By Brenda Dixon Gottschild
Foreword by way of Robert Farris Thompson, afterword by means of Ananya Chatterjea
Founder of the Philadelphia Dance corporation (PHILADANCO) and the Philadelphia institution of Dance Arts, Joan Myers Brown's own histories mirror the hardships in addition to the advances of African-Americans within the creative and social advancements of the second one half the 20th and the early twenty-first centuries.
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Additional resources for Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance
Through her mother’s social circle, Cuyjet knew of the Dorsey school well before she began studying there. Her mother took her to two recitals that she remembers vividly: “They were held at the old Broad Street Theater” (which indicates that it was 1931, as is explained in the next section). Cuyjet was eleven. “I loved the shows. Dorsey herself was a beautiful dancer. ” 10 JOAN MYERS BROWN & THE AUDACIOUS HOPE ESSI E M ARI E DORS EY In 1977, Joan Myers Brown wrote an article on Dorsey in the Philadelphia Tribune—the oldest continually published African American newspaper in the United States, created in 1884.
Keep in mind that such a tradition arose even though the black bourgeoisie (and a small community of aristocrats of color) lacked the ﬁnancial ﬁ means to compete with whites of similar rank and station. The economics of discrimination meant that a typical black person might work for a white or black employer in a menial position such as 2 JOAN MYERS BROWN & THE AUDACIOUS HOPE a janitor, laundress, or seasonal farm worker. A number of working-class service positions in the white world—including sleeping car porter, caterer to white clientele, or maid or butler to a wealthy family—carried middle class status in the black community, despite the low wages accorded them.
It was almost a very nice folk dance step. They were learning social graces and that type of thing. When I was in my teens, I don’t remember hearing anything more about Jenny Squirrel. She seemed to disappear from the scene. . Willa Walker Bryant Jones’s work was more clariﬁed ﬁ [sic] as a dance teacher. She didn’t claim to be an elocutionist. She was a dance teacher. I was six years old when I started seeing Willa Walker Bryant’s picture as I was passing by on my way to school. That was in 1926.