PHILADANCO Performs The Philadelphia Connection with World Premiere by Rennie Harris, April 20-22MARCH 22, 2012
Contemporary dance company PHILADANCO performs The Philadelphia Connection, as part of their spring concert, during the Kimmel Center’s 10th Anniversary season-long celebration, Friday – Sunday, April 20 – 22, 2012 at the Perelman Theater. Known for their high-spirited movement, passionate and graceful onstage presence, Philadanco’s spring program celebrates new and reprised relationships with Philadelphia companies and African American choreographers who have had a long-standing relationship with the dance company.
Program highlights include the world premiere of a newly commissioned ballet, Wake Up, by Philly-native, world renowned hip hop choreographer Rennie Harris; a revival of the 2000 abstract ballet titled Tribute, which salutes the music produced by Philadelphia International Records (Gamble & Huff), choreographer Dwight Rhoden and the late Philadelphia choreographer Gene Hill Sagan’s Suite en Bleu, remounted by Kim Bears- Bailey; and the return of Gatekeepers, an original ballet created by Ronald K. Brown for Philadanco.
The Philadelphia performance follows a tour to the country of Macedonia, where the company was the first American group ever invited to participate in Dance Fest Skopje. Also noteworthy is dance scholar Brenda Dixon Gottschild's recently published biography of Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown. Within Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (December 2011), Gottschild relays Brown's personal and professional histories, reflecting the hardships—and advances—of African-American dancers in the artistic and social developments of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Immediately following the Philadanco performance on April 20, Joan Myers Brown and author Brenda Dixon Gottschild will be available for a book signing in the Commonwealth Plaza.
"The members of...Philadanco can do just about anything: leap like arrows in flight, spin, stretch, kick and melt like hot wax." —Washington Post
Tickets for Philadanco are available at $29 to $46, and can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999, online at kimmelcenter.org, or at the Kimmel Center Box Office located on Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, Pa. (open daily from 10am to 6pm, later on performance evenings).
Born and raised in North Philadelphia, Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris celebrates hip-hop culture on his own terms by using some of the world’s most influential forms of movement, music, and storytelling to revolutionize contemporary concert dance. Wake Up, set to make its world premiere during Philadanco’s 2012 spring concert, articulates the communal ties that shape the rich identities of Philadelphians and explores the birth and evolution of hip-hop. Rennie Harris teaches workshops and classes at universities around the country and is a powerful spokesperson for the significance of “street” origins in any dance style. Harris’s career began as a performer and choreographer through performing for crowds at clubs, parties and within his community with the Scanner Boys hip-hop performance group in the 1980s. In 1992 he was invited to participate in the Susan Hess Choreographer’s Project. That same year Harris founded Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop dance company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture through workshops, classes, hip-hop history lecture demonstrations, long-term residencies, mentoring programs and public performances. Harris’s work encompasses the diverse and rich African-American traditions of the past, while simultaneously presenting the voice of a new generation through its ever-evolving interpretations of dance.
Native Philadelphian Gene Hill Sagan served as Philadanco’s resident choreographer from 1976 – 1991, during which time he set more than 12 ballets for the company. Philadanco is the only company in the United States to have so much of his current works and rights to most of his past pieces. His ballet, La Valse, was his first work for Philadanco and was remounted in his memory in 1991. Gene Sagan’s choreographic style has made a distinct impression on the company and its dancers, as well as on such renowned companies as The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Bat’ Dor, and The Kibbutz Dance Company and Dallas Black Dance Company. His most outstanding award was The Yair Shapiro Foundation Choreographic Prize in Israel. Sagan passed away in 1995.
Brooklyn-born Ronald K. Brown founded Evidence, A Dance Company in 1985. Recently, he choreographed The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess, directed by Diane Paulus and currently running on Broadway. Brown has worked with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Cleo Parker Robinson Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Jennifer Muller/The Works, Jeune Ballet d’Afrique Noire, Ko-Thi Dance Company, Philadanco, Muntu Dance Theater of Chicago and Ballet Hispanico. He also choreographed Regina Taylor’s award-winning play, Crowns and won an AUDELCO Award for his work on that production. In addition, Brown has received a John Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographers Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a United States Artists Fellowship, and The Ailey Apex Award for teaching.
Dwight Rhoden is the Founding Artistic Director/Resident Choreographer of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and has established a remarkably wide-ranging career, earning distinction from The New York Times as “one of the most sought out choreographers of the day.” A native of Dayton, Ohio, Rhoden began dancing at age 17 and has performed with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Les Ballet Jazz De Montreal and as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He has appeared in numerous television specials, documentaries and commercials throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and has been a featured performer on many PBS Great Performances specials. Rhoden has created numerous ballets for numerous companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company, Ballet Gamonet, The Dance Theater of Harlem, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet/Diamond Project, The Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadanco, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, The Washington Ballet, and Zenon Dance Company to name a few. He has directed and choreographed for TV, film, theater and live performances including So You Think You Can Dance, E! Entertainment’s Tribute to Style and Cirque Du Soleil, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Kelly Clarkson and Patrick Swayze.
Philadanco has a long history as Philadelphia’s premiere modern contemporary dance company: it is one of the first companies to hire dancers on a 52 week salary; the first to own housing for the dancers; and the first to own a debt-free facility. Philadanco presents wide-ranging repertoire of highly athletic material rooted in jazz, ballet and modern dance traditions. The company continues to consistently tour more than any Philadelphia cultural organization, performing as many as 50-60 concerts and 45 residencies annually.
In 2005, Philadanco was one of 14 companies to receive the prestigious American Masterpieces Award from the Kennedy Center. The company has performed at Madison Square Garden, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Joyce and the Delacorte in New York City as well as major venues throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
Founder and Artistic Director Joan Myers Brown is a revered choreographer and dancer, who pioneered an alternative path for African Americans to become professionally trained dancers post-civil rights era. A new book written by dance scholar Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina, was published in January 2012 and explores how Brown's personal and professional histories reflect the hardships—and advances—of African-American dancers in the artistic and social developments of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. A trailblazer in her own right, Brown helped young emerging dancers and choreographers find a voice and place in the dance world by founding the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts in Philadelphia (1960); Philadanco (1970); the Coalition of African American Cultural Organizations in Philadelphia, co-founder (1986); the International Conference of Black Dance Companies (1988); and the International Association of Blacks in Dance (1991). Currently, Brown is a visiting professor at the University of the Arts and a member of the dance faculty at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She has received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts (2004) and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College (2007).The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts also honored her as a Master of African American Choreography in 2005.
Born in Philadelphia on Christmas Day in 1931, Joan Myers Brown began training with the Ballet Guild in Philadelphia at age seven. She also trained at the Sydney-Marion School in Philadelphia, a pre-civil rights classical ballet school for African American dancers. Thereafter, Brown studied in New York in 1951 on a ballet scholarship to study at The Dunham School, and began her professional career with performances of choreographed works with The Savar Dancers at Café Montmarte in Montreal, Canada, as well as tours to Quebec City and Toronto. She has danced at the legendary Cab Calloway Cotton Club Revue, warmed up performers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Pearl Bailey, Billy Eckstein and Billy Daniels, among other greats.
Kimmel Center, Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit organization, owns, manages, supports and maintains The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which includes Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater, Innovation Studio and the