The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company has become a fixture in the Dayton arts community. But did you know that outside of Dayton it is one of the premier dance companies in the world? Jeraldyne Blunden, the founder and artistic director of DCDC, knew it was possible. She took a dream and made it reality, which started a 45-year tradition of dance.

In the 1940s when Blunden’s mother wanted to get her daughter dance lessons, finding a school that would accept an African-American student was difficult. Then sisters Josephine and Hermene Schwarz, founders of the Dayton Ballet, agreed to teach Blunden and a few of her friends.

“With the help of the sisters, Jeraldyne performed around the world,” says Jay Peterson, director of marketing and special events for DCDC. “She became a recognized choreographer working and performing with the American Dance Festival, Dayton Ballet, Antioch Summer Theatre and many more.”

After years of performing and choreographing, Blunden came home to Dayton in 1968 with the intent of creating the first modern dance company in Ohio. Her vision was to have the world’s greatest choreographers come to Dayton and create works for her dancers.

Now, DCDC is one of the largest companies of its kind between Chicago and New York City. The company has won national and international acclaim and is renowned for powerful, artistic performances, a diverse repertoire of works by world-class choreographers, and excellence in educational programming.

“We have two companies and a touring season that runs from August to June,” says Peterson. “Our dancers travel the world. They have performed in Korea, Chili, Russia, China, and Europe.”

DCDC has gone beyond Blunden’s original vision. Recently, the organization has developed partnerships with the University of Dayton, Central State University and Wright State University. Seeing possibilities beyond the dance department, DCDC worked with the universities to create education and management curriculum.

“We also have programming for K-12 students offering everything from physical movement and dance to bullying and diversity, and even Math and weather. If a school needs a program, we develop it,” says Peterson. While the company holds annual auditions, there is rarely turnover. “Dayton is affordable. Dancers can afford to live here on a dancer’s salary,” he adds.

Even more important, the dancers say, is that everyone is so supportive. The dancers are all receptive to criticism from choreographers, as well as each other.

“Being a part of DCDC brings a consistent challenge and level of physicality I hadn’t experienced in other companies,” says Michael Green, a dancer with DCDC for the last seven years. “There is a constant pushing and perfecting. For me, I love that. I get to continually grow here.”

While DCDC has evolved, the core of the company that Blunden began is still about the beauty and art of dance. “We dance purely from our hearts,” shares Green. “The technique and level of quality are certainly there, but all of us dance from our hearts. It makes every performance a beautiful thing.”