Avenue of the Arts, Inc. is gearing up for its 2022 Visionary Awards. The nearly three-decades-old nonprofit organization works to promote the development, beautification, and marketing of the Avenue of the Arts- which includes the area of South Broad Street from City Hall to Washington Avenue. Over the years, the area has grown and is a vibrant destination for folks looking to attend arts venues.
This year, AAI will celebrate two icons in Philadelphia’s dance industry: Joan Myers Brown founder of Philadelphia Dance Company, and Christine Cox, co-founder of BalletX. Brown just marked the 51st anniversary of the founding of PHILADANCO and the 50th anniversary of The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts. She has recently received a number of honors including the title Master of African American Choreography by the Kennedy Center, and a 2012 National Medal of the Arts.
“This is truly an honor,” says Joan Myers Brown, “we were one the first companies to be here when the Avenue of the Arts started, and so it’s like full circle for me to come and be awarded by the Avenue of the Arts, but also coming out of the pandemic. I think it’s important to all of us that we survived because it was very difficult.”
Brown’s original vision was to create a place for African American Ballet dancers. Decades later she says that vision continues:
“I am still fighting that fight,” says Brown, “because [dance] must look like Philadelphia.”
Cox helped start BalletX in 2005 with Matthew Neenan. They’ve produced more than 100 world premiere ballets by nearly 60 renowned and emerging choreographers to date, reaching more than 150,000 dance patrons. The Philadelphia native says she wanted to help Ballet evolve after spending 13 years in the Pennsylvania Ballet.
“I just wanted to do something new and different,” Cristine Cox, says, “BalletX has been about supporting artists and creating a platform for voices to share what’s happening in the world today.”
She says the journey has been long, but a shift has started.
“I see the ripple effect of it and I see that other companies are starting to do work that is pivoting slightly,” says Cox.
Cox says she went to high school in the space where Arthaus Condominium, the venue of the Visionary Awards, is now located.
“This is really a full-circle moment,” she says.
PHILADANCO and BalletX both survived the pandemic, finding ways to keep their dancers employed. Brown says her dancers were only off the payroll for four weeks thanks to efforts to keep them working. Cox says BalletX pivoted to making dance films during the pandemic, which kept her dancers busy. Now both dance companies are performing this spring.
PHILADANCO is performing its latest, “RE” REVIVED AND ACHIEVED, REVISITED AND RE-CONSTRUCTED” at the Kimmel Center April 22-24.
Joan Myers Brown and Christine Cox will be celebrated on Friday, April 22, 2022 , at the 2022 Visionary Awards organized by Avenue of the Arts Inc.