Then Now Next Dance Festival

The International Association of Blacks in Dance in Partnership with Philadanco! The Philadelphia Dance Company Present:

Then Now Next Dance Festival

A Dance Festival Celebrating Legendary and Emerging Black Dance Companies.

Featuring over 40 Dance Companies From Across the Nation.

January 15 – 18, 2020

The Merriam Theater at The Kimmel Center Cultural Campus

[ Article by Andy Blackman Hurwitz ]

[ Photographs by Jen Strogatz ]

The city of brotherly love and sisterly affection was dancing in the streets, conference rooms and hotels last week as the 32nd international Conference And Festival of Blacks in Dance descended upon the Avenue of the Arts for its annual gathering.

Founded by hometown hero Joan Myers Brown in the early 1980s, IABD has become a bastion of modern dance in general and specifically, an unparalleled gathering place for the black dance community. Included in the festival were scholars, students and dance companies from around the world. The event has quietly risen to national prominence and stands head over heels above the competition.


While lectures, meetings and presentations dominate the days for conference goers, the public is invited to the evening performances where the best and brightest artists, choreographers, dance companies and directors flex their grace, style and incredible movement in a showcase that borders competition.

It’s the All-Star game of modern black dance and seated in the center of the Merriam Theater it felt like these amazing Artists were flexing their brilliance for the audience of course, but really — for each other.  Independent Philly has covered modern dance in many contexts but never have we felt the collective power and energy that seemed to bond the stage with the crowd. 

Dance is an art from which is done with body, mind and soul and there was no lack of either of these elements as they all combined to create a unique blend of poetry in motion with deep roots in the history of African American Dance including the tribal dances of Africa, the slave dances of the West Indies and the home spun traditions of the American Deep South.

Equally diverse was the musical accompaniment. Kudos to the Merriam for spending money on a wonderful new sound system that filled the air with crystal clarity.   From hip-hop, to gospel, spoken word to jazz the compositions selected were unique and well picked. But the most power sounds were those of silence and the satisfying vibrations of bare feet pattering across the fine grain wooden floors.

While the University of the Arts dance team had the hometown advantage, the audience shared their love without prejudice. Notable presentations included the Contemporary West Dance Theatre (Las Vegas, NV), Philadanco, Danse4Nia Repertory Ensemble, Just Sole! Street Dance Theater Company, and  Straight to the Pointe.

Walking out of the Theater and pouring out onto Broad Street the audience seemed spiritually elevated, emotionally full and inspired to dance through the night feeling slightly different from the people they were before this magical evening.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of any Art form?

Circle the date for IABD 33 – a truly special event that Philly is proud to be a part of. 


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