By Kate Durnan, The Philadelphia Dance Company
Since its release this winter, Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (December 2011) by dance scholar Brenda Dixon Gottschild has propelled PHILADANCO and its Founder, Brown, into the public eye through numerous interviews, book signings, community events, and news stories. Published with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through Dance Advance, the book explores Brown’s personal and professional histories, reflecting the hardships—and advances—of African American dancers in the artistic and social developments of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
At first glance, it seems that the book would appeal mainly to dance lovers. But as reviewer Kam Williams explains, the work is “a biography which actually is as much an intimate memoir about an intrepid pioneer as it is a chronicle of the African-American struggle for civil rights during the 20th Century.” Gottschild herself elaborates, telling her local newspaper, the Chestnut Hill Patch, “I look at dance, at performance, as a microcosm of the world at large…as a way of assessing the pulse, or the barometer, of a particular society at a particular time.”
Book signings with Gottschild and Brown have been held throughout the Philadelphia region over the past six months at venues large and small, ranging from the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art to smaller venues like Moonstone Arts Center and the University of Pennsylvania book store, to company-wide black history events at PECO and PNC Bank.
The Library Journal suggests “Those interested in Philadelphia or African American histories as well as dance enthusiasts and biography buffs will enjoy reading this detailed work.” Read more feedback in the following reviews:
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Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance is available for purchase by contacting PHILADANCO. A portion of proceeds is used to fund the company’s current activities, including its Summer Intensive Program for youth and young adults, and rehearsals for a new ballet choreographed by Matthew Rushing.