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John Perpener

John O. Perpener III is a dance historian and independent scholar based in Washington, D.C.  He received a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University and a MFA in Dance from Southern Methodist University.  He has held teaching positions at Florida State University, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland, College Park, and at Howard University.

His book, African-American Concert Dance: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond, was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2001. He also served as a primary consultant and commentator for the PBS documentary on African-American dance, Free to Dance. As a dancer and choreographer, he worked with the Hartford Ballet Company, the D.C. Black Repertory Dance Company, and the Maryland Dance Theater. More recently, he performed in Visible, co-choreographed by Nora Chipaumire and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Gia Kourlas of the New York Times wrote, “Oddly, it’s Mr. Perpener, a dance historian, who anchors ‘Visible’ with the gravity it deserves and the lightness it needs. That he understands dance is more than evident in his scholarship; the surprise here is how he knows how to own a stage.” He received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2012-2013) for his project on African-American concert dancers and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. And, in 2014-2015, he was a Fellow at New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Watch John’s video introduction to Dance of the African Diaspora

Essays by this Contributor

Black Dancers in the Berkshires

Tracing Social and Political Activism

Talley Beatty

Asadata Dafora

Jean Léon Destiné

Janet Collins

Donald McKayle

Pearl Primus

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar