Skip to main content

Black History Month Spotlight – Impact Dance


As we celebrate Black History Month 2022, it is worth considering this year’s reflections from organisers: 

“To get to a better tomorrow, we can’t just focus on the past. The past is in the past. We can acknowledge and learn from it, but to improve the future, we need action, not words. We need to come together around a shared common goal to achieve a better world for everyone.” 

Impact Dance, a Black-led art for social change organisation and recipient grantee on the Enterprise Development Programme, aims to live by these principles through changing the lives and circumstances of the young people they support, in order to change the world around them. 

Founded by Hakeem Onibudo, Impact Dance supports young people aged 11-19 through dance training, mentoring, and national and international performances, engaging young people from diverse backgrounds to develop their performative and creative abilities. By connecting with young people through performance, Impact Dance enables young people to develop their self-confidence and leadership skills, increase their self-motivation to achieve their goals, and encourage their self-discipline. 

Connecting with the past 


At their London base, Impact Dance’s history and journey is quite literally illustrated along the walls of its studio, from its inception in 1995 to milestone performances in Ghana, Hong Kong, Venezuela, the Netherlands, and many more locations across the UK.

However, the timeline isn’t just a thread connecting the current organisation to its beginnings and past accomplishments; it’s also used to personify their approach as a ‘horizontal organisation’, where creativity, dedication, and commitment are valued over hierarchy.

"We're a social justice organisation." Hakeem told us during our visit in July 2022, a principle embedded at the historic Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, the organisation’s home and where Dr Martin Luther King Jr preached in London for the first time in October 1961.

“If you’d told me 26 years ago, when we were trying to help young people between the ages of 11 and 19, that we would actually end up in […] the church where Martin Luther King spoke when he came here, I wouldn’t have believed you.” said Hakeem. “We’re thrilled to be in this space. We’re trying to reach what we call underprivileged, hard-to-reach young people, so it’s all about social justice for me. I didn’t have any mentors growing up myself, but I kind of arrived and landed on my feet, so I had a commitment to do the same for young people."


Actions not words

Impact Dance’s commitment to young people and tackling the barriers and challenges they face is embedded in the very space they inhabit. The meeting room, called ‘The Safe’, makes clear the need for many young people to have access to a safe space, but also more. “A safe is where you put what’s precious,” Hakeem told us. “And young people are valuable.”

The organisation strives to work with young people from diverse backgrounds, including those who aren’t traditionally represented in the world of dance and the arts.

Impact D2

Impact Dance’s base was co-designed with young people to ensure that the spaces they entered were reflective of them and their needs, whether emotional, motivational, or material.

In the kitchen, ‘The Back-up’ (a pantry cupboard) is available to everyone in the Impact Dance community, to ensure beneficiaries have access to what they need no matter their circumstances, including menstrual hygiene products, and hair and skin care products designed for Black hair types.

Their will to better their approaches, spaces, and the support they offer young people isn’t limited to intentional design. Impact Dance innovates constantly, including by incorporating a social enterprise arm in their organisational model – even though entrepreneurship can sometimes feel out of place in the more traditional parts of the art and not-for-profit world.

Through EDP funding, Impact Dance was able to develop and refurbish their now state-of-the-art dance studio, which is rented out for rehearsals to companies such as the BBC and Disney. This approach helped consolidated their belief in using entrepreneurship to create better outcomes for the young people they work with - the profit generated by the studio is used to kickstart or continue initiatives and programmes in order to engage even more young people, and further support those that walk through their doors. As Hakeem told us, “Building a sustainable business allows you to do the things you really want to do.”

Over the years, we have become more confident in opening dialogue around equity, race, and opportunity. However, this dialogue can also trigger frustration when these discussions do not move past talking stages, and transition into consistent action and changed outcomes.

Organisations such as Impact Dance allow us to see models and approaches in action that truly embody equitable principles to create inclusive environments for Black or marginalised young people. They inspire us and encourage us to look and work for a better future, without letting us forget the lessons and journey of the past.

It is at that intersection that we become empowered to remember, learn, and act with courage, laying foundations so that when the next generation of young people step up to the mantle – as indeed many already are – they will be met with more than just words.