PORTLAND – Philadanco, the Philadelphia-based contemporary dance company that has earned international acclaim for its signature fusion of ballet, modern, jazz and ethnic dance, will fire up the Merrill Auditorium stage Thursday, Nov. 13.

Also known as the Philadelphia Dance Company, Philadanco was founded in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown, who still leads the ensemble as its executive artistic director. Celebrated for its wide-ranging repertoire of works by today’s leading African-American choreographers, Philadanco performs more than 50 concerts and residencies annually worldwide.

Jennifer Dunning, dance critic for the New York Times, described Philadanco as “a company of happy, invigorating contrast … a venerable institution that has not lost its youthful verve or the freshness of its strong technical grounding.”

Philadanco currently comprises 14 dancers, guided by Brown and Kim Bears-Bailey, the company’s assistant artistic director. The ensemble has made its mark over the years by celebrating the work of established and emerging African-American dancemakers.

For its PCA Great Performances appearance at Merrill, Philadanco will perform works by Christopher Huggins, a longtime associate and choreographer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, as well as by Ronald K. Brown (whose company Evidence gave a well-received performance in PCA’s 2007-08 season), Gene Hill Sagan and Milton Myers.

While performing works by these modern dance masters, the dancers of Philadanco will move to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, contemporary composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and others.

Brown will give a free, preperformance lecture on “The African-American Dance Experience” at 6 p.m. in Merrill Auditorium’s green room. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets to Philadanco’s performance, presented by PCA Great Performances, are $36, $32 and $27. Student tickets are $10. Tickets are available through PortTix, the box office at Merrill Auditorium; by calling 842-0800; and at www.porttix.com or www.pcagreatperformances.org.

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