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The 34th Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance, Can’t Turn You Loose: A Love Letter to Black Dance

Presented in Partnership by Collage Dance Collective and The International Association of Blacks in Dance

January 24 to 28, 2024 in Memphis, Tennessee

An opportunity for dance enthusiasts from all over the world to gather, engage in discourse, and celebrate Black dance

First time held in the South since 2018

1,000+ attendees expected to gather in Memphis,

40+ dance companies to present performances and

5 ticketed dance performances open to the public



November 20, 2023 (Memphis, TN)Collage Dance – recently named one of the 50 largest ballet companies in the nation by Dance Data Project – is proud to partner with The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) for the 34th Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance, taking place in Memphis, TN from January 24 to 28, 2024. The event will provide a space for international dance enthusiasts to engage in discourse, and both advocate for and celebrate Black dance. This will be the first time the event will occur in Memphis, TN.


Continuing its legacy as the broadest international gathering of Black Dance aspiring dancers, professional artists, choreographers, administrators, enthusiasts, and many others, the Conference and Festival remains the most diverse place to share ideas, cultures, and experiences. Attendees can learn more and register here. Late registration closes on December 15, 2023 at 11:59 pm CT. Following that, attendees can register on-site, beginning January 24, 2024. People of all backgrounds and experiences are invited to attend, with programming suited for adults and children ages 10 and up.


Now in its 34th year, the Conference and Festival consistently draws thousands of people annually – over 1,000 individuals are projected to arrive in Memphis for this year’s edition. The major event is expected to have a monumental impact on the Memphis community, as many attendees will visit the city for the first time. 40+ dance companies will present performances, with five special performances open to the public, and an impressive roster of 70+ international dancemakers, teachers, and choreographers spanning 12 countries will be represented. Memphis will be in the spotlight as industry leaders and attendees from all over the world gather – these individuals will also seek out what the city has to offer in terms of tourism and attractions, local businesses, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Collage Dance is optimistic that this grand event will help strengthen the reputation of Memphis as a thriving arts center, particularly for dance and Black excellence.


A pioneering four-day dance experience, attendees will engage in many invaluable opportunities to expand their understanding of dance history and technique through Conference and Festival programming that includes an awards celebration, master classes, social events, a membership town hall, sessions, and five performances open to the public. The Conference and Festival aims to engage each registrant to promote a vibrant future for dance.


Collage Dance Executive Director, Marcellus Harper, shares, “Collage Dance is honored to partner with The International Association of Blacks in Dance and bring to Memphis the 34th Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance. We align with the IABD’s mission to promote dance and increase opportunities, particularly for Black artists, through advocacy, education, performance, and more, and couldn’t be more excited to welcome industry professionals and eager attendees to our vibrant hometown. Memphis will certainly see an economic boom from this year’s Conference and Festival as the city welcomes an influx of dance professionals and those just getting interested in the field, proving that the arts is an indispensable sector capable of drawing in both new and established audiences.”


“I think the Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance is an incredible opportunity to see what the world of dance is like outside of the studio that you grew up in,” says Reygan Myers, a Collage Dance Conservatory alum. “You get to speak to a lot of people in the field that can help grow your inspiration. Plus, the auditions are incredible.”


Amor Williams, another Collage Dance Conservatory alum remarks, “I was a student with Collage for thirteen years. I’m currently at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and I was actually able to get this offer through participation in the IABD conference and festival this past year.”


Conference programming is carefully designed to make participants move, talk, and learn. Highlights include:


MOVE – Lecture demonstrations, Movement workshops, Midnight dance classes, and At the Feet of the Masters (a two-hour session focused on a specific style/technique of dance followed by a Q&A with a master teacher for intermediate and advanced dancers)

TALK – Networking and Social Gatherings, Roundtables, and Workshops

LEARN – Digital Presentations, Films, Lectures, Panels and Performance Presentations

Additional opportunities beyond registration include: the highly sought-after 2024 IABD Scholarship and Company Auditions for various dance styles, plus on the 1 | Memphis, a dance class series led by accomplished dance faculty including Collage Dance’s founding artistic director, Kevin Thomas


During the 33rd Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance in Toronto, Canada in January 2023, 5 students from Collage Dance Conservatory were awarded over $60,000 in scholarships in addition to professional dance opportunities.


Five ticketed performances will also be open to the public:


Memphis Regional Artists Performance curated by Collage Dance on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the Orpheum Theatre

Youth and College Artists Performance on Thursday, January 25, 2024 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the Orpheum Theatre

Established Artists Performance on Friday, January 26, 2024 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the Orpheum Theatre

IABD Founders & Invited Guests Performance on Saturday, January 27, 2024 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the Orpheum Theatre

Gospel Performance and Scholarship Awards Brunch on Sunday, January 28, 2024 from 9:00-10:00 am at the Renasant Convention Center


The 34th Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance is funded in part by the Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and many individual donors. The Conference and Festival is sponsored in part by ARTSmemphis, Creative Studios by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Madison Square Garden Entertainment- The Radio City Rockettes, and Performing Arts Readiness.


About Collage Dance 


Collage Dance, recently named a “Southern Cultural Treasure” by South Arts and the Ford Foundation, and listed among the 50 largest ballet companies in the nation by Dance Data Project, is one of the largest Black-led performing arts organizations in the South and one of just a few professional ballet companies in the world with a roster of BIPOC dancers.


Working to inspire the growth and diversity of ballet, Collage Dance Collective showcases a repertoire of relevant choreography and world-class dancers representative of the communities we serve. The professional company has presented thirteen full-length seasons in Memphis, plus national and international touring presenting a diverse range of classical and contemporary choreography from George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, Ulysses Dove, Joshua Manculich, Amy Hall Garner, Kevin Iega Jeff, and more.


The work of Collage Dance Collective has been featured in media outlets including Huffington Post, Allure, Yahoo!, The Commercial Appeal, Afropunk, Dance Magazine and Pointe Magazine.


Its institutional arm, the Collage Dance Conservatory, trains more kids of color in a classical art form than any other non-profit in the region. More than 1,000 students each week study dance through Collage’s in-school dance education programs and on-site at its new 22,500 square foot state-of-the-art facility, Collage Dance Center, opened in December 2020. The Conservatory’s unified curriculum coupled with a rigorous culture of excellence, hard work, and high standards provides students with a first-rate experience. Students are challenged, nurtured, and prepared for the rigors of a professional career on or off the stage.

Collage Dance also runs the Collage Dance Continuum, which seeks to dramatically increase access to dance and movement classes for Memphians, regardless of age, ability, disability, or body type. The Continuum is a collection of community engagement initiatives, collaborative partnerships, adult classes, and courses for adults with no previous dance training. The Continuum offers affordable classes in a non-competitive, affirming environment with master teachers at the top of their craft.

Learn more at



About The International Association of Blacks in Dance


For over 30 years, The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) has preserved and promoted dance by people of African ancestry or origin and has assisted and increased opportunities for artists in advocacy, audience development, education, funding, networking, performance, philosophical dialogue, and touring. A National Medal of Arts recipient, IABD serves a diverse national and international membership that spans cultures and generations. IABD’s vision is for dance, by people of African ancestry or origin, to be revered, respected, and preserved in the consciousness and cultural institutions of all people. Through its tireless efforts in the arts and culture sector, IABD validates the significant connections and influence that Blacks in Dance have on the American and international cultural landscape. IABD’s work is rich with insights, knowledge, and expertise vital to current and future Black Dance professionals and the dance sector at large.




Contact: Mallory McFarland | Morahan Arts and Media | (646) 241-0899