News

Solid Gold: PHILADANCO at 50

Photo by CJ Harris, courtesy of PHILADANCO

Each anniversary celebration of a dance company might also be considered a lesson in dance history and a study of endurance and perseverance. Thus the 50th anniversary of PHILADANCO is an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable legacy of founder and artistic director Joan Myers Brown as a source of inspiration for students, dancers and colleagues nationwide.

PHILADANCO is a resident company at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and kicked off its 50th season on October 5. Brown and the company will participate in the International Association of Blacks in Dance's 32nd annual conference, January 14–19, in Philadelphia. And you can catch the company throughout the U.S. in 2020, including February performances in Massachusetts and New Jersey.


Brown founded the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts in 1960 and PHILADANCO in 1970, when it was common for African-American dancers to be turned away from studios and companies. In 1988, she and her staff further advocated for this underserved community by founding the International Conference of Black Dance Companies and the International Association of Blacks in Dance in 1991.

"Joan Myers Brown for me is the Fannie Lou Hamer for the African-American dance community," says colleague Lula Washington. "She is an organizer, activist and spokesperson. She truly has made a difference not only for PHILADANCO but for Lula Washington Dance Theatre and hundreds of other African-American dance companies."

The rich repertoire of PHILADANCO includes the work of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Bebe Miller and Milton Myers. "I've had the pleasure of working with PHILADANCO and Joan for over 20 years," says Ronald K. Brown. "I was a fan of the dynamic and explosive dancing that they were known for and was ecstatic to work with the dancers. It's one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences each time I am in the studio."

Ms. Brown has worked hard to provide stability for her company members with impressive support, such as a 52-week contract with benefits for dancers and a robust touring schedule. In 1981, PHILADANCO purchased a building to house its studios, school and administrative offices. The five decades have seen the expansion of the company as well as several natural outgrowths of it, including the D/2 Apprentice Company for dancers ages 15–23 and the D/3 Youth Ensemble for ages 9–16.

Scholar and historian Brenda Dixon Gottschild honored Brown with her 2012 book, Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance. Brown has announced her imminent retirement as of the end of this anniversary season. Elgie Gaynell Sherrod has joined the organization as interim executive director.

Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by A Wish Come True
Courtesy A Wish Come True

With so much else on your plate, from navigating virtual learning to keeping your studio afloat, it can be tempting to to cut corners or to settle for less in order to check "costumes" off of this season's to-do list. Ultimately, though, finding a costume vendor you trust is paramount to keeping your stress levels low and parent satisfaction high, not to mention helping your students look—and feel—their absolute best. Remember: You are the client, and you deserve exceptional service. And costume companies like A Wish Come True are ready to go above and beyond for their customers, but it's important that you know what to ask for. Here are some tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your costume company.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.