IU African American Dance Company to celebrate 40th concert with dance premiere, alumni activities

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More than four decades later, Indiana University African American Dance Company director Iris Rosa can still recall her job interview with Herman Hudson, who founded the university's Department of Afro-American Studies and created programs that recruited, retained and graduated minority students.

He was looking for someone to head a new dance ensemble to highlight cultural expressions of African American dance, something new to the Bloomington campus in the mid-1970s.

"I'd just graduated with my degree, and I was about to start teaching physical education and dance at an East Chicago school," Rosa said. "It was my first big interview, and the whole process was a little intimidating. It was an amazing opportunity, however, to focus my contemporary and modern dance experience with an understanding of various African American dance traditions and styles."

In the ensuing years, the multi-ethnic group has become a part of the fabric of the Bloomington campus. This spring, the African American Dance Company will celebrate its 40th concert with a premiere of a new piece Rosa created with former IU Soul Revue director Kenneth Ware based on the Langston Hughes poem, "Death in Harlem." A weekend celebration for current and alumni members of the dance company is also planned.

"We're celebrating a connection of past and present," Rosa said. "We used to dance in a tiny room in the old black culture center, and now we have a lovely new studio to call our own. We have a huge network of former students, professors, mentors. This company is the result of many people's hard work and the vision Dr. Hudson had for black culture on the IU campus, and we're looking forward to honoring that legacy."

Highlights of the weekend include a luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 12 at the Bloomington Monroe County Convention Center, which will feature performances by the dance company's sister ensembles, the African American Choral Ensemble and IU Soul Revue; and the anniversary concert at 8 p.m. April 12 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre. Registration details for the weekend are available online, as are tickets for the concert.

In addition, the African American Arts Institute will award the Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award to Sheila Ward, a former dance company member, associate professor at Norfolk State University and executive director of Eleone Dance Theatre. The award recognizes former student ensemble and staff members who, after leaving IU, have made outstanding contributions in the arts.

View event flyer.
Related story: Iris Rosa, African American Dance Company Celebrate 40 Years