711, a Black dance tribute, video produced and directed by Karen Warrington, will air on WHYY TV12 – Sunday, Nov 14, 10:30 PM and on Y-Arts – Monday, Nov 22, 8:30 PM.
711 tells the story of Black dance in segregated post-war Philadelphia. The video primarily focuses on 711 S. Broad Street in South Philadelphia where for more than four decades a trio of Black dance pioneers (Essie Marie Dorsey, Marian Cuyjet and Sydney King) trained hundreds of Black children in the art of a smorgasbord of dance techniques. 711 was produced as a part of the Scribe Video Center 2010 Precious Places series.
The too long ignored Sydney King, now in her 90s is featured prominently in the video as she recounts her early dance training under the tutelage of Dorsey and her goal to train Black ballerinas. She also recounts her pairing with famed teacher Marian Cuyjet as they opened a dance school at the location in 1946.
Dance professionals such as Joan Myers Brown, the founder and director of the much acclaimed Philadelphia Dance Company and La Deva Davis, who heads up the dance program at the Philadelphia Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) High School recount their early days as students at 711 and the impact the training and experience has had on their lives.
Also featured in the video, are the stories of dancer and choreographer Richard Moten and dance scholar Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, a former director of the dance department at Temple University.
Warrington who began her dance career at the Sydney King School of Dance at the age of 7 says the film is not only a labor of artistic love but it is also an attempt to tell the overlooked stories of the Black dance pioneers in Philadelphia who paved the way for the outstanding Black dancers of today. Warrington and anthropologist Maris Gillette, who served as the editor of the project, say while the video recounts the experience in segregated Philadelphia, it is emblematic of the stories of Black dancers of the period in urban areas throughout the country.