ABOUT THIS PROGRAM
Come celebrate the legacy of Dance Theatre of Harlem! Join us for an historic evening of intimate conversation with three legendary dance pioneers who helped pave the way for African-Americans in classical ballet: Joan Myers Brown, Founder and Artistic Director of Philadanco! Philadelphia Dance Company and The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts; April Berry, Founder of Arts 'n Community, former Director of Education & Outreach at Charlotte Ballet and BalletMet Columbus, and former lead dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson former soloist with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. These iconic leaders will talk about the black dance experience, the Gantt Center’s yearlong theme, Art as Activism, and philanthropic sustainability.
The panel discussion will begin with 1 Pound/4 Ounces: Humble Beginnings, a performance by tap artist Khalil Munir. This riveting one-man show combines impassioned storytelling with music and improvisational tap dance.
This event is designed for dance educators, dance professionals, and arts, history and dance enthusiasts.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Joan Myers Brown is the founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) and The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts. She serves as honorary chairperson for the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), an organization she established in 1991. She also founded the International Conference of Black Dance Companies in 1988. She is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, which bestowed upon her an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts; is a member of the dance faculty at Howard University in Washington, DC; and has been awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA. Most recently in May 2015 she received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from The University of Pennsylvania. Listed in Who’s Who in America and described as an "innovator and communicator," Brown has made significant contributions to the national and international arts communities.
Born one of six siblings in Raleigh, North Carolina, Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson became interested in dance after studying high school gymnastics. When he was 17, he began formal dance study at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Tomlinson received his BFA degree in only two years, while he also toured as a principal dancer in Agnes De Mille's Heritage Dance Theatre and switched from a modern dance concentration to ballet. In 1974, he moved to New York to join the Dance Theatre of Harlem, where his powerful build, crystalline articulation of line, and supple flexibility propelled him to soloist, most notably as the snake in Arthur Mitchell's "Manifestations" (1975). In 1976, Tomlinson took a leave of absence to perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he took over the male role in Ailey's "Pas de Duke" with Judith Jamison and premiered the revival of Lar Lubovitch's "The Time Before the Time After" ("After the Time Before") with Sara Yarborough. In 1981, he joined the New York City Ballet as its only African-American member and was quickly promoted to the rank of soloist. His performance in George Balanchine's "Agon" was called "dynamic and electric" by the New York Times.
April Berry, dance director, master teacher, educator, choreographer and Founder of Arts 'n Community, is originally from Queens, New York. Berry has served as Artistic Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre and currently serves on the board of directors for the Dance Council of North Texas. She is a certified Master Instructor of the Dunham Technique, receiving certification through the Katherine Dunham Center for Arts and Humanities, after working extensively with Dr. Katherine Dunham, an American dance legend and pioneering dance innovator. An internationally acclaimed dancer, Berry has danced with ballet companies in the United States, Italy, and Switzerland and has danced the signature works of master choreographers Katherine Dunham, George Balanchine, Alvin Ailey, Lester Horton, and Donald McKayle, among others. Berry has been actively involved in the field of dance education and arts outreach for over 20 years and has created flagship education and outreach programs and curriculum for North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and for BalletMet Columbus in Ohio.
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