Africans brought their dances to North and South America, and the Caribbean Islands as slave labor was starting in the 1500s. Dance has always been an integral part of daily life in Africa. In the Americas, it helped enslaved Africans connect with their homeland keeping their cultural traditions alive. As before enslavement, Africans danced for special occasions, such as a birth or a marriage, or as a part of their daily activities. For Africans, dance affirmed life and the outlook of a better future.
Praise dance or liturgical dance has become an important part of worship in the African American church. It's roots stem all the way back from what Christians believe to be biblical times, when in the Hebrew tradition, dance functioned as a medium of prayer and praise, as an expression of joy and reverence, and as a mediator between God and humanity. Praise dancing in modern day times can include jazz, modern, African and even hip hop dance set to gospel music. It has become an integral part of the African American church and culture.
I started dancing as a little girl. I would listen to the tunes of old and became captivated by the sounds that came out of the radio. I would spend hours singing and dancing in my room to the sounds of Aretha Franklin, Chubby Checker, and Elvis Presley. I would create these elaborate dance routines that I would perform at family gatherings. One day my mother had me to make up a dance to a gospel song for a church program. The people were captivated and that's when I found my calling.