Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, Women’s and Gender Studies

Ballet has a set canon of foot, limb, and torso movement configurations and air positions that we can recognize as ballet, a Europeanist form, regardless of the period or century it was choreographed. Similarly, African and African diasporan dance encompass a defining range and standard of motifs, movements, and attitudes recognizable as Africanist across national boundaries and chronological divides.

BRENDA DIXON-GOTTSCHILD - Author, performer, choreographer, and Professor Emerita of Dance Studies, Temple University

Visiting Scholar 2007-2008
Hosted by the Department of Women's and Gender Studies

Brenda Dixon-Gottschild is Professor Emerita of Dance Studies at Temple University. She is an author, scholar, dance historian, performer and choreographer who performs with her husband and choreographer Hellmut Gottschild in “movement theater discourse,” a somatic and research-based collaboration. Her work uses dance performance as a measure and paradigm of society.

2007-2008 Scholars


Brenda Dixon-Gottschild is Professor Emerita of Dance Studies at Temple University. She is an author, scholar, dance historian, performer and choreographer who performs with her husband and choreographer Hellmut Gottschild in “movement theater discourse,” a somatic and research-based collaboration. Her work uses dance performance as a measure and paradigm of society.

In her professional life, Dr. Dixon-Gottschild has "journeyed from a career as artist-performer to writer-scholar, from practitioner to observer—and, lately, a combination of both." She spent the early years of her career as a professional performer: member of the Mary Anthony Dance Theater (New York: 1964-1966); independent choreographer, teacher, and performer in the United States and abroad (New York, Stockholm, Helsinki, and London: 1966-1968); member of the Open Theater (directed byJoseph Chaikin, New York and Europe: 1968-1971); and member of the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop actor’s unit (New York: 1976-1980).

Dr. Dixon-Gottschild earned a Bachelor's (1979) and a PhD (1981) in Performance Studies from New York University. For over twenty years she has served as consultant and correspondent for Dance Magazine. Her publications include The Black Dancing Body: A Geography from Coon to Cool; Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era; Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts; and Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina. 

In presenting her research, Dr. Dixon-Gottschild uses her "own dancing body to demonstrate various performative and kinesthetic principles...to fuse the categories of lecture, performance, and discourse," defining her work as “choreography for the page,” an "embodied, subjunctive approach to research writing".

The Department of Women's and Gender Studies served as her hosts at MIT. In addition to continuing her research in movement-theater discourse, Dr. Dixon-Gottschild guest-lectured in the "Theater and Cultural Diversity in the U.S." (21M.621/SP.595) course and held a performance-lecture titled "Researching Performance: The (Black) Dancing Body as a Measure of Culture". Along with Hellmut Gottschild, she also performed “Tongue, Smell, Color,” an internationally renowned work that weaves together dance, music, poetry, readings from academic texts, enactments of searing personal catharsis, and a unique physical vocabulary created by the scholar/artists.

During her time as an MLK Scholar, Dr. Dixon-Gottschild won the Congress on Research in Dance Award for Outstanding Leadership in Dance Research (2008) and later a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award For Art and Social Change (2009).  In 2008, she was granted an award from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through Dance Advance to begin work on a book about Joan Myers Brown and her legacy, which was published three years later as Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

#TheGathering

In an effort to begin a dialogue and action plan to provide support and opportunities to African American women choreographers, Camille A. Brown organized a meeting of dance and performing arts professionals at the City Center studios on Sunday, January 12, 2014. As one of the elders at #TheGathering, Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild shared her wisdom with the crowd.

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