The arrival of PHILADANCO! (The Philadelphia Dance Company) this week is significant for a number of reasons. With them comes the return of live dance to the Krannert Center’s Colwell Playhouse. Modern dance fans will once again relish the in-person sound of feet on boards, the glimmer of sweat, the intake of breath before a lift. That almost indescribable alchemy of shared energy between performers and viewers has been missed. The fact that it will be PHILADANCO!, a 50+ year strong company founded by Joan Myers Brown out a “need to provide performance opportunities for Black dancers,”delivering this milestone concert, makes the occasion that much sweeter. In the hope of getting you as excited about PHILADANCO!’s upcoming show as I am, herein you’ll find five reasons not to miss their October 28th performance at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
PHILADANCO! brings everything a dance fan could ask for
Dance Magazine described PHILADANCO! as “a miracle of skill and energy.” They bring everything a dance fan could want. Mad skills and technique, contagious energy, highly attuned ensemble work, plus a joy and passion for what they do and why they do it. See them in action here.
Their KCPA program promises a night of movement and meaning making
Featuring the work of PHILADANCO!’s four choreographers, movement will meet message at the intersections of dance and architecture, dance and spirituality, dance and sensuality, and dance and the polyrhythms of the Kora of West Africa, a 21 stringed instrumente linked to the mande people of Mali. See the full program here.
The Dance at Illinois connection
Alumni who created new work for PHILADANCO! included Tommie Waheed-Evans (PHILADANCO! Artist in Residence), Hope Boykin (now with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Iquail Shaheed (who now leads his own company), and Anthony Burrell (choreographer for pop stars from Beyoncé to Mariah Carey to Rihanna).
Waheed-Evans’ will be presenting With(in)Verse—”part of the Krannert Center co-commissioned Success Stories project—which explores spirituality, sorrow, and redemption.” More about this important work in a minute.
Enjoy a sneak peek here on PHILADANCO!’s Instragram.
The Krannert Center connection and collaboration
PHILADANCO!’s connection to Krannert is long-standing and deep. To learn more, I spoke with Maureen Reagan, Krannert’s Associate Director for Marketing, and Tammey Kikta, retired Associate Director for Artistic Services (who graciously volunteered to share her experience with PHILADANCO!). Here’s what I learned.
Krannert Center’s first experience with PHILADANCO! in 2015 thrilled us with its brilliance. Founder/director Joan Myers Brown inspired us with the way in which she built her school and company on the foundation of modern and African-American dance traditions. PHILADANCO!’s dancers were technically brilliant and so generous of spirit with Krannert Center audiences, engaging with both campus and community.
First, Krannert Center has a long and distinguished history of supporting dance companies and the creation of new work for them. (Among the artists and companies supported are Urban Bushwomen, David Parsons Dance Company, Susan Marshall, Ralph Lemon, Trisha Brown, Mark Morris, Bebe Miller, Ron K. Brown, Victor Quijada, and more.)
Second, we were taken with the synchronicity of 50th-anniversary celebrations for both Krannert Center and PHILADANCO!, and the way in which both organizations were thinking about the celebrations. Krannert Center wanted to showcase artists with whom we’ve had distinguished histories alongside new and visionary artists who are expanding the field. PHILADANCO! wanted to celebrate its signature repertoire by some of modern dance’s greatest legends while highlighting its distinguished alumni by inviting them to create new work for the company. PHILADANCO!’s “Success Stories” project resonated with us and felt like a perfect match with Krannert Center’s celebratory goals.
PHILADANCO!’s significant history and model for continued success
PHILADANCO! holds a distinguished history of firsts. After creating a space for Black dancers to learn and perform, Joan Myers Brown and the PHILADANCO! staff launched the first International Conference on Black Dance Companies with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts, University of the Arts, the Pennsylvania Arts Council, the City of Philadelphia and the Coalition of African American Cultural Organizations in 1988. Now in their sixth decade PHILADANCO! continues to center Black dancers and choreographers and to honor African musical traditions. Even in economically challenging times, PHILADANCO! has survived and thrived thanks to a unique funding model that includes everything from corporate sponsorship and workplace matching donation programs to social media fundraising. In every aspect of their work, PHILADANCO! leaves nothing on the table as they continue to move audiences around the world, and to inspire young dancers of color everywhere.
At a time when so much has been lost, particularly in the arts, PHILADANCO! reminds us of what is possible when passion and talent work together to break down boundaries and forge new connections. See you at the Colwell Playhouse.
This presentation was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.