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Melanye P. White-Dixon

Over a career that spanned nearly six decades, Beatty came to be acknowledged by dance critics as one of America's most brilliant dancers and choreographers. He began his dance studies at age eleven in the late 1930s under the tutelage of Katherine Dunham and was a principal dancer with her company for several years as well as a teacher of the Dunham technique. After becoming an independent dancer in 1945, he performed in filmmaker Maya Deren's A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945), in a revival of Show Boat (1946), in Syvilla Fort's Procession and Rite (1947), and in Helen Tamiris's Inside U.S.A. (1948).

In 1947 Beatty formed his own company, called Tropicana. For the company premiere he created Southern Landscape a dance about the plight of African Americans in the South after the Civil War The ...

Article

USdancer, choreographer, and company director. He trained with Katherine Dunham and made his professional debut in her company in 1940, undertaking additional later studies with Martha Graham. In 1946 he left Dunham to perform in musicals, including a revival of Show Boat (1946), as well as in Maya Deren's film, A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945). In 1949 he formed his own company, Tropicana, for which he created Southern Landscape, a work portraying the plight of African Americans in the South after the Civil War. In 1955 he disbanded his company, and focused on giving solo concerts and choreographing for others. His dances frequently highlighted social injustice, particularly for black Americans. A list of his works includes The Road of the Phoebe Snow (1959), the full-length Come and Get the Beauty of It Hot ...

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C. S'thembile West

choreographer, dancer, and teacher, was born in Cedar Grove, Louisiana, the son of a housepainter. His parents' names are unknown. In the small town of Cedar Grove, right outside Shreveport, Beatty's earliest dance influence was the legendary Katherine Dunham. According to the historian Joe Nash, a close friend and colleague of Beatty, Dunham invited him to “watch dances in progress” when he was eleven years old. Dunham was in rehearsal for Ruth Page'sLa Guillablesse, scheduled to open at the Chicago Civic Opera in 1933, and was trying to keep the young boy's playing from disrupting her work. Beatty danced onstage for the first time in the opera's 1934 season and emerged as a dancer of note after studying from 1937 to 1940 at Dunham's Studio de la Danse in Shreveport. He danced the role of a priest in Dunham'sYanvalou a ...

Article

USdancer, choreographer, and director. He studied with Owen Dodson and danced with several companies before founding his own Chuck Davis Dance Company in 1967. He specialized in presenting traditional African-American dances but has also choreographed his own works including Odun De (mus. Saleem, 1986 ...

Article

Barbara Toomer Davis

dancer, choreographer, company director, and educator, was in born Washington, D.C. He graduated from Dunbar High School and then attended Howard University from 1964 to 1966 to study dentistry. During this time, he studied dance with the Capitol Ballet Company and with Carol Tate at Howard. He left school to pursue a dance career after being inspired by a performance of the New York City–based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. In New York, Faison studied at the School of American Ballet (SAB), where he was taught by Arthur Mitchell, James Truitte, and Elizabeth Hodes.

Early in his New York career, Faison was chosen as Lauren Bacall's dance partner for a television special. In 1967 he became a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Faison's most notable performance was in the role of Sinner Man in the company's Revelations He left ...

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Donny Levit

dancer, choreographer, and director, was born Beryl Miller in Brooklyn, New York, to Hazel Carter Miller, an elementary school nurse. Miller and her mother relocated to Queens in the early 1960s. Her introduction to dance began under the tutelage of Murray Louis at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She was exposed to dancers such as Louis, as well as others who studied under and collaborated with the innovative choreographer Alwin Nikolais. With Louis, Miller became familiar with the concepts of composition and improvisation. When she was twelve years old Miller studied ballet. She felt quite isolated during the study of this particular dance form and refers to the experience as “disastrous,” explaining that it discouraged her from rigorously studying dance until her college years (discussion with author, 10 Dec. 2006).

In 1967 Miller left New York to ...

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Jada Shapiro

dancer, choreographer, and teacher, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. As a child he was a popular soprano soloist in churches and studied voice at the Karamu House, a local arts center devoted to celebrating the African American experience through the arts in a racially integrated environment. As he grew older Moore studied modern dance with Eleanor Frampton at the cultural center. He had the opportunity to see Asadata Dafora, the famed West African choreographer and dancer, perform the Ostrich Dance at Severance Hall. This event so moved Moore toward his future work in re-creating African dance that, as he explained in the 1984 documentary by Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker, Dance Black America, he “never forgot that first glimpse of Africa.”

In 1948 Moore received a Charles Weidman dance scholarship and moved to New ...

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Paul Schauert

Ghanaian choreographer, dancer, artist, and educator, was born on 13 November 1915 into a royal family of the Akan in central Ghana. His father, Nana Mawere Opoku, was the Okyeame (linguist) of the Asantehene (head chief of the Asante). His mother, Yaa Bemponmaalias Abena Kobina, was a renowned storyteller and the sister of the Asantehene’s chief linguist, Akyeamehene Kwasi Numah. Albert Mawere Opoku was thus in line to become an Okyeame himself and was the heir of the Gyasehene royal house. In addition to the special training in traditional lore and etiquette he acquired from his association with the royal house of the Asante, Opoku received his primary and secondary education at the Kumasi Government School (1921–1930).

After graduation, in 1931, he entered Achimota College (located near Accra, Ghana), where he studied for three years. Following a brief hiatus, he enrolled in 1939 in the Art ...

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Karen Backstein

choreographer, founder and artistic director of the Urban Bush Women dance company, was born Willa Jo Zollar in Kansas City, Missouri, the third of the six children of Alfred Jr. and Dorothy Delores Zollar, about whom little is known. Nor is it known when she changed her name from “Willa Jo” to “Jawole,” an African word meaning “she enters the house.” It is known that she began studying dance at an early age when her mother, who had studied dance and jazz singing, took Zollar and one of her sisters to the local Conservatory of Music to take classes with a Russian ballet teacher who was apparently willing to take black students during that era. Unhappy in the almost completely segregated class, Zollar switched to a community school run by Joseph Stevenson, a former ballroom dancer who had also studied with Katherine Dunham Stevenson gave ...

Article

Melanye P. White-Dixon

Emerging in the 1980s as one of the most innovative choreographers of modern dance, Zollar belongs to the cadre of black dancemakers whose work has avant-garde sensibilities and integrates cross-disciplinary theatrical forms. Her dances celebrate and examine the spiritual and folk traditions of the African diaspora. Her choreography is informed by grass-roots lifestyles and the musical and dance traditions of black America as well as by modern and African dance. She has cited modern dancers Dianne McIntyre, Blondell Cummings, and Kei Takei and African dancer-scholar Nontsizi Cayou as key influences.

Zollar's initial dance preparation began as a child under the direction of Joseph Stevenson, a former student of Katherine Dunham Zollar s early training in Afro Cuban and vernacular dance forms supported by ample performing experiences in dance revues for social clubs and community events began to shape her aesthetic After graduating from high school ...

Article

USdancer, choreographer, and company director. She studied with Katherine Dunham, and gained a BA in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City as well as a Master of Fine Arts from Florida State University. In 1980 she moved to New York where she studied and performed with Dianne McIntyre (1980–3) before forming her company *Urban Bush Women in 1984. Its repertory of full-length dance theatre works, mostly by Zollar herself, have explored a range of issues affecting African-American women and include Anarchy, Wild Women, and Dinah (1986), Heat (1988), Song of Lawino (1988), Praise House (1990), Batty Moves (1995), Bones and Ash: A Gilda Story (1995), Self Portrait (1997), and the Bessie Award-winning Walking with Pearl…Southern Diaries (2005 based on the life of ...