About Brenda

I am Professor Emerita of dance studies, Temple University. I perform with choreographer Hellmut Gottschild (my husband) in a form of somatic and research-based collaboration for which we coined the term, “movement theater discourse.”  In going about my work as a cultural scholar/researcher, I use performance—specifically, dance—as a measure and paradigm of society.

Books - My last book, The Black Dancing Body – A Geography From Coon to Cool, (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003; paperback, 2005) can be regarded as the third installment in my ongoing quest to bring to the fore the African American quotient in the American cultural equation. It is a map of American history as told through the “topography” of the black dancing body. Chapters are named for body parts or expressive attributes: feet, buttocks, skin, hair/face, and soul/spirit.  An introduction preceding these sections wrestles with the question, “What is black dance?” The Black Dancing Body was awarded the 2004 de la Torre Bueno Prize as the year’s most distinguished book of dance scholarship. My previous book, Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2000; paperback, 2002), focuses on the social, racial, and artistic climate for African American performers from the late 1920s through the 1940s.  For this work I received the 2001 CORD (Congress on Research in Dance) Award for Outstanding Scholarly Dance Publication. My first solo book (I had previously co-authored a dance textbook), Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts (Greenwood, 1996; paperback, 1998), was the culmination of a circuitous journey in interdisciplinary research that began with the question, “What makes George Balanchine’s ballets different from European ballet?” I originated and continue to investigate a line of thought that had been ignored in previous socio-cultural and performance studies—namely, the Africanist presence in Europeanist concert dance culture.

Recent Awards- I was awarded a 2011 production grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through Dance Advance to complete my book on Joan Myers Brown and her legacy. In 2009 I received a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award For Art and Social Change.  In 2008 I was the recipient of the Congress on Research in Dance Award for Outstanding Leadership in Dance Research. In 2008, I was also granted an award from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through Dance Advance to begin work on this book about Joan Myers Brown and her legacy.


Background- In my professional life I have journeyed from a career as artist-performer to writer-scholar, from practitioner to observer—and, lately, a combination of both. The two developments are driven by the same passion for the performing arts and my belief in performance as a highly charged, sociopolitical phenomenon.  My résumé encompasses the practical and theoretical realms and reflects my background in and commitment to both.  To this end I define myself as an artist-scholar and coined the phrase, “choreography for the page,” to describe my embodied, subjunctive approach to research writing.  This perspective is shaped by the fact that I spent the early years of my career as a professional performer, first as a member of the Mary Anthony Dance Theater (New York: 1964-1966); then as an independent choreographer, teacher, and performer here and abroad (New York, Stockholm, Helsinki, and London: 1966-1968); and, later, as a member of the Open Theater (directed by Joseph Chaikin, New York and Europe: 1968-1971) and a member of the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop actor’s unit (New York: 1976-1980). My work during my years as a student in the Performance Studies Department of New York University (Ph.D., 1981, and full tuition scholarship, 1974-1979) crystallized my growing desire to find a theoretical foundation for my performance interests.  In making the switch from performer to scholar I managed to blur the divisions between these categories and play both ends against an interdisciplinary middle ground.  Thus, in presenting my research I use my own dancing body to demonstrate various performative and kinesthetic principles as I attempt to fuse the categories of lecture, performance, and discourse.

You may contact me at bdixongottschild@verizon.net if you are interested in booking me for the following:
scholarly and/or artistic consultation
socially-engaged somatic theater workshops

10 Responses to “About Brenda”

  1. Dear Robert Avery,
    Thanks for your comment! If you Google my name, there are lots of hits and bits about me. My upcoming book, outlined on the web page, contains lots of information about famous African American Philadelphians from this very vibrant and nationally significant dance community. Some of them are still alive, including Sydney King and Joan Myers Brown. They deserve recognition in your Museum! They, too, have Google trails. More later.

  2. Robert Avery Says:

    Thank you very much for the information. I was able to find out information about your work. I posted information about your book on dance and received some very positive feedback. Philadelphia has a wonderful mix of great people, doing all kinds of great things. Thank you for the names of Sydney King and Joan Myers Brown. I was able to highlight them. I will keep you posted on when our website is up. I am humbled for your help. Thank you very much and keep up the great work. May God continue to bless you and your husbands work!
    Here is our Mission for The Philadelphia Wax Museum
    The Philadelphia Wax Museum is an independent, non-partisan 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization committed solely to, broadening public compassion and gratitude for the famous personalities; as well as the study and preservation of Philadelphia History through education, research, and conservation. The Philadelphia Wax Museum is organized and operated exclusively for the relief of the poor, the distressed, and the underprivileged; also for the advancement of education, historical and cultural awareness for the Greater Philadelphia Region, all while lessening the burdens of government. The Philadelphia Wax Museum will use life size and lifelike wax figures of famous Philadelphians past and present to motivate the youth to achieve! The Philadelphia Wax Museum will also work to improve race relations by dispelling racial superiority by displaying the many races and cultures that have contributed to Philadelphia’s success as one of the world’s greatest cities. The Philadelphia Wax Museum will also support and work in conjunction with other nonprofit, charitable organizations seeking to improve the social and economic status of underprivileged Philadelphians in the greater Philadelphia Region.

    Very Respectfully
    Robert Avery

  3. [...] About the Author July 20102 comments 3 [...]

  4. I feel so fortunate to have had the experience of being a student of yours. You continue to inspire me, as an artist and scholar. Thank you.

  5. Would you be willing to contact me about a possible speaking engagement? Black Dancing Body was one of my favorite books this past summer, and I would love to find ways to share the wealth. Warmly, Solveig Santillano

  6. hello Ma’m, i wish to say i am most grateful for all your efforts! how i wish, we the Ejagham Community of Nigeria can have you do a presentation to grace our African Art form. keep up your good work we cherish you. Ntui Godma

  7. Lee Worley Says:

    Brenda I am thinking of you these last days, your picture always in front of me as I sit at the computer. Can we get in touch?

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