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Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina

Produced by Karen Smyles

June 2012

Joan Myers Brown, founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco) and the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, has made enormous contributions to dance, both locally and around the world. In a recently published book, dance scholar, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, shows us how. Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina explores the personal hardships Brown experienced in her quest to become a black ballerina in an era of racism and her continuing struggle to bring young black dancers to the forefront of the professional dance world. Gottschild provides a thorough history of the black dance scene beginning with Brown's predecessors in the 1920's, and introduces us to many of the most successful dancers and choreographers of today. Many of whom can attribute some portion of their success directly to Joan Myers Brown.

This month Art of Life talks to both Brown and Gottschild and sits in on a book chat and signing at The African American Museum here in Philadelphia. We also get a behind-the scenes look at Philadanco company members in rehearsal and talk with former principal dancer and current Assistant Artistic Director, Kim Bears-Bailey.

Brenda Dixon Gottschild is professor emerita of Dance Studies at Temple University and a former senior consultant/writer for Dance Magazine. She has also authored Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance, Waltzing in the Dark, and The Black Dancing Body.

Learn more about Brenda Dixon Gottschild | Edited by Kyle Maack