From: Barbara J.
Beitel/Access to Art, Inc.
CLUB HARLEM COMMON DENOMINATOR FOR
SISTER SLEDGE AND
JOAN MYERS BROWN, FOUNDER OF PHILADANCO
Cape May Court House.
Joan Myers Brown opened for Sammy Davis,
Jr. and Pearl Bailey at Atlantic City’s hot
night spot, Club Harlem on North Kentucky
Ave. in the 50’s and 60’s. She choreographed
and was a featured dancer for Larry Steele’s
Smart Affairs, a dance revue, which opened
for major singers and warmed up the crowd.
Access to Art will bring a reversal to
history, of sorts, on May l7th when Cape
May’s own Jazz singer Lois Smith and singer
Kim Sledge of the Sisters Sledge open for
Joan Myers Brown’s dance company,
Philadanco! at a reception at the
Middle Township PAC hosted by Access to Art,
Inc. in Cape May Court House at 5-7 p.m.
Attendees will meet Joan Myers Brown, and
two of her dancers who are not performing in
the first piece. The dance company,
Philadanco!, newly back from a four
˝ week stint in Europe, from the Newark PAC,
and the Kimmel, will perform at 7:30 p.m.
It all began because she was black, wanted
to dance classical ballet, and they would
not take people of color. Today
Philadanco! is performing at the
Kennedy Center, the Joyce Theatre, NY,
Lincoln Center and West Palm Beach and
across three continents to rave reviews.
Says the NY Times: “Silken grace, perfect
form, excitingly rendered...a company of
invigorating contrast.” Los Angeles Times
calls them “High-speed wonders.”
Kentucky Ave.’s hot
nightspots from the l930’s to the l970’s
featured anybody who was anybody: Frank
Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Dean Martin, Jerry
Lewis, Pearl Bailey, Billy Daniels, Billy
Eckstein appeared on Kentucky Ave. at Club
500 or Club Harlem. It was the essence of
cool to be there, at Club Harlem, the place
which had late night shows, and early
morning shows after the other clubs closed
at 11 p.m.. It was a black act, with a
primarily white audience in the 50’s and
60’s, but in the thirties, the audience was
mainly black as well. And nightclubs were
the entertainment of choice during that
period. Hot jazz was played there.
Philadanco! studio, on the wall, in
West Philadelphia, there’s a photo of her
with Sammy Davis, Jr. Now she has three
dance companies, a full season, a company
that won the “American Masters” award from
the NEA, and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
this year, along with the Martha Graham
Dance Company and Sweet Honey in the Rock.
She won the 2006 Dance Magazine award. She
still teaches dance, and manages three
companies. And her company, unlike many
others, operates in the black.
All Myers Brown
wanted was to become a classical dancer for
which she trained with Antony Tudor,
Katherine Dunham, William Sena, Sydney King.
Her mother a research chemist said she could
be anything she chose. She went to New York
to study with Katherine Dunham. But the
ballet companies, especially Pennsylvania
Ballet, were not hiring people of color,
which is why she came to Club Harlem in
Atlantic City. And, eventually, she founded
her school, and then her company, because
she wanted to be the lead for a change. She
was tired of not being cast, or being cast
in a supporting role. And of having the door
slammed in her face.
Club Harlem didn’t
deter her dream; it just detained it. And
just maybe, it informed her mind about
entertainment generally, despite her
classical training. He company’s Spring and
Fall residencies at the Kimmel sell out.
The clubs on Kentucky
Ave. were former haunts of the Rat Pack, and
other super stars of an earlier era. Joan
learned show biz there; classical dance in
Philadelphia and New York. She learned to
pursue a dream and not have no said to her.
Her world class company, which began dancing
on the back of recreation trucks in
Philadelphia, now graces the major concert
hall venues on three continents. And the
critics can’t praise her enough.
Access to Art will
celebrate Joan Myers Brown, from
Philadelphia, with roots in Atlantic City,
that are spreading across three continents.
Her company will dance at 7:30 p.m., and we
will celebrate her tenacity at our “Club
Harlem Revisited” reception at the Middle
Township PAC. Joan
Myers Brown will be in attendance,
accustomed to many honors and honorary
degrees. She serves on the Rockefeller
Foundation. Tickets are $60. for the
reception and the show. Call Access to Art,
Inc. at (609) 465-3963 for reservations.