By Walter Rutledge
In The Art of War author Sun Tzu reveals, “…When people are skillfully led into battle, the momentum is like that of round rocks rolling down a high mountain – this is force.” This statement also applies to Philadelphia’s unstoppable force- Joan Myers Brown. Joan Myers Brown and The Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina, a Biohistory of American Performance by Brenda Dixon Gottschild chronicles the evolution of African American dance and culture in Philadelphia. The book uses Joan Myers Brown and The Philadelphia Dance Company- Philadanco as the centerpiece for this social and culture study.
For over fifty years Brown has continued the tradition of training dancers of color and shaping the dance and cultural aesthetic of Philadelphia. After training dancers for ten years Brown founded Philadanco. The company came out of the necessity to give the dancers that had been developed in her school a place to perform in a racially polarized Philadelphia. Forty-four years later Philadanco had earned national prominence and international recognition.
Despite awards and accolades, including the 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities, which was presented in the East Room of the White House by President Obama, the struggle for the company’s survival continues. On Saturday, April 19, Out and About NYC Magazine had the opportunity to talk the Philadanco Founder and Artistic Director Joan Myers Brown and author Brenda Dixon Gottschild. We discussed a wide range of topics including: Gottschild’s book, the unique history of culture and dance in Philadephia, Philadanco and the unstoppable Joan Myers Brown.
We would like to thank the staff The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and Volver Restaurant- Dafni Comerota, Joseph Dillon, Robert Delarosa, and Christine Volpe for their assistance.