When Joan Myers Brown started dancing, she was one of a kind. She continues to blaze a trail for herself and others through the Philadelphia Dance Company.
“I always say I don’t have dance; dancing has me,” Brown said. “When I started, it was during the segregation era. I was the only little black girl in ballet class. At that time, I said, ‘If they can do it , I can do it. The challenges of the work itself, I love classical ballet.”
Ten dancers will perform “Philadanco! at 45” on October 24 at Governors State University’s Center for the Performing Arts in University Park. The 90-minute show celebrates the 45th anniversary of the modern contemporary dance company rooted in black traditions.
The program includes Philadanco’s signature work, “Enemy Behind the Gates” by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member Christopher L. Huggins; “Moan” by Matthew Rushing and “A Movement for 5” by Dawn Marie Bazemore inspired by the Central Park Five.
“One of the things I love doing is giving opportunities for young, up-and-coming choreographers to have a place to work, a place to grow, and a place to fail. ‘have a smash hit every time he creates a job,’ Brown said.
“Philadanco! at 45” also features excerpts from New York-based Apollo Theater’s “James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, a Celebration in Dance,” including choreography by Ronald K. Brown, Thang Dao, and Abdel Hello.
“Everyone dances in one way or another. Even basic dancing is a natural art form. People who can’t dance like to watch dance. I know that with Philadanco, I like to make sure people like to dance,” Brown said. “I want the audience to get involved, appreciate and feel like it was a wonderful experience for them.”
Brown was recognized for her contributions as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director with one of the 2012 National Medal of Arts awards, which she received from President Obama at the White House.
“When I started, it was a black youth project,” Brown said of his Philadelphia School of Dance Arts that led to the founding of Philadanco in 1970. “All companies have to look like America I am on a mission now to try to provide an opportunity for more black girls in classical ballet.
“Misty Copeland is a catalyst for that. Maybe people say it’s good to have a black ballerina or black ballerinas, not just black but Latino and Native American, not just a white organization. My business is integrated I’d like to keep it that way. It’s healthy and it’s American.
Twice a week
News from the southern suburbs delivered every Monday and Wednesday
Jessi Virtusio is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.
“Philadanco! at 45”
When: 8 p.m. October 24
Or: Governors State University Performing Arts Center, 1 University Parkway, University Park
Tickets: $33 to $38; box seats are additional on request; groups of 10 or more, students, seniors and customers who purchase a flexible package of one or more shows are eligible for discounts
Information: 708-235-2222 or centertickets.net; philadanco.org
Etc.: presented by the Philadelphia Dance Company