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Bringing Black Dance to B-Town: MODE and The First National Congress on Blacks in Dance

News clipping from The Courier Tribune published on May 8th, 1973 titled "Plan Black Dance Congress." Includes a photo of Carole Y. Johnson, a light-skinned Black woman sitting at a table wearing a head wrap, smiling and holding up a registration form. Seated next to her is Lillian Dunlap, a dark-skinned Black woman with a short afro, smiling and looking at Carole Johnson holding a registration form for their event.
“Plan Black Dance Congress” The Courier Tribune, May 8 1973 featuring Carole Y. Johnson and Lillian Dunlap.

A few months ago, I started processing a collection of records from a New York City-based dance organization called the Modern Organization of Dance Evolvement or MODE. Carole Y. Johnson, the founding President of MODE and world-renowned choreographer and dancer, donated the MODE records to the IU Archives as well as a collection of personal records that are yet to be processed. The records are organized into four series: Administrative Records, Events and Projects, The Feet, and The First National Congress of Blacks in Dance.

At first glance, I didn’t see how this collection fit into the Indiana University Bloomington story, but in flipping through these records and learning about MODE’s involvement on campus in the summer of 1973, I know that this collection will spotlight the beautiful community of Black dance at IU.

This summer marks the 50 year anniversary of the First National Congress of Blacks in Dance, a week-long conference co-hosted by MODE and Indiana University’s Black Music Center. The Congress brought roughly 400 participants from across the United States to Bloomington to celebrate the history, performance, and community of Black dance and culture. Prominent Black choreographers such as Rod Rogers, Chuck Davis, Olatunji, Eleo Pomare, and Carole Y. Johnson led various workshops, dance technique trainings, and performances throughout the week. The Congress also consisted of film screenings, panels, performances, and social gatherings with Bloomington student groups.

Image is the June 1973 cover of "The Feet," a dance publication. The cover contains the text: The Monthly Black Dance and Arts Maganews. The Feet Anniversary Issue, June 1973, $1.50, Black Choreographers Speak on Value of Critic, D.C. Black Repertory, Black Aesthetic. The cover also includes an abstract illustration of a dancer with their arms lifted above their head with fingers pointing while in a squatted position.
Front cover of The Anniversary Issue of The Feet – June 1973

A unique feature of the MODE records is The Feet, MODE’s monthly dance and arts publication. The Feet shared features on dance companies, information about upcoming performances and classes, reviews of dance performances, selected pieces of art such as poetry and illustrations, and advertisements for New York City based Black businesses.

The MODE collection and records of the First National Congress of Blacks in Dance are featured in the current IU Archives exhibition “Bringing Black Dance to B-Town: MODE and The First National Congress of Blacks in Dance” which is open through September 29th. The exhibit documents dance initiatives and events in New York City throughout the late 1960s and how MODE’s effort to share Black dance made its way to Bloomington, Indiana.

To view the full collection of Modern Organization for Dance Evolvement records, contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.

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