Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: danah bella

December 6, 2022 | By John Fleming

Professor and Chair of Dance
Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University

When Covid hit in 2020, danah bella was in the second school year of leading a new BFA program as chair of dance at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. Suddenly, all the students went home and classes were online.

“We had students dancing in their living rooms while the faculty taught over Zoom,” said bella, who worked with colleagues to provide students with portable dance floors with an attachable ballet barre. “The floor was absorbent enough for them to jump on it and not injure themselves. It made the students feel like Peabody wanted to take care of them during a difficult time.” 

The virtual studio is far from ideal for dance instruction, but it has one useful asset. “When we were online we were able to have master classes with guest artists in South America, Europe, and Asia,” bella said. “It was really meaningful to connect with somebody that far away. We still do it with some lectures and dance classes.”

Bella describes her modern dance company, danahbella Danceworks (now on hiatus), as being “focused on reclaiming evocative movement as social practice,” and that applies as well to her vision for the new Peabody program, which includes coursework around issues of race, class, and gender as they relate to dance. Enrollment this year comprises 35 dance students, with most hoping to perform professionally.

“Peabody is a great place for someone with a passion for dance but who also wants to become a citizen artist with an interest in areas other than dance,” bella said, noting that students at the conservatory may have dual majors in dance and other disciplines at Johns Hopkins. “In our first cohort of graduates, the class of ‘22, one woman got a dual degree in dance and natural sciences. And now we have more dancers pursuing dual degrees, which in many conservatories is not possible.”




Law and Disorder by GG Arts Law

Career Advice by Legendary Manager Edna Landau

An American in Paris by Frank Cadenhead



Search Musical America's archive of photos from 1900-1992.