Philadanco is a Philadelphia-based dance school and company, utilizing primarily African American dancers. Philadanco recently celebrated is 30th anniversary, founded in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown who still helms the school and company (Dunning, 2002). The Philadanco school was founded in 1960, ten years before the company Philadanco was founded. The school has since become the most ôdependable producer of well-trained and spirited black dancersö (Dunning, 6).
The early-going for Brown and Philadanco represented a struggle as it would take until the mid-1980s for Philadanco to gain national recognition. Part of the reason was the limited access to major Broadway roles for black dancers and perceptions of the troupe as a black company for black events. As Brown explains in one interview, ôPresenters needed to be made aware that we were available all year, not just during Black History Monthö (Dunning, 2002, 6). Philadanco has enjoyed more success in the 1990s, as it is not uncommon to find black choreographers and black dancers working in many mainstream theaters. However, such was not the case in the 1970s when Brown was unhappy with the reaction her company was receiving from national dance service associations.
When she began Philadanco, Brown elicited the support and guidance of national dance service associations but came away with the feeling that such associations did not understand the needs of a black company like Philadanco. As such, she gathered the $5,000 grant for artistic development she had been awarded from the Pew Charitable Trusts and teamed with Jeraldyne Blunden and Ann Williams, two founds of other black dance companies, to form the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD). Funded primarily by membership dues, the Association has struggled over the years but has helped achieve a greater presence of black choreographers and dancers in mainstream theaters.