in Canada. They were given digital access to these materials over the course of spring and summer 2020. For further engagement with the process and inspiration behind these works, please follow the MAG on Instagram and Facebook to view recordings and upcoming programming.

Carolyn and I offer this bridge in the time of COVID because travel is restricted, and it is our shared priority to stay safe. As a dancer and human being, I know that nothing replaces in person contact and experience, but our time apart can include learning and experiences that will influence and inform our reunions with one another. Thank you for taking time to visit this way.

Please enjoy and share.

Keep dancing.

Seika Boye
October 2020


View the virtual exhibition


Dance Collection Danse Logo.

John and Maggie Mitchell Art Gallery