For the launch of the Dance Channel, I thought long and hard about what the first author interview would be. I felt that it was critically important that this channel begins with a rich conversation between myself and a well respected author whose contributions to dance scholarship were substantial. It seemed to me that this channel could function as a space where the voices of those doing rigorous work with dance at the center, could be invited into conversations that focused on their most recent project, but exposed the challenges and issues they faced along the way in trying to do their work with integrity. To that end, I knew I needed someone whose voice in dance scholarship was strong and consistent and whose contributions were undeniable. When I thought of it that way, it became clear that I needed to have this first interview showcase the work of Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild.
Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s newest work, Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) chronicles the growth and development of one of the country’s most important dance companies through the life of its creator and her community. Here, the author treats readers to a backstage pass into the mind of one of the toughest ladies in dance, Joan Myers Brown, founder of the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts and later of the Philadelphia Dance Company (known lovingly as Philadanco.) It’s important to understand that this book is a “biohistory” – a work that blends not just Ms. Brown’s biography, but contextualizes it in the history of Black Philadelphia and the development of American concert dance. The book is just the most recent in the line of works written by the author whose work has always focused on bringing invisibilized narratives to light and putting them into their proper historical context. The author, who I am glad to know as “Dr. Brenda,” doesn’t shy away from the realities of race, class, power and gender that can often constrain one’s mobility in the world and her work here makes clear that to that point, the dance world is no exception. Challenges and constraints aside, Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance is an example of the some of the finest contemporary scholarship in dance studies. As the fifth book project for Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, fans of her work won’t be left wanting for anything in this newest book and dance enthusiasts are sure to find a compelling narrative that will leave them satisfied and wanting more of what this author has to offer.