'Audacious' Black Ballerinas Had To Be On Point | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : Tell Me More

'Audacious' Black Ballerinas Had To Be On Point

Play associated audio

For more than four decades, the Philadelphia Dance Company, PHILADANCO, has opened its doors to dancers of all races. Ballerina Joan Myers Brown founded the dance studio, in spite of decades of personal struggle against deeply ingrained and often unquestioned racial barriers in the ballet world.

Brown, who is African-American, tried to take classes in the 1950s at white ballet studios in Philadelphia. But "the doors were closed to her," says Brenda Dixon Gottschild, author of Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina.

Gottschild tells NPR's Michel Martin that there were some integrated dance classes in Philadelphia, taught by British choreographer Antony Tudor. He worked with Brown and eventually cast her in Le Sylphides, a classical ballet. But, Gottschild says, one local newspaper reviewed the ballet and referred to Brown and another Black ballerina as "the flies in the buttermilk."

Brown went on to perform in night clubs around the country with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Cab Calloway. In 1960, she returned to Philadelphia, and eventually opened PHILADANCO. "Her community allowed her the strength to go on," Gottschild says, "She, indeed, had to deal with a city that didn't open the doors the way one would have assumed, even in the 1960s," Gottschild continues.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Exquisite Dissonance Of Kehinde Wiley

The Brooklyn Museum's mid-career Wiley retrospective wraps up this week; his large, elaborate works depict black men and women in traditional forms like oil, bronze sculture and even stained glass.
NPR

In New Jersey, A Beef Over Pork Roll Sparks Rival Festivals

What is pork roll? As one fan puts it, "It's like Spam meets bacon." And this Saturday, Trenton, N.J., will host not one, but two competing festivals devoted to this Garden State meat delicacy.
NPR

Senate Blocks Bill To End Government Collection Of Phone Records

The Senate worked late into the night but failed to agree on extending government surveillance programs under the USA Patriot Act before adjourning for the Memorial Day holiday.
NPR

The Future Of Cardiology Will Be Shown In 3-D

The Living Heart Project aims to create a detailed simulation of the human heart that doctors and engineers can use to test experimental treatments and interventions.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.