Archive for the Uncategorized Category

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-

“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)



Flamenco Festival, March 2014, Philadelphia

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2014 by bdixongottschild

This was posted this morning on the PhiladelphiaFlamencoFestival website. Adelante!

By Way of Introduction. By Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Ph.D.

February 3, 2014

 I am honored to be working with Pasion y Arte as a consultant, blog writer, and post-performance moderator for the Flamenco Festival.  You will hear from me on these pages soon after Rosario Toledo‘s rehearsals begin in February. I’m savoring this and looking forward to it more as a treat than a task!I see my role as the proverbial, anthropological “fly on the wall;” sitting unobtrusively in the corner of the dance studio, taking notes, and registering my reflections/insights during Toledo’s collaborative ventures with three Philadelphia-based dance artists.
This is an assignment that’s almost as fulfilling for me as performance itself; and this is how I am working with artists these days. To witness the process is as nurturing an experience as to witness the final product. It excites and stimulates me to watch work take shape, perhaps because I remember my years (decades ago, but still vivid) as a performance artist in New York City and in Europe–dancing with others, making dances, and as an actor in a collaborative and experimental theater group (the legendary Open Theater, directed by Joseph Chaikin).
The fact that Pasion y Arte commissioned me to write on the Festival says a mouthful about the expanding reach and scope of Flamenco culture. It is wonderful to know that my insights are valued, albeit I am most frequently recognized as a writer on postmodern and Africanist (that is, African and African American) dance cultures. Likewise, the fact that the three collaborators with Rosario Toledo are Korean-American (Eun Jung Choi), African-American (Germaine Ingram), and European-American (Meg Foley) speaks volumes about Pasion y Arte’s commitment to Flamenco as a millennial performance genre, inclusive and progressive.
You’ll hear from me again the week of February 10!  Abrazos, Brenda