Where Is The Theology?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2018 by bdixongottschild

I wrote this essay for Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’s new piece, Séancers, which premiered at tne Abrons Center (NYC), December 2017. The essay will be reprinted for his performance in Oslo, (Norway)  this month (March 2018). I love working with this creatively gifted man, and look forward to appearing with him as “guest séancer”  at Philly’s Fringe Arts in May, 2018.



My Pew Fellowship Interview.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2018 by bdixongottschild

So grateful to be awarded this honor. I liked responding to these questions, and I really appreciate the photo shoot with Ryan Collerd: great work!

Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Writer and Cultural Scholar Brenda Dixon Gottschild


Brenda Dixon Gottschild, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to Brenda Dixon Gottschild (2017) whose 50-year career as a writer and cultural scholar surveys the presence and influence of the black dancing body in America, in what she calls “choreography for the page”—an “embodied, subjunctive approach to research writing.” She has published a wide range of books, essays, and articles, including Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era(2000), for which she received the 2001 Congress on Research in Dance Award for Outstanding Scholarly Dance Publication. She began her career as a professional performer in modern dance and experimental theater, and in recent years she has re-entered the field as a performer with a solo work on race. Most recently, she performed with her husband and Pew Fellow Hellmut Gottschild in BalletX’s presentation of Nicolo Fonte’s Beautiful Decay.

You describe your professional life as having “journeyed from a career as artist-performer to writer-scholar, from practitioner to observer.” How did this journey begin for you?

As I state in my narrative resume, “the two developments are driven by the same passion for the performing arts and my belief in performance as a highly charged, sociopolitical phenomenon.” I believe the journey began even before I realized I was pursuing it. It was who I was: an African American girl who wanted to be a dancer (for as long as I can recall), loved books, loved sketching, loved school (where my shyness could be hidden by academic achievement) and, at some point, became aware that being Black was not the default setting for being American.

Recently, I came upon a paper I’d written for my high school English honors class in which I explained to my teacher that what I see as a problem in the US is the way “the Negro” (the terminology of 1958, when I wrote this) is treated. In a social studies class, I wrote essays pleading the case for abolishing capital punishment and for statehood for Hawaii. This radical adolescent spirit was nurtured by my circumstances: growing up in Harlem, an ethnically diverse community in the 1940s/50s; going to integrated NYC schools in Washington Heights (the white neighborhood north of Harlem); and sharing honors classes with a handful of African Americans and a majority of Jewish kids, many of whom had lost relatives in the Holocaust. (In fact, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, attended the same junior high school as me. Their adopted father, Abel Meeropol, wrote the words to the song “Strange Fruit.”) Thus, I wore the cloak of social/racial consciousness as closely as my love of dance, and from adolescence onward continued to merge dance and social activism.

What was the first work of art that really mattered to you? Did it influence your approach to your work?

It must’ve been seeing the original Broadway version of West Side Story, sometime in 1959. I would have been barely 17 years old and a freshman in college. The ticket was financed through a philanthropist who also paid for my ballet classes. Perhaps two years before, I’d seen my first stage performance: the ABT production of Petrouchka, with John Kriza dancing the title role. The Stravinsky music, live ballet dancers and, not least of all, snow falling onstage all worked to ensnare me in the beauty of live performance. Nevertheless, it was West Side Story’s contemporary tale of interracial love, an illicit affair, jazz music, and dancing that made me simultaneously hot and cold: ecstatic to see onstage something that seemed to represent my aspirations and limitations all in one piece. This, too, certainly contributed to my “performance as a measure of culture” philosophy.

Interview with Brenda Dixon Gottschild

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2017 by bdixongottschild

Source: Interview with Brenda Dixon Gottschild

In Bodies We Trust

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2017 by bdixongottschild

This wonderful review of the performance by my husband, Hellmut Gottschild, and me at the Berlin’s international dance festival, Tanz Im August, is on the Festival website’s blog. Ironically and sadly, we were performing in Germany while the news was breaking, globally, about the racist massacre of demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA. The beautiful photo’s the work of German Palomeque, official Festival photographer.


In Bodies We Trust: Brenda Dixon-Gottschild and Hellmut Gottschild refuse to give the word the last word
by Lily Kelting, 14 Aug 2017

Brenda Dixon-Gottschild & Hellmut Gottschild: In Bodies We Trust | Credit: German Palomeque
Fifty years ago, the Lovings, an interracial couple, won a case against the state of Virginia. Mildred and Richard Loving had been imprisoned because their marriage was illegal according to the Racial Integrity Act of 1924; they challenged the ruling, and challenged again, until the Supreme Court of the United States made interracial relationships legal in all states. Which means, explains African-American Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, solemnly arm-in-arm with her German-American husband Hellmut Gottschild, that had they gotten married before 1967, they would have been in trouble. “We would have gone to jail,” underscored Hellmut. “In Bodies We Trust—Tongue Smell Color Revisited”, the opening event of the Bibliothek im August on Saturday, is a reflection on the performers’ touring “movement theater discourse” work “Tongue Smell Color”, which is in turn a reflection on race, sex, and power. The episodic and layered piece is rooted in the dynamics of their own interracial relationship but raises questions about popular culture (the media’s treatment of Serena Williams) and history (the tragic story of Sara Baartman, the exotified so-called Venus Hottentot). We see the influence of Brenda’s life of reading and Hellmut’s training in mime and modern dance. Hellmut and Brenda grapple with their own inner lives—curiosity about the other, exoticizing one’s own partner—in public.

But fifty years is a long time, right? And the two hundred years since the death of Sara Baartman even longer. Is this relevant? Tanz im August artistic director Virve Sutinen asks this question of Brenda in a press conference. Hellmut asks this question aloud of himself in our conversation. He asks us the audience, at the close of the performance. Minutes before the event, I check my phone to see news of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia: open and on the streets. So here’s my response: yes, relevant. We—and here I really do mean the most inclusive and global we—still desperately need conversations about race, sex, and power. The nexus between American white supremacy and the ongoing legacy of Nazi fascism became eerily clear this weekend. I am thinking of the very specific, very personal, even confessional, story of Hellmut and Brenda’s own relationship while following from afar the events unfolding in Virginia 2017. No, fifty years is not a long time. Brenda explains to me: “The Venus Hottentot trope, like racism, still exists. It turns, it twists, it goes underground, but it’s still there. The way that the black female body is represented and received is still very similar even though it’s 150 years later. Plus ça change…” The more things change, the more things stay the same. Movement, theater, discourse—dance—can help us see it.

In a moving section at the beginning of “In Bodies We Trust”, Brenda and Hellmut detail similarities between their two childhoods. “I grew up in a big city.” “I grew up in a big city.” “The butcher was German.” “The butcher was German.” But then things start to diverge. “The number runner was black.” “What’s a number runner?” And finally, from Brenda—“The milkman was Jewish.” Hellmut freezes as though paralyzed. Like the blood in his veins has turned to ice. “The milkman was Jewish…” Brenda repeats. The moment hangs heavy in the air.

After the presentation, the pair continue to the front of the stage for a conversation, a key part of each of their events. They ask us not to assume a critical distance but to stay with the piece, to sit with the issues. What follows is one of the most earnest, open, and respectful public discussions I have ever been a part of. Two German women tearfully reiterate the power of that milkman moment—the way that Hellmut’s movement score brought life to what one eloquently called “a silence that is more than silence.” A teenager processes racist microaggressions he experienced at school. We need these conversations.

“In Bodies We Trust” is such a catchy title, you forget what it might mean. Where better to process my emotional and embodied responses to this weekend’s news than after watching this performance? Who better to facilitate discussions this August than “thinking body and dancing mind” Brenda Dixon-Gottschild? I try to crib a few notes: how is she so successful at getting roomfuls of strangers of all different backgrounds to open up? “I try to keep it focused on the issues. Where do you as the audience find yourself in that? Rather than, how do you remove yourself and then make an intellectual question about it. I don’t want the words to win out. As Hellmut says: ‘We will not give the word the last word.’” No: In Bodies We Trust.



Researching Performance

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2017 by bdixongottschild

Trying to be better about posting on this blog, here’s the lecture presentation and discussion at NYU Tisch Dance Dept. that I gave February 2017. Donald Shorter, a truly inspiring person, made the video.

CDSM at IABD Dallas, 2017.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2017 by bdixongottschild

I’ve disregarded this blog for much too long, having put all my focus on Facebook and the various professional commitments that keep me afloat. That said, here’s where I’ll be at the end of this month. New Year’s Blessings to All, in these troubled times. Axé


Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2016 by bdixongottschild

I haven’t posted anything on this humble site for over a year, which is an indication of how time flies. For anyone interested, please visit both my Facebook pages and just scroll through 2014-15-16, and you’ll see I haven’t been at home twiddling my thumbs! Anyway, here’s an interview with me by dance scholar Lynn Brooks, published in Thinking Dance, an online newsletter. Blessings to All! Arrows-at-Racism-in-Dance-and-Beyond-Brenda-Dixon-Gottschild-