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Mission & History

A Moving Legacy

Rooted in the African-American experience, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is a culturally diverse contemporary dance company committed to reaching the broadest audience through exceptional performance and arts-integrated education.

The Company

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company was founded in 1968 to create performance opportunities for dancers of color. Five decades later, the 10th largest modern contemporary dance company in the nation remains rooted in the African-American experience and committed to the development of diverse movement artists on the global stage.

A co-recipient of one of the dance world’s highest honors, the 2016 Bessie Award for Outstanding Revival, DCDC has been presented by American Dance Festival, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and supported by National Endowment for the Arts and New England Foundation for the Arts among others.


The culturally diverse company is dedicated to exceptional performance and quality community engagement.

DCDC has toured the world, dancing on stage for packed houses in Bermuda, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia,South Korea, and throughout the United States.

"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."



The Founder

At age 8, Jeraldyne Blunden began her training in dance with Josephine and Hermene Schwarz, the founders of the Dayton Ballet. 
Jeraldyne Blunden

Through the Schwarz sisters, she attended the American Dance Festival in Connecticut, where she studied with Martha Graham, José Limón, George Balanchine, and James Truitte, teachers who later became her professional peers and personal friends. 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 19, Blunden assumed leadership of the dance school at the Linden Center, also founded by the Schwarz sisters. A superb teacher, she sent her dance students to study at such notable centers as Dance Theatre of Harlem, the American Dance Festival, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. In 1968, she established Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.

Throughout her life, Blunden received numerous awards and commendations, including the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellowship Award in 1994, 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). Blunden was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Dayton and Wright State University.

In 1999, Jeraldyne Blunden transitioned at the age of 58, having built one of the nation’s leading performing arts companies, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.


"That no-nonsense approach to life was mixed with steely determination, a great personal warmth and humor, and an unsentimental humanity that made her a much-loved figure on the national dance scene."—Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, November, 1999

Company Timeline


Dayton native and visionary pioneer, Jeraldyne Blunden, founded the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company


DCDC becomes the first African-American dance company to gain membership as a Performing Company in the Northeast Regional Ballet Association


DCDC's second company, D2, is created to provide training and performance opportunities for emerging dance artists


DCDC becomes one of four dance companies selected to take part in the American Dance Festival program, Black Traditions in American Modern Dance


DCDC becomes one of six American companies (and the only one not based in New York) chosen to participate in the Biennial de la Danse in Lyon, France


Jeraldyne Blunden receives the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship for her life's work in dance


Choreographer and former DCDC dancer Kevin Ward is appointed Artistic Director


DCDC is featured in the 2001 Emmy award-winning PBS Great Performances documentary, "Free to Dance"


Dancer Sheri Williams receives the New York Dance and Performance Award (the Bessie), the JOSIE Award, Fisk University's Excellence in Artistry Award, and the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District Lifetime Achievement Award


DCDC tours 27 cities with The Flight Project, five dance works commemorating the Wright brothers' centennial of powered flight


The company closes the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Next Wave Festival with a week of performances


Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders is named Executive Director; DCDC performs the opening for Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Maya Angelou at the Schuster Center, Dayton, Ohio


Debbie Blunden-Diggs, daughter of founder Jeraldyne Blunden, is appointed Artistic Director


DCDC is featured in the PBS special "Dance in America: Dancing in the Light;" DCDC tours 22 cities with colôr-ógrăphy, n. the dances of Jacob Lawrence, four dance works based on the paintings and inspirations of famous African-American painter Jacob Lawrence


DCDC adopts a new business model that allows for partnerships with the University of Dayton and Central State University; The company moves its studios to Central State University, Dayton Campus


DCDC forms a partnership with Wright State University; Debbie Blunden-Diggs celebrates a 40-year career in dance as a choreographer, former dancer, teacher, and administrator


DCDC performs for the grand opening of the University of Dayton's China Institute in Suzhou Industrial Park, China; DCDC provides arts programs, entertainment, and education programs to over 40,000 people worldwide; The film "Sparkle" premiers on PBS featuring Sheri "Sparkle" Williams celebrating 40 years with DCDC


The company celebrates its 45th anniversary and the inception of ReVisioning 45, a project of new dance work by world-leading choreographers and emerging choreographers that includes Donald Byrd, Ronen Koresh, and Ray Mercer


DCDC joins the Bach Society in celebration and collaboration of African, European, and American music and dance


DCDC tours Historically Black Colleges with its Young, Gifted, and Black: A Transformative Experience, which showcases dance works by leading emerging and established choreographers of color


HeartShakes an evening-length contemporary dance piece choreographed by Kiesha Lalama, moves souls and hearts as it explores love, life, and passion


DCDC performs Donald McKayle's Rainbow Round My Shoulder produced by Paul Taylor American Modern Dance at Lincoln Center. The performance goes on to win the 2016 Bessie Award/New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Revival and is named one of the best dance performances of 2016 Huffington Post


The Bench: Journey into Love, created by Kiesha Lalama, is DCDC’s first full-evening theatre dance production


50th Anniversary Season; DCDC tours Kazakhstan and Russia as part of DanceMotion USA's seventh season, a program of the US Dept. of State and BAM; DCDC awarded Irma Lazarus Award by Ohio Governor's Award for the Arts 2018, Ohio Arts Council; DCDC premiers commissioned work by Abby Zbikowski at American Dance Festival; DCDC travels to China to participate in DANCE STAGES Shanghai Contemporary Dance Festival and cultural exchange programming in Shanghai and Suzhou


JB Fellows is established to cultivate the next wave of professional contemporary dancer artists to grace the stage


DCDC celebrates its 50th Anniversary; International Association of Blacks in Dance hosts the 31st annual conference and festival in partnership with DCDC in Dayton, Ohio


Debbie Blunden-Diggs, Chief Artistic and Producing Director, is presented the fourth annual Black History Month Congressional Award for Community Service by Congressman Mike Turner (OH-10) in recognition of 40 years serving the community through dance and dance education


The City of Dayton Honors founder Jeraldyne Blunden by naming part of Norwood Avenue, Jeraldyne Blunden Way.