Behind The Scenes

Pennsylvania Ballet and FringeArts Presents “Challenges, Chances, Changes—Gender Equity in Concert Dance”

Helen Pickett, currently one of the most in-demand choreographers, is staging a new work for Pennsylvania Ballet this fall. Since much has been written about gender roles in traditional ballet and the lack of opportunities women face as choreographers and arts leaders around the world, we are hosting a symposium with a panel of women choreographers, dancers, and arts professionals to openly discuss the current state of gender in the world of dance and the slow to change art of ballet.

Join us for an evening of conversation Monday, October 30, 2017 at FringeArts. This event is free and open to the public thanks to our partnership with FringeArts and support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Moderator: Brenda Dixon-Gottschild

Panelists: Helen Pickett, Annie-B Parson, Terry Fox, Francesca Harper, Virginia Johnson, Christine Cox

Buy Tickets

Moderator and Panelists



Brenda Dixon Gottschild is Professor Emerita of dance studies at Temple University noted for her work as a performer and cultural historian.  She has published extensively on cultural activism, dance and the African diaspora.  Her books include Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts (Praeger, 1996), Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), The Black Dancing Body; A Geography from Coon to Cool (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), and Joan Myers Brown & The Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

She often works in collaboration with her husband Hellmut Gottschild on somatic and research-based explorations referred to as “movement theater discourse”.  She has won many awards, including the 2001 Congress on Research in Dance Award for Outstanding Dance Publication, the 2004 de la Torre Bueno Prize for most distinguished book in dance scholarship, a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award for Art and Social Change in 2009, the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Civil Rights Award in 2016, and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts in 2017, among others.



Helen Pickett, a San Diego, California native, currently resides Brooklyn, New York. 2017 marks 12 years for Helen as a choreographer. During this time she created over 35 ballets in the U.S. and Europe, and was resident choreographer for Atlanta Ballet from 2012-2017. Critic, Manning Harris, wrote that Camino Real, Helen’s first full-length ballet, would “become a legend in the dance world.”

Her commissions for 2017 and 2018 include Tulsa Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, a new full length for Scottish Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, and Voices of the Amazon, a new London musical dance theater production. In recent seasons she choreographed for the Chicago Lyric Opera, Dresden Ballet, Vienna State Ballet, Boston Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, among others. In addition to Helen’s contemporary ballet choreography, she has collaborated, as a choreographer and actress with installation video artists and filmmakers, including Eve Sussman, Toni Dove and Laurie Simmons. She danced with Ballet Frankfurt, director, William Forsythe for 11 years, and performed with the New York theater company Wooster Group, director, Elizabeth LeCompte, for five years. She was nominated for the Isadora Duncan Dance Award in 2013, and was won Best Choreographer of Atlanta in 2014 and 2015. She is the producer and creator of the workshops, Choreographic Essentials and Steps into Courage, the motivational creative workshop for the general public. In 2006, Dance Europe published Helen’s article, Considering Cezanne. In 2012, Emory University published her writing for the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, director Martha Fineman, that appeared on the Emory University School of Law website. Helen earned her Masters of Fine Arts in 2011 from Hollins University. In 2016, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, for her contribution to the arts, and named Visiting Distinguished Artist from North Carolina School of the Arts, dean, Susan Jaffe. For more information please visit:



Annie-B Parson co-founded Big Dance Theater in 1991. She has choreographed and co-created over 20 works for the company, ranging from pure dance pieces, to adaptations of found text, plays, and literature, to original works combining wildly disparate materials. Her work with Big Dance has been commissioned by Les Subsistances in Lyon, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The National Theater of Paris/Chaillot, The Japan Society, The Walker Art Center, and many others.

Outside of Big Dance, Ms. Parson has created choreography for operas, pop stars, television, movies, theater, ballet and symphonies. Parson currently has a work in repertory at The Martha Graham Dance Company, and has created a solo for Wendy Whelan commissioned by the Royal Ballet. She choreographed David Bowie/Ivo Van Hove’s new work Lazarus at New York Theatre Workshop, which will premiere in London at the King’s Cross Theatre. Her awards include Doris Duke Performing Artist Award (2014), an Oliver Award nomination in choreography (2015), Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award (2014), Guggenheim Fellowship in Choreography (2007), two BESSIE awards (2010, 2002), and three NYFA Choreography Fellowships (2013, 2006, 2000), among many others.

Since 1993 Parson has been an instructor of choreography at New York University’s Experimental Theater Wing. As an artist curator, she has curated shows including: Merce Cunningham’s memorial We Give Ourselves Away at Every Moment, Dancer Crush at NYLA and Sourcing Stravinsky at DTW. Parson tours a lecture on abstraction called The Virtuosity of Structure to universities and for audience development. Her recent book, Dance by Letter, is published by 53rd State Press.



Terry Fox, Director of Philadelphia Dance Projects, is a former choreographer/dancer. As an artist in Philly she was one of the first to explore post modernism with improvisational structures in performance as well as “pioneer” the Old City loft district that later was developed into arts district.  She often collaborated with choreographer/dancer Ishmael Houston-Jones, and musician Jeff Cain.

As artist Curator she founded the “Dance With The Bride” series at the Painted Bride Art Center, where she was on staff from1977-83 and again from ‘93 to 2000.   In the interim she was Managing/Artistic Director of the Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery, NYC. She is Coordinator of the MA in Theatre Arts Administration Program at Rowan University.



Francesca Harper is an internationally acclaimed multi-faceted artist and Artistic Director of The Francesca Harper Project. After performing with the Dance Theater of Harlem, she danced as a principal in William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt from 1994-1999. Since returning to the States in 2000, Harper has performed in several Broadway productions including Fosse, The Producers, The Frogs, and The Color Purple. Harper’s choreographic career began while still in Germany, where she choreographed a full evening work for the Holland Dance Festival. She has since choreographed works for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Tanz Graz, and her own company The Francesca Harper Project, which has become the platform for her own artistic vision: classical dance forms deconstructed and fused with cutting-edge text, music, film and video. She premiered her critically-acclaimed one-woman show The Fragile Stone Theory at the 2002 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Francesca’s latest commissioned work, Documotion : ONE – Rave, was requested to be performed at the 50th Anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center at World Famous Apollo Theater by Judith Jamison. The Francesca Harper Project season highlights include performances at Harlem Stage, Bloomberg Culture Series, Central Park Summerstage and Venice Biennale.

Most recently, Francesca was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at New York University, a teacher for The Ailey School and the Fordham BFA Program, and a teacher and choreographer Tony Award Director Susan Batson at the Susan Batson Studio. Francesca also enjoyed working as a ballet consultant for the feature film, “Black Swan,” by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman, who went on to win an Oscar.



Virginia Johnson was appointed Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2011 after having been a founding member and principal dancer. Born in Washington, DC, Johnson graduated from the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet. She briefly attended the School of the Arts at New York University as a University Scholar before joining DTH in 1969. During her 28 years with the company she performed most of the repertoire, with principal roles in Concerto BaroccoAllegro BrillanteAgonA Streetcar Named DesireFall River LegendSwan LakeGiselle, Voluntaries, Les Biches among others.

Her choreographic credits include the television film, Ancient Voices of Children, in which she danced and an early, self-produced solo concert for Rae Metzger’s Concert Socials. Later choreographic works include ballets created for Goucher College, Dancers Respond to AIDS, the Second Annual Harlem Festival of the Arts, Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center and Marymount Manhattan College, where she was also an adjunct professor. The latter two projects were an outgrowth of Dancers Making Dances, a collaborative choreographic project with former DTH colleagues, Judy Tyrus and Melanie Person

While still performing, her interest in journalism led her to Fordham University where she continues to pursue a degree in communications. After retiring from performing, she founded POINTE magazine and was editor-in-chief from 2000-2009. The popular publication helps dancers prepare for the professional ballet world developing educational seminars and lectures on health and wellness for dancers, auditions and professional preparation.

Her honors include a Young Achiever Award from the National Council of Women, Outstanding Young Woman of America and the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award and the Washington Performing Arts Society’s 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award. Highlights of her guest appearances include a tour of Australia with  Stars of World Ballet, several appearances at various International Festivals of Dance in Havana Cuba, and with the Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House in London. Her commitment to community service is maintained through volunteer assignments with New York Cares.




Christine Cox is the Artistic and Executive Director of BalletX, Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet company. BalletX has produced more than 60 world premiere ballets by 33 renowned and emerging choreographers to date, reaching more than 68,000 dance patrons. Under her leadership, the company has performed at prestigious national stages, including The Joyce Theater, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and Vail Dance Festival. Cox has committed BalletX to expanding dance’s vocabulary for all audiences, promoting initiatives that make contemporary ballet accessible and welcoming, including the company’s audience engagement program, The X-Process, and in-school educational outreach initiative, Dance eXchange.

In addition, Cox led a TEDx talk in December 2016 that was subsequently published on YouTube, building a bridge to help audiences understand the art form more fully. As an arts leader, Cox has served on review panels for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Philadelphia Arts & Business Council. For her work as a choreographer, educator, and performer, Christine has been recognized with two Rocky Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, as well as fellowships from the Independence Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Cox was a full-time company member with the Pennsylvania Ballet from 1993 until her retirement from the stage in 2006.

You may also like:

Season & Tickets

Whether you enjoy the grandeur and pageantry of full-length ballets or the breathtaking innovation of more contemporary works, our 54th season consists of a mixed repertoire designed to thrill and delight.

Meet the Ballet

Pennsylvania Ballet comprises a team of dedicated professionals—each one devoted to bringing you the most thrilling and inspired works ballet has to offer.

The School

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet offers the highest caliber dance education of any program in the Greater Philadelphia area, providing our students with exceptional technical training and unparalleled performance opportunities.