Are they Black?
No. White. I had to school them.
Does Kim run the school also?
Well, the school is not part of the company. The first 10 years the company was housed in the school, but when we purchased the building, we reversed the roles. The school pays rent to the company. I kept the school for profit so I would be guaranteed an income as a single parent.
You know, the String Theory School wants to build a new location, a charter school, and call it the Joan Myers Brown School of the Arts.
Wait, they’re naming a school after you?
Yes, and they want me to develop a curriculum, so I put Ali [Willingham, artistic director of Danco3] there because he teaches the way I like people to teach — know the craft, break down the movement, demand growth and not show off. Our youth are caught up in getting the applause and not learning the craft, so when I find the ones that really want to learn, they have someplace for classes and performing opportunities.
The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t new to you, is it?
I experienced that in 1962, 1988 and 1995. Every time white folks in charge throw money out there and say, “Y’all got to help Black people,” they help us, but when the money’s gone, they’re gone. Have you noticed how every ad in Dance Magazine has a Black person? It’s like they are saying, “Look, I got one!”
Did you envision I.A.B.D. conferences as a home base for the Black dance community?
You know, the first few conferences we were a mess, but we were happy to be together. Cleo [Parker Robinson] is from Denver; Jeraldyne [Blunden] was Dayton; Lula [Washington], Los Angeles; and Ann [Williams], from Dallas. And each time we learned something about our own organizations, about others doing the same thing, and how we can help each other. Mikki Shepard pulled us together, and people said we set the plate for DanceUSA. I was on the board of DanceUSA then. I said, “I got to get away from here and start my own thing because this ain’t helping Black people at all.”
The younger members want to ignore the things we learned, and their opinions are valid, but I say experience teaches you something. I.A.B.D. was a gathering to bring us together and share stuff, now it’s a full-fledged service organization.