Women To Watch - Page 20 - Danah Bella

Women To Watch
- Page 20
Danah Bella
Danah Bella 44, founder and chair of Peabody Institute Dance Department

Danah Bella is building the Peabody Institute’s first baccalaureate program in dance from the sprung wooden floor on up.

Though the freshman dance students have only been attending classes since late August, Bella (who spells her name without capital letters) has already been on the job for a year — selecting the inaugural, 15-student freshman class, hiring five part-time faculty members, designing the curriculum and overseeing the construction of new studios. The program will focus on contemporary dance, but students will study everything from ballet to jazz to African dance.

“For me, music and dance are synonymous,” Bella says. “Both move through space and time. In dance, that movement is just a little more obvious because you can see it.” Bella is planning to mount four performances annually that will be open to the public, including one showcasing Baltimore-area youth and adult companies.

“I really want our program at Peabody to engage with the larger community,” she says.
Abra Bush, Peabody’s senior associate dean of institute studies, says bella stood out
from dozens of applicants.

“Danah is wicked smart and genuinely forward-thinking,” Bush says. “She’s a partner to everybody, not just those of us in leadership. She has been delightful for the folks in facilities to work with as they put down new floors.” Bella, the founder of Danahbella DanceWorks, chaired the dance department at Virginia’s Radford University for the three years before she joined Peabody.

In addition to her responsibilities at Peabody, she will perform solo concerts this fall in California and Virginia. She and her husband, a film professor at Radford, are the parents of an 8-year-old son. (For now, her husband is living in Virginia.)

“None of that seems to rattle Danah,” Bush says. “If you saw her on a daily basis you’d never guess that she has all that going on and is constantly getting on and off a gazillion planes. She’s always calm and peaceful and as positive as can be.”

—Mary Carole McCauley