There is no translation available.

Whose Ballet? Diasporan Waves and Black Genealogies for Dance

Monday, February 13, 2023 | 6pm (EST) / Virtual Event

The Hemispheric Institute and the Center for Ballet and the Arts cordially invite you to a dialogue with Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, Zane Booker, Theresa Ruth Howard, Zita Allen, Virginia Johnson, and Francesca Harper about their work, the histories of ballet, and the signal force of Blackness in shaping performance, repertoires, companies, dance scholarship, and dance memory. This event will mix movement and conversation, and attendees may either attend in person or via streaming on Zoom.  

This event has been curated by Brenda Dixon-Gottschild as part of her residency at the Institute celebrating the publication of her collection in the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library.

Brenda Dixon-Gottschild

Brenda Dixon-Gottschild is a distinguished Mellon Artist in Residence at the Hemispheric Institute for 2022-2023. As a scholar and writer, Dr. Dixon-Gottschild has worked to reveal the obscured legacy of Blackness in putatively white forms of dance and performance and to shine light on individuals and social worlds that have been long ignored by cultural historians. Dr. Dixon-Gottschild is Professor Emerita at Temple University and a former consultant for Dance Magazine. She is the author of four books: Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts, Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era, The Black Dancing Body: A Geography from Coon to Cool, and Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance. During her career as a dancer and performer, she has been a member of the Mary Anthony Dance Theater, Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theater, and the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop actor’s unit. Dr. Dixon-Gottschild has become known for her innovative method of blending lecture and performance, blurring the distinctions between analysis and enjoyment, movement and thought. Together with her collaborator, Hellmut Gottschild, Dr. Dixon-Gottschild has sought to integrate thinking and dancing bodies. Together, they have pioneered what they have termed “movement theater discourse.”

Zane Booker

Zane Booker began his dance training with the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts at age seven and went on to become one of the Philadelphia Dance Company's principal artists. After performing with Netherlands Dance Theatre, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, White Oak Dance Project and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, to name a few, he later appeared as a guest artist with major companies around the world. The New National Theatre Ballet, Tokyo was a highlight. In 2006, he founded the Smoke, Lilies and Jade Arts Initiative, a multimedia dance theater company that promotes HIV/ AIDS awareness. Booker served as a master lecturer at the University of the Arts and Howard University and is currently Assistant Rehearsal Director at Philadanco. Zane has choreographed for Philadanco, Contemporary West Dance Theatre, and Ballet X, to name a few. His most recent work was a project conceived by internationally renowned artist John Dowell at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia: Public Intimate Spaces.

Theresa Ruth Howard

Theresa Ruth Howard is writer, diversity strategist, former ballet dancer, and the founder and curator of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, which has been a pioneer in the efforts to create cultural reform that supports diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in the field of ballet and the classical arts through education and advocacy. Howard also serves as a mentor for dancers, educators, and choreographers. In 2018, she was a member of the Design and Facilitation Team of The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a three-year initiative which assembled a cohort of 21 North American Ballet companies. In addition to curating MoBBallet, Howard collaborated with Peggy Olislaeger in the curation of the Dutch National Ballet’s (DNB) bi-annual conference Positioning Ballet (2017/2019), which convened over 40 European and international companies. In 2019, she was tapped to Howard curate The Royal Opera House’s inaugural Young Talent Festival Symposium, “Exposure, Access and Opportunity: Exploring the Cultural Barriers to Ballet Training.” This work led to the founding of the Cultural Competence and Equity Coalition (C2EC) a membership-based organization that supports the embodiment of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Cultural Competence and works to transform cultural norms within the classical arts. As a journalist, Howard has contributed to The Source, Pointe, Expressions, Tanz, and Opera America. Currently she is a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. Former New York Times Lead Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay cites her as “One of the most valuable writers on dance today.”

Zita Allen

Zita Allen, dance writer and historian, was the first African American dance critic for Dance Magazine and has written widely for other major publications, including The Amsterdam News, New York Times, Pointe, Ballet Review and Essence magazine. She wrote Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem: The Early Years for Columbia University’s 2018 Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer exhibit, wrote and edited the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 25th anniversary souvenir book, was a consultant on the PBS/American Dance Festival documentary Free to Dance and the editor of its companion website. She also wrote the Kennedy Center’s Masters of African American Choreography and contributed to the Smithsonian’s book Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theatre Shaped American Entertainment and the Columbia Univ./Macmillan Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. She is also the author of Black Women Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (Random House). She holds an M.A. from NYU in Performance Studies, has guest lectured at Juilliard, taught dance history at the Ailey/ Fordham BFA program and Temple University, and is a Ph.D. Candidate and University Fellow in the Dance Department of Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance.

Virginia Johnson

Founding member and former principal dancer Virginia Johnson was appointed Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) in 2010. Born in Washington, DC, she graduated from the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet and briefly attended NYU as a University Scholar before joining DTH in 1969. While still performing, Johnson ventured into choreography but her interest in journalism led her to Fordham University to pursue a degree in communications. At the School of Visual Arts, Johnson studied serigraphy, filmmaking, and television production before founding POINTE magazine and serving as its editor-in-chief from 2000-2009. Her honors include a Young Achiever Award from the National Council of Women, Outstanding Young Woman of America, the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, the Washington Performing Arts Society’s 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award and honorary doctorates from Cornish College of the Arts, Swarthmore and Juilliard. In February 2016, she was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White house for her contribution to the field of dance. In 2018 Johnson held the Brackett Visiting Artist Chair at the University of Oklahoma and is the recipient of the Mary Day Award from the Washington Ballet and the 2019 CORPS de Ballet International Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020 she was presented with a medal of honor from the Actor’s Fund. She serves on the Advisory Boards of The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU as well as Dance/NYC, and is a proud Trustee of Works & Process.

Francesca Harper

Francesca Harper began her professional dance career with Dance Theater of Harlem, after having performed at the White House as a young Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and subsequently was a member of William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt (1991–99), becoming a Principal Dancer in 1994. Ms. Harper has performed in Broadway productions including Fosse, All Shook Up, and The Color Purple and starred as Helene opposite Molly Ringwald in a national tour of Sweet Charity (2007) and in Judith Jamison’s role in a revival of Sophisticated Ladies (2009). Her television appearances include Boardwalk Empire, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She also served as ballet consultant for the feature film Black Swan (2010). Ms. Harper has choreographed works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Dance Theater of Harlem, Hubbard Street II, Tanz Graz, and many more companies, including her own The Francesca Harper Project, which she founded in 2005. The Francesca Harper Project has performed at venues including La Biennale di Venezia, Holland Dance Festival, Harkness Dance Festival, The Colors Festival in Stuttgart, Central Park Summerstage, New York City Center, Harlem Stage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Joyce Theater. During quarantine, Ms. Harper was the creator and directorial consultant for 16 world premiere virtual films. Her latest works include a new creation for Wendy Whelan, Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet, and renowned poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Ms. Harper is currently engaged as Executive Producer with Sony Pictures on a series in development. As an educator, Ms. Harper has served as a professor at The Juilliard School, an adjunct professor at NYU, a former associate professor at Barnard College, and a professor in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program.

Center for Ballet and the Arts
16 Cooper Square, fifth floor
New York, NY 10003

Virtual and in-person

In-person attendance is open to NYU students, staff, and faculty who are compliant with NYU's COVID-19 vaccination policy, and to others who can show ID and proof of vaccination (2 shots + 1 booster required) at the door. All in-person attendees to the event must fill out the following form in advance, for contact tracing purposes.

The event will also be streamed live on Zoom.

About HemiTV

HemiTV is the Hemispheric Institute’s portal for live streaming and virtual programming, developed for the Zoom era and beyond.