They came with no name. Engaged with a variety of professions connected to transnational trade – from merchants to sailors, from labourers to soldiers, they made their way to Britain for transient and maybe more permanent settlements. They forged lives as performers for the entertainment of the aristocratic and the military elites of British society, most could leave little traces of their dance. In contrast to many of the early arrivals, later travellers could assert their distinct identity, finding themselves amidst a collision, or in the quiet merging of chaotic worlds. A Very British Rhythm invokes respect befitting the arduous journeys that have been taking place over centuries, to marginalisation and erasures, to the vocabulary of risk and success, to the strength and beauty of dance.

Dance is as much creativity and cultural legacy as much as it is sharp, precise, human labour. It exists in the very beings and bodies of artists of colour. The history of dance in Britain is ineluctably woven with the matrices of colonial power. It may not be apparent. But it is present. The current conditions of prejudices and biases have their origins in the codes of racial differences invented by imperial powers. A Very British Rhythm quests to channel ongoing dialogues about narratives we preserve, exhume, commemorate, and radically challenge our sense of the way the Empire has found its place in dance in Britain.