The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) preserves and promotes dance by people of African ancestry or origin, and assists and increases opportunities for artists in networking, funding, performance, education, audience development, touring and advocacy.

IABD was founded in 1988 as a direct result of an artistic development grant to founder Joan Myers Brown. Brown recollects that she felt that a gathering of the Black dance community would serve not only her needs, but also needs of other dance professionals, so she launched the first International Conference of Blacks in Dance. Eighty professionals attended. Today, the conference has grown to include an average of 600 participants from across the country, Europe, South America, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean.

Brown’s first dance instructors and role models were Essie Marie Dorsey, Sydney Gibson King, and Mario Durham Cuyjet. As a child she wished to shatter the social barriers prohibiting African Americans from becoming famous in the world of dance. During a time where famous dance personalities were predominantly light-skinned, Brown worked hard to make sure that people of color acquired equal status in mainstream dance. She dreamed of a school where African Americans could learn and develop through methods tailored specifically to their individual needs–a program that was specially created for ethnic bodies.

The Association also responds to and initiates dialogue around issues that impact the Black dance community as well as the community at large.

In 1996, IABD established a national scholarship training program for dancers. The annual conference offers a multi-company audition for dancers across the nation and is the first of its kind.

IABD educates younger generations about the contributions of Black artists in dance. As one avenue for accomplishing these goals, the association has established archives with the National Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio, and with the Afro-American Museum in Philadelphia.

The IABD has developed national prominence and allowed the Black dance community to come together on issues important to them.

On Jan. 27-30 the Lula Washington Dance Theatre will host the 23rd annual International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference, “Dancing at the Crossroads,” at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel at 506 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.

The conference will feature concerts with professional companies, a youth and emerging artist showcase, master dance classes, seminars, auditions for professional dance companies and summer intensives, and a Gospel breakfast and performance.

The IABD will hold two different concerts, one on the Friday, Jan. 28, and another on Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Aratani Japan America Theatre at 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles. Tickets are on sale for $40 each night or $70 for a two-day pass.

For more information on the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference, visit the website at www.lulawashington.org/iabd.