Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s The Black Dancing Body: A Geography From Coon to Cool (Palgrave Macmillan, 332 pp., $29.29) is a curious document, as much anatomy as “geography.” The third volume in her continuing study of the “Africanist presence” in American dance, it fuses history, criticism, memoir (raised in Harlem, Gottschild entered the New York dance world in the early ’60s and recently retired after a distinguished career at Temple University), symposium (she interviewed mature dancers, black and white, and quotes them extensively), meditation, cultural politics, and polemic. Chapters focus on stereotypes and “reality,” on feet, butts, skin, and hair, ranging from individual recollection to theory and back.
On Thursday the author and her husband, Hellmut Gottschild (director of Philadelphia’s ZeroMoving Dance Company and also a retired Temple professor), offer a theater piece exploring issues of race, gender, nationality, age, memory, and guilt, then throw the floor open for discussion. A book signing follows. The event is free, but arrive early if you want a seat.