By Quentin Sledge
Quentin Sledge is a 2022 Archiving and Preservation Fellow with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Read more about the Fellowships here. This is the second part of Quentin’s blog. Find the first part here.
September 13, 2022: A Gem Re-Housed
And just like that he had finished for the day, back sore, hands dry and cracked. He found himself tired, nearly out of breath. It had been a long two weeks of labor.
Several weeks have now passed and I find myself nearing the completion of project number two, rehousing. It has been quite the arduous task rehousing our archival material. I Imagined at the start of this process that I would be doing some mundane organizing but I had no way of guessing the amount of physical labor ahead of me. Early on however, I knew that our original space was insufficient for proper care and storage of precious materials, so DCDC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Debi Chess, and I spent several days brainstorming a more ideal location. We eventually settled on the perfect room just a few doors down from our original space, a room with a/c, two locking doors, and no through traffic. Once approved, we set out to find shelving and consulted with the Dance/USA team for their advice. I spent days in the new space arranging and rearranging material, transferring box after box from the old space, assembling shelves, and planning how the space should be used.
I sorted through hundreds of programs, some going all the way back to 1971, just three years after our founding. I looked at article after article of newspaper clippings and thumbed through magazines in which the company was featured. I began to set aside material for special collections, one for each of our Artistic Directors and one for Mr. Truitte, and the late Donald Hubbard who was our previous education and outreach coordinator. There were so many interesting finds too, I found a program dedicated to Debbi Blunden Diggs that was signed by Pearl Primus; I found Ms. Jeraldyne’s honorary doctorate from Wright State University and a host of official letters from previous Ohio mayors and senators thanking her for her contribution to Dayton; and I found myself using the words “we” and “our” more often too.
I never expected to become so attached to the materials but this was becoming personal for me. I felt that the more I learned about the company’s rich history the more proud I became about being a part of it and being charged with protecting it. I felt like the griot of our village, diligently preserving fifty plus years of history. This got me thinking a lot about legacy and how it is astonishing to me that DCDC isn’t a larger presence in the city as well as across the country. We have such deep roots in the dance community and are just ten years younger than the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and yet our reach isn’t nearly as wide.
I would like to see Children of the Passage, choreographed by Donald McKayle and Ron K. Brown, be our Revelations, especially because we have so much documentation around it. We have Jeraldyne Blunden’s thoughts during the process, the original costumes, the ability to play with the Dirty Dozen Brass band when needed, and members of the original cast and Ron K. Brown available for interview. I’d also love to do as our Associate Artistic Director Crystal Perkins suggested, and get a collection of duplicate material (i.e. small posters, programs, pictures, etc.) together to be assembled in packets and shared with the archives of different universities across the nation. DCDC history IS Black history and Black history is American history; as we enter times where history is being rewritten, we have to do more to make ourselves known.
We have newspaper clippings, magazines, programs, promo materials, tons of pictures and their accompanying negatives, video files, audio files, flat posters, rolled posters, framed posters, artwork, awards, legal pads, banners, and files for our second company and our Jeraldyne School of Dance. I am excited for the day that this all lives in a digital space for all to see.
Top photo: Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performing The Geography of the Cotton Fields, choreographed by Donald Byrd. Photo courtesy of DCDC. All other photos courtesy of the author.
Quentin ApolloVaughn Sledge attended Morehouse College from 2010-2014 and earned a BA in management. He joined the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in 2014 and has worked with a multitude of icons including Mr. Donald McKayle, Francesca Harper, Donald Byrd, Ray Mercer, Ron K. Brown and many more. He has taught and performed all over he world in theaters such as the Joyce, Lincoln Center, and Bolshoi. In 2016, he was a soloist in the Bessie awarded revival of Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” as well. Quentin is a certified teacher of the Lester Horton, Talawa African, and the Umfundalai dance techniques and serves as a dance liaison on DCDC’s board. Quentin is very excited to serve in this new role as archivist for DCDC and looks forward to the growth that learning new skills brings. He is dedicated to preserving the vital history of such a historic company.
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