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Black in the Ballroom

In the intricate world of ballroom and Latin American dance, Oskar Odiakosa saw a gap—a gap not just in representation but in perception. From the heart of his Nigerian household to the glittering dance floors, his journey encapsulates resilience and determination. Intrigued by Oskar's compelling story and the groundbreaking work of Black in the Ballroom, we sought to delve deeper. In this exclusive dialogue, Oskar shares the origin of his vision, the core message driving his mission, the aspirations fuelling his endeavors, and the avenues through which others can join in this transformative journey. Through our questions and Oskar's illuminating answers, a narrative unfolds—one of empowerment, inclusion, and the relentless pursuit of dance as a universal language.

Where did the idea for Black in the Ballroom arise from?

I noticed from an early age that there was visible under-representation of dancers from backgrounds with African and Caribbean or other “Black” heritage in Ballroom and Latin American dance, from attending weekly classes and going to competitions. I did a lot of research into the history of our ten test dances and quickly learned that a lot of the music for dances like the Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Jive and even Tango, Foxtrot and Quickstep were originally danced to music of African, African-Caribbean and Afro-Latin origin. Later on, I set out to understand why more people with Black heritage didn’t take up this particular style of dance and found it’s largely due to perception. I am the first born child in a Nigerian household, anyone who can relate to that knows the pressure that was on my shoulders to “set the example” for my younger siblings and to do my family proud. Thus, from an early age, the importance of a strong academic standing was impressed upon me, (I didn’t even realise that not going to university was an option!) I discovered ballroom and Latin when I was 12 and was so eager to pursue it and didn’t care for any obstacles standing in my way. I didn’t really have much in the way of parental support, which would’ve been advantageous at a young age, especially as all my friends and competitors did. However, I do not blame my parents, largely because they didn’t see other African parents taking their children to competitions in the same way they would to football matches for example, so naturally they questioned “why” I would be so interested in this particular activity if no one like me is really doing it. They were perhaps reluctant to support it initially, because they couldn’t see themselves represented and I thought it likely that many other Black adults and children felt the same. For me personally, I am relentless in the pursuit of my passions, but growing up was hard as I didn’t have many role models in the dance world that I could identify with and “see” myself in. This is essentially what drove the development of BiTB - “you can’t be what you can’t see”. In April 2022, I was lucky enough to be invited to the advisory board for the “TIRED” movement. (which stands for “Trying to Improve Racial Equality in Dance” to represent Ballroom and Latin American dance, which can often be left out in the general dance discourse. We set about to create a platform that directly invited more people of Black backgrounds to take up ballroom dancing in an environment where they feel just as “seen” as their friends and counterparts from any other background and can go on to achieve great successes!

What’s the message behind Black in the Ballroom?

The message is quite simple - Dancing is for everyone and Diversity is Power. Black in The Ballroom is inclusive, our students, teachers, supporters and allies are from a range of different backgrounds, though understand the need for a platform like this, to allow for greater representation and make our dance world even more beautiful. Diversity is not just limited to the colour of one’s skin, there is diversity of thought, diversity of expression, diversity of life experience and so on that serve to enrich our world of dance, when we create the opportunities, open the doors and embrace diversity.

What would be the ultimate goal?

The ultimate goal is to achieve equity for dancers of Black origin and encourage all dancers to take up ballroom dancing! The ballroom dancing community has had a tough few years, particularly since the global pandemic, where we lost a lot of community members. I believe one great way to build up that great community again is to reach out to people who may have never believed they would have access to such a beautiful art form, beyond just seeing it on their TV screens! How lovely would it be from now on to attend competitions and see lots of dancers from all different backgrounds dancing at the highest level across all different categories and being rewarded for their skills and merits as they battle it out to be crowned champion!

How can people get involved?

People can get involved by following our journey on social media @blackintheballroom. We have had fabulous workshops and lessons from great teachers, but are always looking out for more teachers who are passionate about what we do and want to get involved! We are a not-for-profit organisation, therefore rely on sponsorship and financial support to keep our dreams alive, we have a small team that largely work on a voluntary basis to provide weekly classes and cultivate a safe space for our dancers. Therefore, any support no matter how big or small would be greatly appreciated! Please do contact us on or via instagram! Thank you very much for the opportunity to give you an insight into what we do at Black in The Ballroom



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