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Joan Myers Brown

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Joan Myers BrownAbout

Joan Myers Brown has devoted her career to expanding opportunities for African-American dancers and choreographers, founding the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts and Philadelphia Dance Company (known as PHILADANCO), as well as the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), a national service organization whose annual conferences explore issues of concern to black dance professionals. A tireless advocate for minorities and women in the arts, Ms. Brown has served a wide array of national and regional organizations. Born in Philadelphia in 1931, she has played a key role in strengthening and advancing dance in her native city. Her school offers high-quality training in ballet, modern dance, tap, gymnastics, and hip hop to children and adults. PHILADANCO is internationally recognized for the outstanding quality of its dancers and performances, and beloved by its local community. In 2011, scholar Brenda Dixon Gottschild published Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (Palgrave), and in 2012 President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of the Arts to Joan Myers Brown, honoring her lifetime accomplishments in creating spaces for African-American dance artists to innovate and create.

Pictured right:The charismatic and multi-talented Joan Myers Brown has been a dancer, teacher, founder and director of a dance school and company, and a forceful advocate for minorities and women in the arts. (Photo courtesy of Joan Myers Brown.)

Valerie Williams at audition for the Philadelphia Dance Company





Pictured left: This image of Valerie Williams warming up at an audition for PHILADANCO appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in 1975. PHILADANCO and the Philadelphia School of the Arts are beloved anchors of the local arts community in Joan Myers Brown’s native city. (Photo from George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin collection, Temple University Libraries.)





Joan Myers Brown at barre


Pictured right: Dancers doing barre exercises at the PHILADANCO’s studio. When President Barack Obama awarded Joan Myers Brown the National Medal of the Arts in 2013 he cited her for carving out “an artistic haven for African American dancers and choreographers to innovate, create, and share their unique visions with the national and global communities.” (Photo from George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin collection, Temple University Libraries.)


Read an essay by Dawn Lille -- Selected resources







This video compiled in 2016 includes excerpts from performances by Philadanco and tributes to Joan Myers Brown from Ronald K. Brown and Vanessa Thomas Smith. (Video courtesy of Joan Myers Brown)