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

Louis Johnson

Share on Social Media

Information about Louis Johnson

Profile image of Louis Johnson

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Ballet Dancer
Dance Professor
Choreographer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Potatoes (White)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Harlem, New York
Favorite Quote:
Holding on.

Birthplace

Born:
3/19/1930
Birth Location:
Statesville, North Carolina

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Ballet Dancer
Dance Professor
Choreographer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Potatoes (White)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Harlem, New York
Favorite Quote:
Holding on.

Birthplace

Born:
3/19/1930
Birth Location:
Statesville
See how Louis Johnson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Director and choreographer Louis Johnson was born on March 19, 1930, in Statesville, North Carolina, but moved with his parents to Washington, D.C., at an early age. Although Johnson became quickly known in the Washington, D.C., school system for his outstanding artistic talents, he also developed a strong following for his gymnastic and dancing talents. In high school, he enrolled and trained at the Jones Haywood School of Dance, where he and such notable students as Chita Rivera blossomed under the tutelage of Doris Jones and Clair Haywood.

After being advised to move by his teachers to New York City, Johnson found himself at the famed New York City School of American Ballet, where he was mentored by Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. These associations led directly to a performance with the New York City Ballet Company and then on to Broadway shows such as Four Saints in Three Acts, House of Flowers (choreographed by George Balanchine), Damn Yankees (by Bob Fosse) and Hallelujah Baby. His public acclaim in these Broadway performances led to an offer to choreograph his ballet, Lament for the New York City Ballet Club. That success, in turn, led to him receiving an offer to choreograph the Broadway production Black Nativity by Langston Hughes. Johnson also choreographed Lost in the Stars, Treemonisha and Purlie, for which he received a Tony nomination.

Johnson has received the great acclaim for choreographing operas performed by the New York Metropolitan Opera. Those operas include La Giaconda, starring Martina La Rowa and Aida, which starred Leontyne Price. In movies, he choreographed Cotton Comes to Harlem and The Wiz, starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. In addition to his work in New York City, Johnson has mounted ballets for the Cincinnati Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, Philadanco Dance Company, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Atlanta Ballet Company. In 1980, he started Henry Street Settlement’s Dance Department in New York City. He continued to work there until 2003. He also taught the first Black theatre course at Yale University and started Howard University’s Dance Department in Washington, D.C.

Johnson’s honors include: the Pioneer Award from the International Association of Blacks in Dance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; an honor from the California chapter of the NAACP for his work with the original Negro Ensemble Company; and a special night honoring him from Ashford and Simpson. His directorial credits include Porgy and Bess, Miss Truth, Jazzbo Brown, Time in the Wind and Ebony Game.

See how Louis Johnson is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Louis Johnson interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson talks about his mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson remembers his grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson discusses his elementary school years
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson describes his early involvement in dance
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson talks about his father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson recalls influential dance teachers
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson remembers classmates in dance school
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Louis Johnson remembers his first dance job
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson discusses an early appearance on Broadway
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson talks about the cast of 'House of Flowers'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson remembers his involvement in 'Damn Yankees'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson recalls close friends from his early days on Broadway
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson comments on young dancers of today
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson recalls experiences in the motion picture 'Damn Yankees'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson details his transition into choreography
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson talks about various choreography work
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson mentions students from Howard University' dance program
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Louis Johnson remembers choreographing 'Purlie'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Louis Johnson mentions various successes from his choreography career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson describes his approach to new projects
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson talks about facing discrimination
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson discusses different types of entertainers he's worked with
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson explains applying his style to various projects
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson details various performers he's worked with over the years
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson remembers working in Atlanta and Harlem
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson explains his involvement with the Negro Ensemble Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson recalls his career with Henry Street Settlement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson talks about projects of which he's most proud
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson talks about Howard University's dance department
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson describes the career of Debbie Allen
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson remembers choreographing 'Treemonisha' to Broadway
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson discusses various productions he's choreographed
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson details his involvement with 'The Wiz'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson recalls various awards he's received
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson talks about his directorial credits
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson talks about 'The Ebony Game'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson discusses his involvement in 'MissTruth'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson shares his thoughts on 'Jazzbo Brown'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson remembers the production 'Time and the Wind'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson further discusses 'Miss Truth'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson tells of giving exposure to lesser-known performers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson comments on various performers he's worked with
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson talks about dealing with racism during his early years
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson reflects on his career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Louis Johnson tells of the importance of black history
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Louis Johnson considers his legacy