IU Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance professor Dr. Nyama McCarthy-Brown has made it her mission to focus on cultural diversity in dance. “Dance is a human experience, a medium that facilitates social interaction and promotes social justice. It is a platform for performance and a conduit for spirituality.” McCarthy-Brown is inspired by a desire for the Arts to be culturally responsive and inclusive. “Ballet is fabulous,” she says, “but western dance training relies too much on ballet for its legitimacy. I’d like to see our orientation widen to include more ways of understanding dance and also reflect the diversity of our contemporary society.” With a strong background in dance pedagogy and responsive IU dance students, McCarthy-Brown appears poised to do just that.
Originally from San Francisco, McCarthy-Brown went to Spelman College for her BA in Political Science and the University of Michigan for her M.F.A. in Performance and Choreography. She completed her PhD in Dance Education and Cultural Studies at Temple University, where she was awarded the Future Faculty Fellowship. McCarthy-Brown comes to IU from Bowdoin College where she taught Afro-modern, Cultural Choreographies, jazz, ballet, and African-derived Dances in America. She is excited to join a larger contemporary dance program.
McCarthy-Brown has published articles in Dance Chronicle, The Journal of Dance Education, and The Journal of African American Studies focusing on cultural inclusion and the experience of African American ballerinas. People of color in dance and the interplay of theory and practice are vital research interests of hers.
McCarthy-Brown has performed for South African President Thabo Mbeki and studied tango in Argentina. In 2014, she was awarded several grants to interview African American ballet dancers in New York City and study dance with Ron Brown.
McCarthy-Brown shares that she would like to stretch students physically and intellectually to go beyond technique in her dance classes. “Learning the movement phrase and being able to perform it is wonderful. Now, try to think of why you do it. What muscles are moving in your body, how is the movement being motivated? Many students will learn movement, and are eager to perform, knowing what lies underneath is also important. The intellectual-physical connection is especially important in modern dance and both physical and theoretical foundations need to be solid.”
What’s next for McCarthy-Brown? Besides teaching classes, she’ll be presenting in Encounters & Collisions this January and is writing a book. We’ll be looking forward to seeing her work-on both page and stage. You can visit her website at www.nyamamccarthybrown.com.