National Honor

An internationally recognized contemporary dance company in residence at the University of Dayton has won one of the dance world's top honors.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company was honored last week as a recipient of the New York Dance and Performance Award for outstanding revival for choreographer Donald McKayle’s Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder. DCDC performed McKayle’s 1959 work in March as part of the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance season at the Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York City.

The New York Dance and Performance Awards are the dance world’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards. Known as the “Bessie” in honor of dance teacher Bessie Schoenberg, the awards were established in 1983 and recognize exceptional work in choreography, performance, music composition and visual design.

“The Bessie is the most prestigious award for dance performance in the country — you can only receive it for a performance in New York City,” said Crystal Michelle, DCDC associate director. “There is so much dance in that city that to be noticed out of all those performances is glorious.”

DCDC shares the Bessie honor with Paul Taylor American Modern Dance and choreographer McKayle, now 85, who joined DCDC for its curtain calls. The awards ceremony is Oct. 18 in New York.

Founded in 1968 by Jeraldyne Blunden, DCDC is a culturally diverse contemporary dance company rooted in the African-American experience. DCDC tours regionally, nationally and internationally, and holds the world’s largest archive of classic African-American dance works.

The University of Dayton became DCDC’s first university partner in 2009 and has enjoyed an active relationship with the company, said Paul Benson, University provost, who also serves on the DCDC board.

“The fundamental purpose of these local university partnerships, which now include Central State University and Wright State University, is to expand the educational mission of DCDC to universities’ academic programs and campuses,” Benson said.

DCDC served for a number of years as the University of Dayton’s community artist-in-residence, offering performances, classes and artistic collaborations on campus. Debbie Blunden-Diggs, DCDC artistic director, is currently an adjunct faculty member in the theatre, dance and performance technology program.

The University has helped sponsor the creation of DCDC work, and faculty and students have composed and played live music for the company’s performances.

In August 2012, DCDC performed as part of the grand opening of the University of Dayton China Institute in Suzhou Industrial Park.

Sharon Gratto, Graul Chair in Arts and Languages-designate and chair of the department of music, attended one of DCDC’s three performances of Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder at Lincoln Center.

“It was just amazing,” said Gratto, a DCDC board member. “The audience was on its feet, and it just got incredible response.”

DCDC’s 2016-17 season includes performances of The Littlest Angel on Dec. 2-3 at the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre on campus.

DCDC2, the company’s preparatory and pre-professional ensemble, will perform About Being … with the University of Dayton Dance Ensemble on March 24-25, 2017, at the Boll Theatre.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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