Jeraldyne Blunden started her dance training at the age of eight, when some African-American mothers in Dayton, Ohio, approached Josephine and Hermene Schwarz and asked for classes for their kids. It was 1948, and the two sisters apparently weren’t comfortable offering integrated training at the Schwarz School of Dance, but they started community classes at a recreation center in the black part of town, which is where Blunden first learned to dance. She died in 1999, after directing the company she founded for over 30 years, but that legacy of confronting prejudice and crossing racial boundaries lives on. Two of the three Chicago premieres on this program, both originally presented in 1999, are as vibrant and upbeat as they come. Children of the Passage, choreographed by veteran Donald McKayle and relative newcomer Ronald K. Brown, is set to music by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and follows a group of “decadent lost souls” haunted but ultimately reclaimed by their African and African-American ancestors. In artistic director Kevin Ward’s Sets and Chasers several couples boogie to Duke Ellington music, moving together and apart in an elegant demonstration of the laws of magnetic attraction and centrifugal force. Also on the program is McKayle’s 1959 Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder and Bebe Miller’s Aerodigm, premiered just a few months ago. Miller–who’s said that being African-American informs her work but isn’t necessarily its subject–notes that in this piece she’s “looking for the linear: two people in a box, dance on the line, shift the molecules in your body, approximate flight, approximate joy.” The music is by Giovanni Sollima, Jurgen Knieper, and Laurie Anderson. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, March 21, 8 PM. Through March 23: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20. Note: The company will offer a family-oriented workshop and performance Saturday, March 23, at 2:15 PM (performance at 3) in the same place. $10 adults; $6 children (workshop is free).
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andy Snow.