JERALDYNE BLUNDEN, FOUNDER
"Man has created boundaries for race, religion, and culture. If we can get past that, we can realize that there is much more in life which connects us."
Overcoming boundaries and inspiring others to do the same may well be the overarching theme of Jeraldyne Blunden's legacy. Inspired herself by two pioneers in dance, Mrs. Blunden began her dance training at the age of eight under the guidance of Josephine and Hermene Schwarz, founders of The Dayton Ballet. The Schwarz sisters helped Mrs. Blunden gain access to greater opportunities including summer scholarships to the American Dance Festival in Connecticut, (ADF has since relocated to Durham, North Carolina) where she studied with Martha Graham, Jose Limon, George Balanchine and James Truitte, teachers who later became her professional peers and personal friends. Mrs. Blunden's exposure to the dance world outside of Dayton began to shape her vision and dreams for the future. She also studied at the American Dance Festival and performed with the Dayton Ballet, Antioch Summer Theatre and the Connecticut College Dance Theatre Workshop.
At the age of 19, when she took over the dance school at the Linden Center, started by the Schwarz sisters, Mrs. Blunden continued the tradition of providing opportunities for herdancers, sending them to study during summers at such notable training centers as the Dance Theatre of Harlem, ADF and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.
Throughout her life Jeraldyne Blunden received numerous awards and commendations including the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship Award in 1994. Mrs. Blunden has also been the recipient of the Dance/USA 2000 Honors Award (posthumously), the Katherine Dunham Achievement Award (1998), the Dance Magazine Award (1998), the National Black Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award (1998), Dance Women Living Legend Honors (1997) and the Regional Dance America Northeast Award (1991). Mrs. Blunden was also awarded honorary Doctorate Degrees from the University of Dayton and Wright State University.
On November 22, 1999 Jeraldyne Blunden passed away at the age of 58. Mrs. Blunden leaves a living legacy in the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and the hundreds of lives she touched through her vision and dreams.
"That no-nonsense approach to life was mixed with steely determination, a great personal warmth and humor and an unsentimental humanity that made her (Jeraldyne Blunden) a much-loved figure on the national dance scene." --Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, November 24, 1999