IU's African American Dance Company dedicating studio floor to founding director Iris Rosa

Thanks to a generous contribution from IU's Black Philanthropy Circle, Indiana University will celebrate Professor Emerita Iris Rosa by naming the floor of the dance studio where she spent the last 15 years of her career in her honor.

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Iris Rosa, founding director of the IU African American Dance Company. Photo courtesy of the African American Arts Institute

Rosa, the founding director of the African American Dance Company at IU Bloomington, retired in May 2017 after a 43-year tenure at the helm of the dance company, a course offered through IU's Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies and a performing ensemble within the African American Arts Institute.

"It gives me great joy to be able to put in place a permanent tribute to a woman who has made such meaningful contributions to the IU community," said James C. Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, dean of The University Graduate School, and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. "Honoring Professor Rosa's remarkable legacy is particularly fitting because of her influence on generations of students."

The studio used by the African American Dance Company is in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, a center supported by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.

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Iris Rosa, front, with members of the African American Dance Company in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of the African American Arts Institute

"I am so very honored and humbled to receive this honor," said Rosa, who was also director of undergraduate studies and professor in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. "This recognition is much larger than myself. It honors the work and vision of the late Dr. Herman C. Hudson; the African American Arts Institute and the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies; the past, current and future students; the African American Dance Company alumni; and the new director of AADC, Stafford C. Berry Jr."

A native of East Chicago, Indiana, Rosa was part of the inaugural 1968 class of IU's Groups Scholars Program. After observing the number of students in the IU Soul Revue who were interested in dance, the late Herman C. Hudson, founder of the African American Arts Institute, created the African American Dance Company and appointed Rosa as its director in 1974.

Under her leadership, the African American Dance Company performed across Indiana, the nation and even the world, most recently traveling to Cuba in July 2017 and to China in December 2016. During her career, Rosa also had an impact on the local community through outreach, including the African American Dance Company's Annual Dance Workshop, which marked its 20th anniversary this year.

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Iris Rosa, former director of the African American Dance Company, and her company members demonstrate movements during a dance class in Beijing, China, in 2016.

"Professor Rosa is truly a legend in the dance community and at IU Bloomington," said Charles Sykes, executive director of the African American Arts Institute, which is a program of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs. "An homage to her incredible career, in the place where she most frequently used her art to inspire students, is the least we could do to repay what she has poured into the campus over the years."

The Black Philanthropy Circle, an initiative designed to foster philanthropy and provide resources for IU's African American community, fully funded the dedication of the floor. The announcement of the dedication also coincides with Black Philanthropy Month, a global celebration of giving in the Black community that runs through the end of August.

The dedication of the dance floor will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Grand Hall, in conjunction with the African American Art Institute's 25th annual Potpourri of the Arts concert.