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.
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.