Transferring Over: A Powerhouse of Black Dance Is Retiring (Largely)

Moving Over: A Powerhouse of Black Dance Is Retiring (Mostly)

Are you black

No. White. I had to train them.

Does Kim run the school too?

Well, the school is not part of the company. The company was in the school for the first 10 years, but when we bought the building we switched roles. The school pays rent to the company. I kept the school for profit reasons in order to guarantee myself an income as a single parent.

You know, the String Theory School wants to build a new location, a charter school, and name it the Joan Myers Brown School of the Arts.

Wait, they name a school after you?

Yeah, and they want me to develop a curriculum, so I have Ali [Willingham, artistic director of Danco3] there, because he teaches the way I would like to – know the craft, reduce movement, demand growth and not show it off. Our youth are busy getting the applause and not learning the craft. So if I can find those who really want to learn, they have a place for classes and performing.

The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t new to you, is it?

I experienced that in 1962, 1988 and 1995. Every time white people in charge throw out money and say, “You have to help the blacks,” they help us, but when the money is gone, they are gone. Did you notice that every advertisement in Dance Magazine features a black person? It’s like saying, “Look, I have one!”

Did you envision IABD conferences as a home base for the black dance community?

You know, the first few conferences were a mess, but we were happy to be together. Cleo [Parker Robinson] is from Denver; Jeraldyne [Blunden] was Dayton; Lula [Washington], Los Angeles; and Anna [Williams], from Dallas. And each time we’ve learned something about our own organizations, about how others are doing the same and how we can help each other. Mikki Shepard brought us together and people said we had the plate for DanceUSA. I was on the board of DanceUSA at the time. I said, “I have to get out of here and do my own thing because black doesn’t help people at all.”

The younger members want to ignore the things we have learned and their opinions are valid, but I say experience teaches you something. IABD was a meeting to bring us together and exchange things, now it’s a full service organization.