Dance and movement has been a focal point in Black culture for centuries. Former professional dancer Tajana Bunton-Williams, who once performed alongside Beyoncé at Coachella and on the legendary Formation World Tour is continuing to spotlight more of the stories that influence dance and its healing properties, which impact Black communities in her short film Back Beat.
The story was born from Tajana’s longtime passion for dance and her newfound love for filmmaking. She has achieved several milestones within the dance community such as working on a number of music videos and live performances for notable artists like Ari Lennox, Chika, and Bas.
Back Beat shines a necessary spotlight on the plight, beauty, creativity, resilience and kinship of Black professional dancers. The short film highlights stories from Black dancers about being tokenized, marginalized and ultimately overlooked. It also features music from Atlanta rapper Deante’ Hitchcock, Memphis artist JEFF, and London musician cktrl.
The dancers within the film share the challenges they each face while maintaining the joy the community of dance brings them. The story discusses the parallel between the centrality of dance to family gatherings, and it helps to reclaim ownerships of their movements, which are generally appropriated as we noticed from the Black TikTok users strike.
“I wanted to make a film that celebrates Black people through the voices of Black professional dancers in the industry in Los Angeles,” Tajana notes of her inspiration for the short film. “The commercial dance industry is structured in a way that primarily undermines career growth of Black Talent and excludes them from opportunities to monetize their gifts in sustainable ways. Unlike the culture of Ballet or Contemporary dance, Hip-hop dancers struggle to make a living as more than background props for a music artist. Rarely are they showcased for their innate gifts and artistry outside of a music video or a live tour for a recording artist. I hope that ‘Back Beat’ will empower Black people, celebrate Black joy & hopefully the next time someone watches hip-hop dance they can see it for the vulnerable and deeply skilled storytelling, art form that it is.”
Tajana’s cultural background ranges from her Sierra Leonean heritage and experience living between Los Angeles and London. Her roots continue to influence the way she tells stories. The new filmmaker has always been a storyteller. She began her her career as an accomplished dancer and she is now a well sought out visual artist, specializing in filmmaking, branded content and commercials. Her work brings her natural eye for movement and compassion to the forefront.