Print Page | Contact Us | Report Abuse | Sign In | Join Now / Subscribe
About Us
Share |


The International Association of Blacks in Dance preserves and promotes dance by people of African ancestry or origin, and assists and increases opportunities for artists in advocacy, audience development, education, funding, networking, performance, philosophical dialogue, and touring.


Our vision is for dance, by people of African ancestry or origin, to be revered, respected, and preserved in the consciousness and cultural institutions of all people.


IABD values and validates the significant connections and influence that dance by people of African ancestry or origin have on the American and International cultural landscape. We believe in:

  • The aesthetic and integrity of all forms, genres, methods and styles that have influenced, transformed, and advanced the art of dance and its history. 

  • Providing choreographers and companies an artistic outlet and opportunity to present their work. 

  • The discipline, experience, knowledge, and wisdom that impact youth and the next generation of dance artists. 

  • Creating an environment of exploration and scholarship for administrators, artists, educators, researchers, scholars, production staff, and writers to learn and grow. 

  • Encouraging meaningful inter-generational exchange of these values between dance masters and emerging artists.




THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACKS IN DANCE (IABD) has become the Mecca for Blacks in Dance such as administrators, artists, choreographers, dance companies, directors, educators, scholars, students, teachers, and those interested in artistry, black dance issues, and performance presentations. The Association provides a network, formal newsletters, choreographers directory, published papers and is the raison d’être for the annual conference and festival. The Association also responds to and initiates dialogue around issues that impact the Black Dance Community as well as the Dance community at large. IABD has developed national prominence and allowed the Black Dance Community to come together on issues important to them.

In 1988, Joan Myers Brown, Founder/Executive Artistic Director along with the Philadanco! staff launched the 1st International Conference of Black Dance Companies as a direct result of an artistic grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Eighty professionals attended in Philadelphia, PA. Ms. Brown felt that a gathering of the Black dance community would serve not only her needs, but also needs of other Black dance professionals.


Inspired by the convening of the conference and the possibility of an organization that served the needs of those committed to Black Dance, constituents of the 1990 Denver, CO conference hosted by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, presented a motion that called for a formalization of an association. It was determined that each year the conference would rotate from one city to another with a host organization. In 1991, at the Dayton, OH conference hosted by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the unincorporated association, The International Association of Blacks in Dance  (IABD)  was formalized and an Emergency Fund was instituted for IABD artists and companies. During the association’s first six years, 1988 – 1993, its Founding  Organizational Members hosted the  annual  conference and festival.


The inaugural Executive Committee and Founding Organizational Members of the association included (listed in year of  history of  conference and festival presenting):


  The Philadelphia Dance Company, Philadanco!
1988 - 1989  
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
Lula Washington Dance Theatre
Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Joan Myers Brown
Honorary Chair


Cleo Parker Robinson
Vice Chair

Jeraldyne Blunden
(1940 - 1999)
Lula Washington
Ann Williams
2nd Vice Chair


Today, the conference  and festival  has grown to include an average of 400 - 600 participants from across the  country, Africa, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America. The conference  and festival  has been held nationally and internationally in California, Canada, Colorado, New York City, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, D.C


In 1993,  the association’s first Executive Director, Bonnie Bing, was appointed to carry forth the vision and daily administrative operations of the organization. 1996, IABD established a national scholarship-training program for dancers, and offered a multi-company audition for dancers across the nation, the first of its kind. In January 1999, Dr. Sherrill Berryman Johnson, Professor of Dance at Howard University would become the association’s next Chairperson/Executive Director, taking the organization to another level of national/international prominence and respect. IABD would operate its offices from The University for more than 10 years with support by the Howard University Dance Program and students.


September 2000, with the presentation of the New York Dance and Performance Award, The  Bessies, IABD was recognized as a new force in the dance community,  for creating a collegial, spiritual space  as its leadership created new ideals to advance its constituents. The association was showcasing dance outside of the normal circles, and presenters were exposed to all types of Black Dance from all over the world, in one location.


In 2010, Denise Saunders Thompson was appointed  the third Chairperson/Executive Director of the  association and obtained its non-profit 501(c)3 tax exempt status and recognition, 2011,  a year later. And in 2017,  the Board of Directors appointed Thompson as its  first President and CEO, having received  a half million-dollar grant awarded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish and develop the association’s  infrastructure  and conduct an organizational health study of the Black Dance sector’s dance companies. In 2018, the Association entered a milestone year with the 30th anniversary of the Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance in Los Angeles, CA hosted by founding member, Lula Washington Dance Theatre.


The Association is committed not only to documenting and addressing Black aesthetics in dance; it educates younger generations about contributions of Black artists in dance. As one avenue for accomplishing these goals, the Association has established archives with the National Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio, the Afro-American Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University in Washington, DC.


The Association and Conference were  initially  shaped by the presence of some of the most prominent companies and individuals  in the Dance community  (alphabetical order, last name)  Ronald K. Brown,  Evidence, A Dance Company;  Chuck Davis, African American Dance Ensemble;  George Faison;  Carol Foster, DC Youth Ensemble; Joan Gray, Muntu Dance Theatre; Beverly Harper, Charmaine Jefferson, Denise Jefferson, Carmen de  LaVallade, Dancer, Choreographer, Donald McKayle;  Eleo Pomare, Eleo Pomare Dance Company;  Dr. Patricia Reid-Merritt;  Rod Rodgers, Rod Rodgers Dance Company,  Walter Nicks,  Dancer, Choreographer, and  a host of many others with deep and committed interests.


The International Association of Blacks in Dance, Inc., has developed national prominence and allowed the Black dance community to come together on issues important to them. IABD’s very existence recognizes that if we, as Blacks in dance, do not endeavor to preserve and promote dance by people of African ancestry or origin then there is certainly no other group who should or will take on this responsibility.



The Annual IABD Conference and Festival is the only national gathering of Black Dance professionals in the United States.The conference and festival has become the convergence of ideas and interaction not only for the Dance community, but also for those who serve the black community, especially the black critics association and educators.We expect 400-600 administrators, agents, artistic directors, artists, choreographers, executive directors, presenters, service providers, and other individuals associated with the professional Dance field (archivists, development staff, marketing, scholars, and etc.) to join us for four days of networking, information sharing, professional development, discussion on important issues facing the Black Dance field, and performances. Explore and embrace the diversity, partnerships, and technology in this gathering that will inspire new thinking and lead to a vibrant future for Dance.

Questions about the conference and festival, email us at