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-

“Racing” in “Place”: Dance Studies & The Academy

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2015 by bdixongottschild

I’ve sadly ignored this blog and am using Facebook for most social media purposes. Please visit me there:

Meanwhile, here’s the video of a presentation I recently gave at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University (March 25m 2015). I believe the full paper’s up on the FHI website.

When Did the Avant-Garde Become Black?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2014 by bdixongottschild

These are introductory comments I gave at the Bill (T. Jones) Chat of the same name, March 23 2014, New York Live Arts. Other panelists: Ralph Lemon, Bebe Miller, Dianne McIntyre, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Adrienne Edwards, and Charmaine Warren–hosted of course by Bill T. If anyone wants to quote anything, please feel free, just CREDIT ME ACCORDINGLY:

The question posed for this conversation – namely, when did it become acceptable for a person who defines her/himself as black to also say “I’m avant-garde”—opens up a web of complexities. I believe I know full well what Bill T. is getting at, but bear with me while I trouble the waters a bit and take a wide-angle perspective. He’s addressing the avant-garde as a SCENE; I want to address it as a PRINCIPLE.Yes: at a moment in late-20th century history, certain black dancers could acknowledge belonging to the dominant culture’s DEFINITION of avant-garde, but it behooves us to also acknowledge the avant-garde history embedded in and integral to AFRICANIST traditions, of which many of us may or may not be aware.

I might UPDATE the question to ask when black dancers felt EMPOWERED enough to own up to the Africanist avant-garde in their work: the surrealist, the abstract-expressionist, the minimalist elements that consciously or subconsciously informed how they presented dance to the downtown audience.   I’ll stay with the term, “avant-garde,” but be aware that it’s an OUTSIDER term, in the same sense that Cubism was NOT Picasso’s or Braque’s moniker for a certain style of visual art, but a conceit dreamed up by an art critic.  All this to say that the so-called avant-garde is an ongoing thread in Africanist [i.e. AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN] genres of visual art, music, and dance—part of the disjunctive dissonances; the high-affect juxtapositions; the aesthetics of HOT-AND-COOL; the chromatic scales of African American blues and field hollers; the abstract nature of rhythm tap dance; the DOWN grassroots poetry of signifyin’ and the dozens—and, ironically, these are elements that Europeanist cultures appropriated in the service of infusing and injecting new blood, new life, into the dominant culture.  And then, in typical recursive fashion, Europeanist appropriation circled back into counter-appropriation.  In other words, even though INVISIBILIZED, what was characterized as avant-garde is, IN PART, an Africanist thread TEASED OUT AND REPURPOSED to fit the needs of the dominant culture.

 Not to beat my own drum, but I discussed these issues in my first book, [SHOW], Digging the Africanist Presence in American Culture, Dance and Other Contexts, published during the culture wars of the 1990s, particularly in the chapter titled “Barefoot & Hot, Sneakered & Cool: Africanist subtexts in Modern and Postmodern Dance,” and in the previous chapter titled, “Don’t Take Away My Picasso: Cultural Borrowing and the Afro-Euro-American Triangle.” There I cited John Cage’s debt to Southern Black gut-bucket musics in the following passage(s):      [QUOTE FROM DIGGING: pp.30- four penultimate lines through 31, four top lines, & ENDNOTE #10 p.43]

 Thus, it points us back to Bill T.’s question and the fact that it can only be “THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE”—namely , systemic racism—that invisibilized information like this and made it controversial for a black dancer to claim avant-garde status.

 I’ll leave off with an interesting statement by Paloma McGregor, choreographer/researcher in residency at NYU’s Hemispheric Institute:  “Black has always felt connected to the edges in my experience, if the avant-garde operates at the edges. Of course, what we are really talking about is avant [garde] being defined as largely white artistic production that is almost always operating much at the center of this structure—even much of the radical work.   I hope there is some talking about what is meant by avant-garde and who decides who is and isn’t ‘included’ in that group.” (email communication, March 13, 2014)