Lead dancers from Philadelphia’s premier modern dance company perform a piece choreographed by Dawn Marie Bazemore that pays homage to the Yoruba deity Oshun, the protector, savior, and nurturer of humanity. Following this special performance, Dixon Li moderates a conversation among the Philadanco! dancers and dance scholars Jasmine Johnson, Deborah Thomas, and Dawn Marie Bazemore that touches upon choice in dance, choreography, and performance, as well as the imaginative and transformative possibilities of dance.
Support for Dancers' Choices, Choreographers' Choices provided by The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation. Cosponsored by the Department of Africana Studies and the Center for Africana Studies.
Philadelphia's premier modern dance company, PHILADANCO! was created in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown to address the lack of opportunities for dancers who were graduating from her dance schools. Ms. Brown is a pioneer and innovator in dance arts with a passion for and devotion to teaching and mentoring. In the 50 years since its creation, PHILADANCO! has advanced from a small regional company to an internationally renowned institution that promotes new and emerging dance artists from all walks of life. It is recognized internationally for its artistic integrity, superbly trained dancers, and captivating performances. PHILADANCO! is one of Philadelphia’s most important cultural institutions and an ambassador for the city, state, and country around the world. With its home-base on Philadanco Way on the border of West Philadelphia, PHILADANCO! provides one of the nation's most innovative and successful dance training programs, drawing students from the local region as well as from across the country and around the world. PHILADANCO! represents Philadelphia excellence in the region through its community engagement programs and with its professional company which tours extensively in the US and abroad, impacting upwards of 100,000 audience members per year including families and children.
Dawn Marie Bazemore is a Philadelphia-based dance artist and educator. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Rowan University and the Artistic Director of her own dance collective DMB|#dbdanceproject. Dawn Marie is a former member of Philadanco and has also performed featured roles in Broadway and regional musical theatre productions. Her performance of Strange Fruit, choreographed by the late Dr. Pearl Primus, is currently on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Dawn Marie has served as an Artist in Residence at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of North Carolina School for the Arts and has been commissioned to choreograph for Philadanco and Nimbus Dance Works. In 2018, she was selected to be a Jacob’s Pillow Ann & Weston Hicks Choreography Fellow and was the 2019 Dance Visions Artist in Residence at the Performance Garage. Dawn Marie’s creative work tackles the socio-political concerns of the communities to which she identifies, which she has also addressed in her essay Dance and Activism: The Practice and Impact of Sociopolitical Concert Dance published in the online journal The Dancer-Citizen.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Dawn Marie trained at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballet Academy East, Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn, and the Fournier-Grego Performance Center. She is a graduate of the NYC High School for Performing Arts and has earned a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from Hollins University. She's been awarded the Helen Tamiris Award for Excellence in Dance and the 2018 ACHI Magazine Inc. Trailblazer of the Year award. In addition to her work at Rowan University and with DMB|#dbdanceproject, Dawn Marie is currently a Doctoral student in the Dance Education program at the Teachers College at Columbia University.
Jasmine Elizabeth Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She writes and teaches about dance, black feminism, diaspora, and performance. Her work has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and elsewhere. Her first book project, Rhythm Nation: West African Dance and the Politics of Diaspora, is a transnational ethnography on the industry of West African dance.Her work has been published by The Drama Review, ASAP Journal, Dance Research Journal, Africa and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, Theater Survey, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Aster(ix) and elsewhere. She serves as a Board Director for the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance and for the Dance Studies Association.
Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Research Associate with the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg. Thomas is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair, Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica; and co-editor of the volume Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Her articles have appeared in a diverse range of journals including Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Radical History Review, Anthropological Theory, small axe, Identities, Interventions, and Feminist Review. Thomas has also co-directed and co-produced two documentary films: BAD FRIDAY: RASTAFARI AFTER CORAL GARDENS, which chronicles violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community; and FOUR DAYS IN MAY: KINGSTON 2010, which explores the effects of the “Tivoli Incursion” in May 2010, when Jamaican security forces entered West Kingston to arrest Christopher Coke, wanted for extradition to the United States, and killed at least 75 civilians. Thomas is also the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston, which opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017. Thomas edited the journal Transforming Anthropology from 2007-2010, and currently sits on the editorial boards of Social and Economic Studies and Anthropological Theory. From 2016-2020, she was the Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. She has served on the executive boards of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), the Caribbean Studies Association, and the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Prior to Thomas’s life as an academic, she was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women.
Dixon Li is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania with graduate certificates in Cinema and Media Studies as well as Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. They are trained as a cultural critic, poet, dancer, performance maker, and somatics teacher. They graduated from Princeton University in 2014 with a BA in English (summa cum laude, phi beta kappa) and minors in African-American Studies & American Studies. From 2014-2016 they were a Marshall Scholar in London where they completed MA's in Writing in the Modern age at Queen Mary (2015) and an MA in Performance Making at Goldsmiths (2016). Their scholarly work draws on Critical Black and Race Studies as well as Feminist, Queer, and Trans* theories to engage dance and performance studies, cinema and media studies, and literature. They have particular interests in ethnographic and archival research methods as well as multi-ethnic historiographies and specialize in African and Asian diasporic arts and cultures.