6abc Loves the Arts: Philadanco's H-I-S-T-O-R-Y lesson

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia-based dance company Philandanco is breathing new life into the works of classic African-American artists.

The program is called H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, and it puts a spotlight on iconic African-American choreographers and artists who have contributed to the world of dance and theater.

The program will revive the artists' work and shed new light on their untold stories.

"Our kids don't know, they don't get taught about our history," said Philadanco Founder and Artistic Director Joan Myers Brown. "And if we don't tell our history, it doesn't get told."

The special guest artist is Carmen deLavallade. The 87 year old is this year's Kennedy Center Honors recipient. She will be performing a piece called The Creation.

"She's just a beautiful mover," said Brown. "She was the person who brought Alvin Ailey to dance. She took him to his first dance class."

The dance was choreographed by deLavallade's late husband, Geoffrey Holder.

"Geoffrey Holder was a movie star, an artist, a poet," said Brown. "A lot of people remember him from the 7 Up commercial. (He was) the 'Un-cola' man."

Philadanco will also perform a company favorite: "Forces of Rhythm," by Tony Award-winner Louis Johnson, choreographed the film version of The Wiz.

"It shows us the African dance, the ballet dance and social dance," said Brown, "the things that we do, and it's all mixed together. But it's really amazing."

Louis Johnson "was the first dancer in a movie, a black dancer in a movie," Brown continued. "He's 88 now, and I wanted to say, you know, he's still here. And he's done great work."

"Walking with Pearl" is about historic choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus.

"She was a black woman who choreographed in the 40s 50s," said Brown. "And her work was about ... social injustice."

The troupe is also paying homage to playwright August Wilson with a world premier work.

"It's August Wilson's poetry, and a lot of people have never heard or didn't even know about his poetry," Brown said. "I'm doing a 'two-fer,' entertaining the audience and letting people know some of our history."

Philadanco performs H-I-S-T-O-R-Y at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater December 15 - 17.

For tickets and show times go to http://theartsinphilly.org/events/h-i-s-t-o-r-y .


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