Dear Philadelphia…. Next Round On Me!

Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia
Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia

EDITORS NOTE – I first spoke with Mr. King almost two years ago to date about his writing and postings on FaceBook, which was primarily geared towards the students he served. We found commonality in our approaches to education, our work with students and our concerns about the state of higher education. It was then that I asked him to begin writing for the Dance Journal and his first article “Slap A Label On Me And Call Me A Dancer” soon followed. To date, he has written over 55 articles for The Dance Journal and numerous other pieces for arts oriented publications around the city. He has greatly contributed to the dance community in Philadelphia, bringing much needed exposure and journalistic support to large and small companies.  His writings have been prolific, genuine, eloquent and positive, while serving as a learning tool for those whom he editorialized.   As he moves on from Philadelphia to teach at Kent State University in Ohio, I have asked him to share a few parting words, his “swan song” if you will.  Of course no one ever truly leaves Philadelphia and he will be back to contribute a few more articles covering performances at the FringeArts Festival.  Mr. King will be greatly missed and I can not thank him enough for all that he has contributed. – Steven Weisz

 
by Gregory King for The Dance Journal

Two years ago I met a girl.  (Why do I sound like Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention?)

Her name was Philadelphia and she was oddly familiar.

She was history; grounding herself in stories of America’s Independence, the Constitution, the Revolutionary War, and the American Flag.

She was architecture; showcasing Georgian and Federal style buildings, she refused to deny the row homes she introduced to the United States in the 17th century. From the log houses built by early settlers to the first international skyscraper, she is past, present, and future.

She was pop culture; lending her backdrop to television shows like ABC’s Boy Meets World, How to Get Away with Murder, and frequently referenced in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Not to be outdone by T.V. shows, she was called the center of the nascent movie industry by PhillyMag, proving to be her own movie set with photogenic sites for films like “Rocky,” “Sixth Sense,” “Twelve Monkeys,” and “Philadelphia.”

She was music; trending with musical artists like Jill Scott, Kindred Soul, Musiq Soulchild, The Roots, and Jazmine Sullivan, to name a few.

She was art; parading the Mütter Museum, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Barnes Foundation, and The Franklin Institute.

But as familiar as she seemed, I didn’t know her.

I was oblivious to the fact that she was also fashion, late night joints, speakeasies, waterfront eateries, and clueless to her generous dance offerings.

She extended an invitation for me to experience her dance, and I accepted on one condition; that she introduced me to those she knew best.

She introduced me to Swarthmore –  a dance program offering a certain rigor extending from the studios into lecture halls. Never claiming to be a conservatory, Swarthmore’s unique blend of practice and theory energized conversations around exposure to a wide range of studio practices and lecture course like Dancing Identity, Arts and Social Change, Dance and Diaspora, Introduction to Laban Movement Analysis, Anthropology of Performance, and Performing Ecstasy Dancing the Sacred. An art form seeping its way into a culture governed by academics but strives to acknowledge the power of the moving body.

I witnessed her closeness with The Philadelphia Dance Journal, ThINKing DANCE, and Broadstreet Review, and I insisted on meeting them. Resources and platforms for sharing all things performance, these outlets reenergized my interest in dance, providing opportunities for me to witness dance and document my experiences. Editorial prompts urged transparency, responsible writing, and the value in advocating for the artist. These editors enforced clarity in each piece written, so I could engage audiences while never eviscerating my voice. So I continue to add to the pool of written texts, where description, analysis, and interpretation open the door for dancers and non-dancers to engage in discourse around the body, space, and what is left in the unsaid.

So now in Kent, a city previously inhabited by Native American Tribes like the Erie Indians, home of the tragic Kent State massacre of 1970, and the significant black squirrel population which was legally imported by the head grounds keeper of Kent State University back in 1961, I will remain energized by the jolt I felt while living in Philadelphia. I may have to search for that with which I’ve become familiar, but I welcome the thriving arts scene of Cleveland, which is forty-five minutes from Kent; not necessarily close, but not too far away.

My connection to the City of Brotherly Love now exists in the memories I carry with me and in my writings on the sites of ThINKing DANCE, Broad Street Review, and The Dance Journal. She said hello by buying the first round; next round on me.

About Gregory King

Gregory King received his MFA in Choreographic Practice and Theory from Southern Methodist University. In addition, he is certified in Elementary Labanotation. His dance training began in Washington DC at the Washington Ballet and later at American University. He went on to participate in the Horton Project in conjunction with the Library of Congress. His training continued at the prestigious institutions such as The Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Alvin Ailey School. Gregory has performed with The Washington Ballet, Rebecca Kelly Ballet, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, New York Theatre Ballet, Donald Byrd /The Group, The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, New York City Opera, and Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway.

His desire to integrate social activism into his choreography began with his graduate thesis, where he used the platform to push the conversation about homophobia and heterosexism. He is a lover of movement exploration and describes his aesthetic as a classical base with a theatrical flair.

He has taught at Boston Ballet, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas Ballet Theatre. Additionally, he has served as a teaching artist in public schools in and around Dallas, as Resident Guest artist at Temple University and Assistant Professor of Dance at Dean College. Recently, Gregory received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Dance and Consortium on Faculty Diversity Fellow at Swarthmore College where he teaches Modern and continues to use his choreography as a means for social change.

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1 Comment

  1. Gregory beautiful piece & Philly loves you back. Kudos for your great reporting and analysis on all things Philly dance & sincere best luck & joy teaching at Kent State University! Adieu for now, Lew

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