'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

'Passages' Author Reflects On Her Own Life Journey

Gail Sheehy is famous for her in-depth profiles of influential people, as well as her 1976 book on common adult life crises. Now she turns her eye inward, in her new memoir Daring: My Passages.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go To The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

Drivers, Passengers Say Uber App Doesn't Always Yield Best Routes

People love Uber, but they often complain the Uber app's built-in navigation doesn't give its drivers the best directions. The company says the app helps drivers and passengers travel efficiently.

Leave a Comment

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