The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

George W. Faison

Share on Social Media

Information about George W. Faison

Profile image of George W. Faison

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
What Are You Doing?

Birthplace

Born:
12/21/1945
Birth Location:
Washington, District of Columbia

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
What Are You Doing?

Birthplace

Born:
12/21/1945
Birth Location:
Washington
See how George W. Faison is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Broadway dancer and choreographer George William Faison was born on December 21, 1945, in Washington, D.C. He attended Dunbar High School, where he studied with the Jones-Haywood Capitol Ballet and Carolyn Tate of Howard University; his first performance was with the American Light Opera Company. After graduating from high school, Faison attended Howard University with plans of becoming a dentist; during this time he also worked in theater with the acclaimed African American theater director Owen Dodson.

In 1966, two years after he entered Howard, Faison saw a production of the Alvin Ailey Company; within a week, he had decided to become a professional dancer and left Howard University to move to New York City. There, Faison studied at the School of American Ballet, where he took classes with Arthur Mitchell, June Taylor, Claude Thompson, Dudley Williams, Charles Moore, and James Truitte, among others. Faison began his first professional job with the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, and continued studying dance with Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU) and Harkness House.

In 1967, Faison auditioned with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he would remain for the next three years. In 1970, Faison left the Alvin Ailey dance company to pursue his own career. After a part in the Broadway musical Purlie, Faison created the George Faison Universal Dance Experience with a budget of $600 dollars. The group’s dancers included such notables as Renee Rose, Debbie Allen, Al Perryman and Gary DeLoatch; Faison was the artistic director, choreographer and dancer for the group.

In 1972, Faison made his choreographic debut with Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope on Broadway, which was the start of a series of successful choreography jobs that included Via Galactica, Tilt and 1974’s all-black retelling of The Wizard of Oz entitled The Wiz. The Wiz was a huge success, and helped to launch the careers of singer Stephanie Mills and actor Geoffrey Holder. That same year, Faison became the first African American to win a Tony award. The George Faison Universal Dance Experience disbanded the following year, and Faison began focusing on musical theater; subsequently he worked as a choreographer for entertainers like Earth, Wind and Fire, Ashford and Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Patti Labelle and Cameo, among others.

1981 brought the massive critical success of Apollo, Just Like Magic, an off-Broadway production that transitioned him from choreographer to director. In 1997, Faison directed and choreographed King, a musical performed at President Clinton’s inauguration. In 1996 he founded the American Performing Arts Collaborative (A-PAC), after which time, Faison constructed an arts center called the Faison Firehouse Theater, a project of A-PAC which committed its resources to Harlem.

See how George W. Faison is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George W. Faison's interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George W. Faison lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George W. Faison describes his parents' relationship
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about his maternal family passing for white
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls accompanying his father to work
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George W. Faison lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George W. Faison describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George W. Faison describes his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 3
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls the wealthy, white neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls the teachers who influenced him
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls his early exposure to the arts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George W. Faison describes his experiences of racial discrimination
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls his early influences
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his early interest in dance
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers the band at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls teaching himself to dance
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls auditioning for the American Light Opera Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers dancing with the American Light Opera Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls his experiences while at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George W. Faison describes the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls his training at the American Light Opera Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George W. Faison recalls the Howard University Players
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to study the fine arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls the Civil Rights Movement at Howard University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George W. Faison remembers improving his dance technique at Howard University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to move to New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers joining the Arthur Mitchell Company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George W. Faison reflects upon his decision to pursue a dance career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls dancing on the 'ABC's Stage 67' program
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George W. Faison describes the dance community in New York City, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - George W. Faison describes the dance community in New York City, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - George W. Faison recalls the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited program
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George W. Faison remembers Thelma Hill
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George W. Faison describes Alvin Ailey's choreographic style
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls his audition for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls touring Europe with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls watching the Civil Rights Movement from Italy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers Alvin Ailey
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls lessons from Alvin Ailey
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George W. Faison reflects upon his generation
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George W. Faison recalls the camaraderie of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his career with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers his interest in choreography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to leave the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls Alvin Ailey's parting advice
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his first ballet
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - George W. Faison talks about his transition to choreography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls dancing in 'Purlie'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - George W. Faison remembers meeting Miles Davis, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls meeting Miles Davis, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls choreographing a ballet to Miles Davis' music
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls the start of his career as a choreographer
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes 'Suite Otis'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - George W. Faison talks about licensing his choreography
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers Gary DeLoatch
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - George W. Faison remembers choreographing Broadway productions
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls choreographing 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls the conception of 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers the first performances of 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes the development of 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - George W. Faison remembers the Broadway production of 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes the impact of HIV/AIDS on the theater community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers lessons from his work on 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about 'The Wiz' movie
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls staging musical artists
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - George W. Faison remembers writing 'If This Hat Could Talk'
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of George W. Faison's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls the conflict between Charlie Smalls and Gilbert Moses
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes Hinton Battle's role in 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes the perceptions of African American theater
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes the influences on his choreography for 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls being invited to choreograph to 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls the costuming on 'The Wiz,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls the costuming on 'The Wiz,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 9 - George W. Faison describes the 'Emerald City Ballet (Psst)'
  • Tape: 9 Story: 10 - George W. Faison remembers the success of 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls the rehearsals for 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - George W. Faison talks about Stephanie Mills
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes the cast of 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls the difficulty of producing a show on Broadway
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls the critical response to 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers negotiating his royalties for 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls the success of 'The Wiz' at the Tony Awards
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - George W. Faison reflects upon his Tony Award for Best Choreography
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - George W. Faison talks about the choreographers on Broadway
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls his transition to concert staging
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - George W. Faison remembers staging Ashford and Simpson
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - George W. Faison talks about working with Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers 'The Josephine Baker Story'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls writing 'Sing, Mahalia, Sing'
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - George W. Faison reflects upon the changes on Broadway
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls opening the Faison Firehouse Theater in New York City
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - George W. Faison describes his parents' influence on his career
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - George W. Faison talks about his admiration of Dorothy Height
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes his mentors, pt. 1
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - George W. Faison talks about Storyville
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his mentors, pt. 2
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - George W. Faison talks about the novels of Toni Morrison
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about black dance
  • Tape: 12 Story: 8 - George W. Faison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 12 Story: 9 - George W. Faison reflects upon his legacy