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Bill T. Jones

Dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones was born on February 15, 1952 in Bunnell, Florida. He was the tenth of twelve children born to Estella Jones and Augustus Jones, both migrant farmers. At the age of twelve, Jones’ family moved to Wayland County in upstate New York. After graduating from Wayland High School, Jones enrolled at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton where he studied dance and participated in track and field.

In 1971, Jones met Arnie Zane, a photographer, who helped him discover his destiny as a dancer. Jones and Zane joined with one of their professors, Lois Welk, to form the American Dance Asylum (ADA). Their work with the ADA eventually led to Jones’ solo debut with the Dance Theatre Workshop’s Choreographers’ Showcase in 1977. During the next few years, Jones and Zane performed internationally. In 1982, Jones and Zane formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Although the dance troupe met with great success, Zane took ill in 1984; and, in 1988, he died of AIDS-related lymphoma. Jones continued to work with the troupe and created personal works that allowed him to express his grief. One such work, “Absence,” made its debut in 1989. In 1990, the troupe premiered another work inspired by Zane, “Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

In addition to creating more than 140 works for his own company, Jones has been commissioned to create dances for several modern and ballet companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, and Berlin Opera Ballet, among others. Jones directed and performed in a collaborative work with Toni Morrison and Max Roach, “Degga” (1995), at Alice Tully Hall, which was commissioned by the Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun Festival. His collaboration with Jessye Norman, “How! Do! We! Do!” (1999), premiered at New York’s City Center. In 2010, Jones was named executive artistic director of New York Live Arts, a company formed by a merger of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Dance Theater Workshop.

Jones’ work has been recognized with the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1993 Dance Magazine Award. Jones has also received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Yale University, the Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, Columbia College, Skidmore College, the Juilliard School, and Swarthmore College. He is a recipient of the State University of New York at Binghamton Distinguished Alumni Award.

Bill T. Jones was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 8, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.190

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/8/2014

Last Name

Jones

Maker Category
Middle Name

T.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Wayland-Cohocton High School

State University of New York at Binghamton

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bill

Birth City, State, Country

Bunnell

HM ID

JON38

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Mexico

Favorite Quote

Naming Things Is Only The Intention To Make Things.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/15/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Anything My Companion Makes

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones (1952 - ) cofounded the American Dance Asylum and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He also served as executive artistic director of New York Live Arts.

Employment

American Dance Asylum

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

New York Live Arts

Dance Theatre Workshop

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:10080,217:10368,222:14595,246:18195,367:28620,577:37640,661:71730,1284:76755,1429:109352,1935:118091,2134:121094,2224:127950,2324:132375,2449:149614,2711:149962,2716:156835,2855:157357,2862:163969,2955:164491,2962:171036,3021:171756,3037:172836,3077:202964,3508:204830,3531$0,0:2607,53:3160,61:4187,177:13625,352:23565,587:38660,815:39540,827:41460,921:63533,1219:64101,1229:66586,1277:67367,1291:72266,1402:74112,1463:75461,1503:76810,1537:77520,1554:80502,1647:80999,1656:88840,1680:93000,1749:95184,1799:95704,1805:114950,2017:120880,2135:125600,2226:140458,2456:145160,2531:148730,2595
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bill T. Jones' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bill T. Jones lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bill T. Jones describes his father's upbringing and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bill T. Jones describes his mother's upbringing and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bill T. Jones talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bill T. Jones describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bill T. Jones describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bill T. Jones describes his home in Wayland, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bill T. Jones lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bill T. Jones describes the African American community in Wayland, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bill T. Jones talks about race relations in Wayland, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bill T. Jones describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bill T. Jones remembers his most influential teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bill T. Jones describes his experiences at the Wayland Central School in Wayland, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bill T. Jones remembers his house burning down

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bill T. Jones recalls his family's musical talents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bill T. Jones recalls his introduction to dance

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bill T. Jones recalls working with Percival Borde

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bill T. Jones remembers meeting Arnie Zane

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bill T. Jones remembers traveling to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bill T. Jones remembers studying dance in California with Lois Welk

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bill T. Jones recalls establishing the American Dance Asylum

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bill T. Jones describes the style of the American Dance Asylum

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bill T. Jones remembers documenting his early choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bill T. Jones lists the choreographers who influenced him

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bill T. Jones recalls his debut at the Delacorte Theater in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bill T. Jones recalls the response to his first major performance

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bill T. Jones talks about his relationship with Lois Welk

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bill T. Jones talks about his partnership with Arnie Zane

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bill T. Jones talks about the critical reception of his work

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bill T. Jones remembers meeting Alvin Ailey

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bill T. Jones describes his choreographic influences, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bill T. Jones describe his choreographic influences, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bill T. Jones remembers forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bill T. Jones talks about Arnie Zane's death

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bill T. Jones describes the influence of the AIDS crisis upon his work

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bill T. Jones talks about his grieving process

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Bill T. Jones remembers his relationship with Arthur Aviles

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Bill T. Jones recalls the start of his relationship with Bjorn Amelan

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bill T. Jones reflects upon his romantic relationships

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bill T. Jones remembers receiving a MacArthur Fellowship

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bill T. Jones talks about his critics

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bill T. Jones describes his family's reaction to his work

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bill T. Jones remembers collaborating with Max Roach and Toni Morrison

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bill T. Jones remembers his choreography for 'Spring Awakening'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bill T. Jones remembers directing and choreographing 'Fela!'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bill T. Jones recalls his company's merger with the Dance Theater Workshop

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bill T. Jones talks about New York Live Arts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bill T. Jones describes 'Story/Time'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bill T. Jones talks about 'Analogy/Dora: Tramontane'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bill T. Jones describes 'A Letter to My Nephew'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Bill T. Jones describes his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Bill T. Jones reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Bill T. Jones describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

7$5

DATitle
Bill T. Jones recalls his debut at the Delacorte Theater in New York City
Bill T. Jones remembers collaborating with Max Roach and Toni Morrison
Transcript
In '77 [1977] is when you have your--your debut (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Debut at the Delacorte Theater [New York, New York].$$So tell me how that came to--came about.$$Around this time--was it around the same time that we had seen Robert Wilson at the Met [Metropolitan Opera House, New York, New York]? I'm not sure; the dates don't quite work out. But we were down in one of our few visits to New York [New York] like I--as I say, we had this kind of--we were dismissing New York. Came down, and we went to take a class in release technique, which was the rage in certain quarters; very slow moving, getting at some sort of primal state of ease to release unin- uninflected or unaffected movement. I think her name was Susan Kline [ph.] was--and, and in her studio, at least the space that we were teaching, there was a poster advertising auditions at Clark Center dance festival--at the Clark Center [Clark Center for the Performing Arts; Clark Center NYC, New York, New York] for the dance festival. And on a lark, I thought, what the hell? I don't care what they say in New York; it doesn't matter, but I'll come down and try. And I came down and I did a piece that I had premiered at the American Dance Asylum with me on a pair of shoes, dancing to a high--white blocks, actually--a piece called 'Everybody Works' ['Everybody Works/All Beasts Count,' Bill T. Jones] which had been a larger piece; it had one solo, and then it was a piece about unemployment with animal heads--don't ask me; stamping your--'cause we were all unemployed--stamping your--you know, with the unemployment--you know, to get your check every week, you have to show that you looked for work. So that's what it was--'Everybody Works.' And it was Jesse Fuller, this old one man band from the Bay Area [San Francisco Bay Area, California]. (Singing), "Got the blues from my baby down by the San Francisco Bay," ['San Francisco Bay Blues'], that was one of his hits, and (singing), "Everybody works at my house but my old man" ['Everybody Works at My House but My Old Man']. So those were all musics in the solo; I auditioned it. It must have been a mess, but I--obviously it was something to it. I improvised by shouting to a stranger to turn the lights on and off 'cause, of course, they hadn't given you any time, and I was just being provocative and I, I threw in an obscene gesture in what I was doing, and I was doing everything to let them know that I was free person and I did not care. They were all sitting in the dark. For years later, people would come say, "You know, I was there the day that you did that." Now, were they the ones who voted for me or not, I don't know. And then I got a call, or some sort of notification, back in Binghamton [New York], that Louise Roberts wanted to speak to me. Louise Roberts, is a feisty Jewish woman, really important to--$$Dance.$$--progressive dance, who invited me--but with a caveat that I had to change certain things. And I said, "You are trying to censure my work." And she says, "Listen buster, you got a chip on your shoulder and New York's gonna knock it off; do you wanna do this or not?" And I sputtered a bit, and I said, "Yes, I do." And so I did the, the Delacorte Theater--biggest audience I'd ever been in front of, on the same program with the Joffrey Ballet and Charles Moore and--I don't remember the other people, but it was, it was serious dance world, and who is this person out of nowhere? That's how it happened, and it was actually well received.$I want--did Toni Morrison--I wanted to ask you about working with her and--$$And Max?$$--and Max, right.$$'Degga' [Bill T. Jones]?$$Right, that's right.$$Right, right.$$How did that come about?$$Through Max, through Max.$$Max Roach is what we're talking about (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Max Roach, he had--Max Roach, yes. And I had already--Max Roach and Arnie [Arnie Zane] and I, with Connie Crothers, had done a piece called 'Intuitive Momentum' at the Brooklyn Academy of Music [Brooklyn, New York] on one of the first Next Waves [Next Wave Festival], so he and I had a, had a relationship, and he and I had also, I think, at that point, had done some solo concerts in, in Lisbon [Portugal] and in Seville [Spain], I believe--I, I--yeah, in Seville. So we had a relationship, and then he--there was this opportunity through the Lincoln Center [Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, New York]--Jane Moss, I believe, for us to do anything we wanted to do, and Max said, "We should get Toni involved." And he told me that--well, and Toni, and Toni said, you know, "I'm not interested in dancing and, and reading--dancing and movement." You know, she was very hu- tough like that, and Max tells me about the time that they were doing--and they flew across country to do something, an event, and she didn't speak the whole time; she was reading, and he said, "Toni, shouldn't we be talking about what we're gonna do?" She said, "You're gonna play and I'm gonna read." (Makes sound) Back to her book, you know? Now, he's bringing in this guy--I don't think she had ever even seen the work--probably, probably didn't care very much for contemporary dance, and he's bringing it in--bringing me in, and we met one afternoon in the studio; I think it was at Lincoln Center, I'm not quite sure, and she read beau- you know how she reads very quietly. She read from 'Beloved' [Toni Morrison]--enchanting; and then I danced a capella--danced a capella, and I sang a folk song as I was improvising, and something in it moved her. And then we went out to eat, and at the end of the book, I remember her say that--we were sharing, and she reached over and took a--something off my plate, and the bite, and I knew that we would be all right. And we did enjoy, we did enjoy. She, she said no, she isn't gonna dance. She said, "You want Madonna, you don't want me," you know. She had knee problems and all, and--but by the end of it--she was loose, you know, she, she enjoyed, you know. I wish we could have done it more, but it was a--one of those things I'm very, very proud of.

Donald McKayle

Choreographer and educator Donald McKayle was born on July 6, 1930 in New York City, New York to Eva Wilhelmina Cohen McKayle and Philip Augustus McKayle. Inspired by a Pearl Primus performance, he began dancing his senior year in high school, and won a scholarship to the New Dance Group in 1947.

In 1948, McKayle choreographed his first piece of work with the New Dance Group, and premiered his solo piece, Saturday's Child. From 1951 to 1969, McKayle founded and directed his own dance company, Donald McKayle and Company, which premiered his first major work entitled Games in 1951. McKayle then went on to choreograph masterworks Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, District Storyville and Songs of the Disinherited. Golden Boy (1964) was his first Broadway production, followed by I'm Solomon (1969) and Dr. Jazz (1975). McKayle directed and choreographed Raisin (1974), which was awarded a Tony for best musical. He was responsible for the entire concept, staging and choreography of the award-winning Sophisticated Ladies (1981). McKayle has also choreographed for films, including Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1970), The Great White Hope (1972), and The Minstrel Man (1976). McKayle has also choreographed stage acts for singers such as Harry Belafonte and Rita Moreno. In 2001, he choreographed the monumental ten-hour production of Tantalus.

The repositories for McKayle’s work include the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Cleveland San Jose Ballet, and the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Theatre. He served as head of the Inner City Repertory Dance Company from 1970 to 1974, and then as choreographer for the Limon Dance Company since 1995. In all, McKayle choreographed over ninety performances for dance companies in the U.S., Canada, Israel, Europe and South America. He has taught at Bennington College, the Juilliard School, the American Dance Festival, and in Europe. McKayle served as dean of the School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts, and as professor of dance and the artistic director for the University of California, Irvine Dance.

McKayle has received numerous honors and awards, including an Outer Critics Circle Award, a NAACP Image Award, the Capezio Award, the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award,  the American Dance Guild Award, a Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival, two Choreographer’s Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dance/USA Honors, the Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, the Annual Award from the Dance Masters of America, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival, the Black College Dance Exchange Honors, the Dance Magazine Award, and the American Dance Legacy Institute’s Distinguished and Innovative Leadership Award, among others. In 2005, McKayle was honored at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and presented with a medal as a Master of African American Choreography. He has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as "one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the first 100."

McKayle is the author of the 2002 autobiography, Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life.

McKayle passed away on April 6, 2018.

Donald McKayle was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.342

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/17/2013 |and| 7/28/2014

Last Name

McKayle

Maker Category
Middle Name

Cohen

Organizations
Schools

New Dance Group

City College of New York

P.S. 101 Andrew Draper School

St. Charles Borromeo School

P.S. 46 Arthur Tappan School

Junior High School 118, William H. Hines

DeWitt Clinton High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MCK16

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

7/6/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Death Date

4/6/2018

Short Description

Choreographer and educator Donald McKayle (1930 - 2018) was the author of Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life. His major choreographic works include Games, Rainbow Round My Shoulder, District Storyville, Raisin, and Sophisticated Ladies.

Employment

New Dance Group

Donald McKayle and Company

Inner City Repertory Dance Company

Limon Dance Company

University of California, Irvine

California Institute of the Arts

Bennington College

Juilliard School

American Dance Festival

Favorite Color

Green, Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:693,13:1771,32:2310,46:9317,131:28080,377:41942,532:67624,823:68308,875:82522,1023:83140,1030:86436,1082:87260,1091:98766,1287:108292,1336:165136,1725:165654,1846:166024,1852:172778,1956:175886,2031:184986,2150:201736,2292:202348,2297:205612,2360:266308,2885:266889,2893:267221,2898:267968,2907:274027,2994:275521,3025:300890,3271:319814,3490:320269,3496:327094,3628:340305,3856:352510,3945$0,0:17510,221:23910,288:80629,876:117713,1277:152745,1689:156940,1739:160020,1796:185999,2069:187187,2082:205012,2183:231779,2322:278122,2924:282952,2958:287202,2975:300270,3041:312472,3196:319020,3258
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Donald McKayle's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle talks about his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle talks about his father's immigration to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle describes his parent's personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle talks about his brother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Donald McKayle describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Donald McKayle remembers the Harlem community in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Donald McKayle describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle talks about his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle remembers the Great Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle describes his early involvement in the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle talks about his Jamaican heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle remembers the Harlem River Houses in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle talks about his early influences

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle remembers his election as class president at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle talks about his Jewish heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Donald McKayle talks about his early cultural influences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle talks about his piece, 'Her Name Was Harriet'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle talks about the popular culture of the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle remembers Pearl Primus

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle remembers joining the New Dance Group

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle remembers the African American dancers of the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle talks about his dance training

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle remembers his first pieces of original choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle talks about forming Donald McKayle and Company

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle talks about Donald McKayle and Company

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle talks about the black arts community in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle remembers the early productions by Donald McKayle and Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle remembers 'House of Flowers,' pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle talks about Geoffrey Holder

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle remembers his marriages

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle remembers 'House of Flowers,' pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle recalls touring with the Martha Graham Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle recalls the original Broadway production of 'West Side Story'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle remembers creating 'Rainbow Round My Shoulder,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle recalls the success of Donald McKayle and Company

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle describes his start as film and television choreographer

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle remembers moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle talks about his Broadway production of 'Raisin,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle remembers Loraine Hansberry

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle describes his role in original Broadway production of 'West Side Story'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle talks about 'Rainbow Round My Shoulder'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle remembers the international tour of 'Rainbow Round My Shoulder'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle remembers the television premiere of 'They Called Her Moses'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle remembers creating 'District Storyville'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle remembers choreographing and performing in 'On the Sound'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle talks about his television choreography

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle remembers working on the Broadway production of 'Golden Boy'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle remembers the cast of 'Golden Boy'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle talks about his choreography for 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle talks about the choreography for 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle remembers leading the Inner City Arts Repertory Dance Company

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle remembers choreographing 'Songs of the Disinherited'

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle remembers choreographing the film 'The Great White Hope'

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle Donald McKayle remembers his directorial debut in 'Raisin'

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle remembers his television special, 'Free to Be... You and Me'

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Donald McKayle talks about his retirement from dancing

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Donald McKayle remembers choreographing the film 'Minstrel Man'

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Donald McKayle remembers the Broadway production of 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Donald McKayle talks about the success of 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Donald McKayle talks about his teaching career

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Donald McKayle remembers his celebrity collaborators

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Donald McKayle remembers his production of 'Tantalus'

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Donald McKayle describes his autobiography, 'Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life'

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Donald McKayle talks about his awards and honors

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Donald McKayle reflects upon his career

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Donald McKayle talks about his favorite choreographed piece

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Donald McKayle reflects upon his legacy and plans for the future

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Donald McKayle talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 12 - Donald McKayle talks about contemporary dance techniques

Tape: 8 Story: 13 - Donald McKayle describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Donald McKayle remembers joining the New Dance Group
Donald McKayle remembers creating 'Rainbow Round My Shoulder,' pt. 1
Transcript
When did you first consider--is this when you first considered dancing?$$After seeing Pearl Primus, yeah. I, I formed a--I worked that next week and we had meetings at Club L'Ouverture, I said, "I saw this wonderful woman dance and we should have--we should make--have a dance group here." And I asked other members of the club to come in to rehearsals. I, I was rehearsing people. Didn't know a thing, but (laughter) rehearsing people and making up dances, choreographing before I knew anything.$$That's something, so you just started, you know.$$(Makes sound), yeah. And then I went to audition at the New Dance Group for the scholarship and I got it, although I was sure I would be eliminated 'cause I didn't know anything. But they gave me a scholarship, they saw something.$$So what was the first thing--can you think of what you--what did you choreograph, I mean what did you--$$I choreographed a spiritual, 'Go Down Moses.' And I had all my fellow club members in a chain going around and they were bent over, things they could do, and I was improvising in the middle, breaking through trying to get out. When I think of it, I smile. It was so innocent and quite wonderful.$$So right after graduation [from DeWitt Clinton High School, Bronx, New York] or did you become a part of the New Dance Group before graduation or after?$$Before, 1947 was when I started the New Dance Group and I graduated about the same time, yeah.$$Okay, 1947, all right. She actually danced to 'Strange Fruit' too, right?$$Yes. (Singing), "Southern trees bare a strange fruit." She danced to a poem though, it wasn't sung.$$Well, tell us about your early days with the New Dance Group?$$Well, I got a scholarship and I was--I was going at that time to college, to City College [City College of New York, New York, New York] and so I would go and take early morning classes, about eight o'clock classes, then I'd go down to the New Dance Group which was on 59th Street between 5th [Avenue] and Madison [Avenue] at the time. And I would work with Sophie Maslow, Jane Dudley, William Bales, the New Dance Group company, and then I'd go back and finish more classes at CCNY, go home, have dinner, do homework, that was my life. And I started choreographing with the company in '51 [1951].$$Now, was this when you performed 'Saturday's Child' [Donald McKayle]?$$I did that first at the Club Baron in Harlem [New York, New York]. And that was Paul Robeson was part of it, and [HistoryMaker] Leon Bibb, [HistoryMaker] Harry Belafonte. I was a youngster in the group. And I did 'Saturday's Child,' Countee Cullen's poem.$$Okay, so this was a part of a larger performance of?$$No I was, I, I made--I made it as a solo for me. I spoke the poem and danced at the same time, which was unusual, people didn't do that, do that. So it was a dramatic dance and I was a homeless person.$$It was in a program that included Paul Robeson, and--$$Well, Harry Belafonte gave a benefit for Paul because he couldn't work and he couldn't leave the country. And I had done this dance and they asked me to do it at the Paul--and they said Paul would sing for me 'By 'n' Bye' and I said, "Okay I'd love to." I couldn't believe it. And I went down to the Golden Gate Ballroom, which was on Lenox Avenue [Malcolm X Boulevard], a little bit down from the Savoy [Savoy Ballroom, New York, New York] in the 40s, yeah. And I got there and there was no stage, just a bandstand with a piano, so it was large enough for a grand piano and then a few steps for the other instruments and it was carpeted. And there was Paul in the nook of the piano and Lawrence Brown [Lawrence Benjamin Brown] was sitting at the keyboard and I said, "Well if he's gonna sing for me, I'm gonna dance up and down this carpeted steps, and I did." But that was 'By 'n' Bye,' I didn't do 'Saturday's Child' at that particular performance. But it was very important for me. Big moment in my career.$All right, 'cause our next, next note is that in '59 [1959] you, you produced 'Rainbow Round My Shoulder' [Donald McKayle], right?$$Yes.$$Okay. Well, what is that about, and what--?$$'Rainbow Round My Shoulder' is about prisoners on a chain gang in the Deep South and they're brought to work on the roads to break rock to make gravel to lay the rock--gravel bed and then they put macadam and tar, blacktop on it for the roads. In fact the first song is, "Picks, rocks and gravel to make a solid road, but it wouldn't get done lessen captain had a gun. 'Cause is always being watched over by the overseer." And they're men that are prisoners and they dream of freedom and freedom comes to them in the guise of a woman. So there's one woman and seven men in the dance. And it's a--it's a huge success. As I said I've done it for other companies, I did it for the Batsheva Company [Batsheva Dance Company] in Israel, and I did it in Paris [France], did it in Buenos Aires [Argentina]. So it's a--it's a lasting dance.$$So this is--there's a theme although you've conceived of it as being something that's particular to the United States or something?$$Yes, it's definitely an American dance and the music are chain gang songs, and I got--the ones that I use in the--in the actual production were gathered by John [John A. Lomax, Jr.] and Alan Lomax on location as the men were working. There's one piece as a solo for the woman, it's called "Jinx Blues" and that was--she was heard a woman singing this song while she was washing clothes at the river and he recorded it on one of his field trips. (Singing), "I had a gal she was long and tall and moved her body like a cannonball." That's the female solo. And the woman who did it first, Mary Hinkson, was a dancer with the Martha Graham Company [Martha Graham Dance Company]. And in fact, on YouTube you can see her and me and Matt Turney dancing in a jazz piece called 'On the Sound' sitting--Long Island Sound. And that was done in '62 [1962] so we stayed as a kind of nice knit group there.$$How would you characterize your dancing technique in those days?$$It was very fluid, athletic, but very sort of muscular rather than light.$$Okay, okay. And what did dance critics say about you in those days?$$I got very good reviews from critics. And 'Rainbow' was hailed as a masterpiece.$$And it resonated with audiences abroad as well?$$Oh very much. I remember when we did it, well, I didn't do it, it was done by the Dayton Company, Dayton Contemporary [Dayton Contemporary Dance Company] in Russia. At the end of the performance there was just silence and then suddenly applause. And Charles Reinhart [Charles L. Reinhart] who was a director went out to the audience to see what was wrong. He said it was just like seeing your own history right in front of them in another form. So they just couldn't believe what they were seeing. And I did it, I went to Russia afterwards and I set it on Russian dancers. That was a wonderful experience.$$Okay, okay, so, so this is--how long did you perform--I mean did it perform for a season and then you--$$Well it performed for many seasons, it's a classic piece that's brought back by a company. And I'll--they'll call me to come in and restage it.

Robert Battle

Dancer and choreographer Robert Louis Battle was born on August 28, 1972 in Jacksonville, Florida to Marie Battle. Three weeks after his birth, Battle was adopted by his great-uncle Willie Horne. He was raised by Horne and his daughter Dessie Horne. Battle started dancing in high school and graduated from the New World School of Arts in Miami, Florida. He went on to attend The Julliard School, where he graduated in 1994. Battle joined Parsons Dance Company where he performed and choreographed for the next seven years. During this time, Battle also choreographed his first piece for an Alvin Ailey Foundation dance company; the piece was entitled Mood Indigo and was performed by the Ailey II Company in 1999.

In 2001, Battle left Parsons to found Battleworks Dance Company, a company he directed for the next nine years. During this time, Battle developed a close relationship with the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, choreographing his first piece for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Juba , in 2003, and working alongside Judith Jamison and hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris to create Love Stories in 2004. He continued to provide material for the group and conduct workshops at the Alvin Ailey School from 2006 until 2008. In 2009, Battle’s work with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater culminated in the announcement by Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, that Battle would succeed her as the company’s artistic director in July of 2011.

Battle was named as one of the Masters of African American Choreography by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in 2005, and has received numerous other awards for professional excellence. He has performed or choreographed for venues such as the Joyce Theater, the American Dance Festival, the Dance Theater Workshop, and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Robert Battle was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.107

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/27/2010

Last Name

Battle

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Miami Northwestern Senior High School

New World School Of The Arts

The Juilliard School

Orchard Villa Elementary School

Georgia Jones-Ayers Middle School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Jacksonville

HM ID

BAT09

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Saratoga Springs, New York

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/28/1972

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ribs

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Robert Battle (1972 - ) was the third artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Employment

Parsons Dance Company

Battleworks Dance Company

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2456,80:4808,109:5228,115:5732,125:8000,162:8840,175:9428,185:10268,197:10856,206:11360,213:11780,219:15812,275:16736,291:28055,381:33095,471:33935,485:35825,577:43160,609:45422,644:46280,657:46826,666:49244,728:49868,787:55094,881:55406,886:72045,1111:72425,1116:73755,1135:78794,1173:79403,1186:80795,1212:81578,1224:86501,1277:89322,1332:90141,1342:90687,1349:91324,1358:96783,1384:98239,1405:99968,1436:101970,1541:102698,1550:113060,1677$0,0:12525,169:18890,300:19650,310:20600,326:32872,389:44202,540:44734,552:45190,559:47404,572:48142,582:48880,593:51258,627:53718,655:60688,832:62164,856:62820,865:63148,870:71650,942:73900,990:74575,1000:78119,1036:86768,1123:87370,1134:87800,1141:91436,1175:94252,1215:95044,1225:100148,1289:106175,1337:107225,1361:107675,1368:110150,1437:115352,1465:115664,1470:116132,1477:118160,1525:118472,1530:119330,1543:119720,1549:120188,1556:120656,1565:121046,1571:124344,1593:125156,1610:127573,1641:130484,1706:134815,1846:142490,1879:142890,1885:145503,1904:147735,1942:148107,1947:153290,2003:154040,2020:154790,2030:158165,2088:158690,2097:159365,2108:160715,2132:161165,2139:163490,2181:164390,2199:164915,2208:166040,2236:166415,2242:166715,2247:169940,2314:176550,2422
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Battle's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Battle lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Battle describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Battle recalls his early artistic interests

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Battle describes his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Battle remembers his early church involvement

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Battle recalls the Performing and Visual Arts Center program

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Battle remembers the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Battle recalls the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami, Florida

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Battle describes his early aspirations and mentors

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert Battle reflects upon his career path

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Robert Battle recalls his scholarship to The Julliard School in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Robert Battle describes his first year at The Julliard School

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Robert Battle recalls his mentors at The Julliard School

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Battle recalls his first involvement with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Battle remembers his role at the Parsons Dance Company

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Battle recalls becoming artistic director designate of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Battle describes his direction for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Battle talks about the role of tradition in dance

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Battle describes his company, Battleworks Dance Company

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Battle describes how African American culture influences his art

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Battle talks about the dance community

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert Battle describes his current projects

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert Battle shares his advice to young dancers

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Robert Battle shares his mother's thoughts on his success

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Robert Battle describes his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

13$4

DATitle
Robert Battle describes his first year at The Julliard School
Robert Battle describes his direction for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Transcript
Juilliard [The Juilliard School, New York, New York] was extremely challenging, certainly, especially my, my first year. In fact, I, I wanted to leave Juilliard because, you know as a freshman in college, nobody knows anything and you know everything, that was me. And so, this was one of those mother moments. So I made a plan to leave Juilliard and I went home for one of the holidays, could have been Thanksgiving or whatever, and I talked to the dean at New World School of the Arts college and I said, "Listen, you know, I want to move back to Miami [Florida]," and he said, "Okay, we can help you do that," you know, "We'll give you a scholarship, money in your pocket, so you can do it." You see, I always figured my mother [Battle's second cousin, Dessie Horne Williams] was reasonable if you had a plan. If you could come and show her a plan, then she'd be okay with your decision. So I got my plan together. I got--came home, I said, "Listen," to my mother, who I've always called Dessalee, I've never called her mother, "Here's the plan. I'm going to leave Juilliard, come back home, I got a full scholarship at New World, it's all going to be great, no money out of your pocket, this will be wonderful," thinking she'd say, okay. She did say okay, she did also say, "But sometimes you might want to think about finishing things when you start them." I graduated Juilliard four years later, I won the Martha Hiller Prize, Martha Hill Prize [Martha Hill Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Dance] and the Princess Grace Award [Princess Grace Statue Award] at that time. So, she is modest when she says she has nothing to do with my success.$Now you mentioned [HistoryMaker] Judith Jamison as a choreographer and Rennie Harris and other people, so anybody, you know, paying attention to what's going on now, if they expect you to just replicate Alvin Ailey, they're probably wrong, right? Is that true?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Yes, and I think he, he would not expect that. I think that Judith Jamison would not expect that. I mean, I, I think, well I've gotten this label of being a maverick, I always thought it was a car but, anyway, but I've always done, or tried to do that in my own work. I've always tried to, to challenge myself and challenge the audiences but I got that from, again, my modest mother [Battle's second cousin, Dessie Horne Williams] who, I remember when I was, I used to improvise when I first started dancing. I would go in the back room and I'd put on some Michael Jackson or somebody like that, and I would, I would just improvise and she would always hear the music and one time she said, "Why don't you try classical music sometimes? You don't have to always do the same music." So I tried it; but, again, it was sort of pushing me to go outside of what I thought I was capable of. And so even in my own work, I choreographed to classical music, to the Indian music I was just talking about, to African drums, to, you know, it just, it's all over the place. As one audience member said, "From Bach [Johann Sebastian Bach] to bongos," you know, and I think that's a part of what some people like about my work and it's certainly a part of what interests me about making work, is about surprising people and making them hear things in a new way, you know, that is really a part of what I love about what I do.$$So do you think that's what the search committee saw in you or did they (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I think so.$$First did that--$$I think so, I think they saw that I had, that, that, that that would be exciting and that, but it's also done with integrity, not just for the sheer sake of making people perk up but that because I really believe in that and that's what's going to take us into the future, is always staying curious, always keeping our finger on the pulse of what's happening now and what can happen in the future. So I think that perhaps that's what they saw and that's what Ms. Jamison saw in my work and in me, which is why she chose me [as artistic director for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater].

Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker

Dancer, choreographer, artist and educator Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker was born on August 9, 1947, in Sierra Leone, Africa. Caulker studied with the National Dance Company of Ghana at the University of Ghana, Legon, then returned to the United States.

In 1969, Caulker founded the Ko-Thi Dance Company after returning from Ghana. The company was created to develop, educate, showcase and preserve African, Caribbean and African American dance and music. In the beginning, the company’s entire repertoire was created by Caulker. However, through the years, she developed and nurtured veteran choreographer/dancers and musicians who now contribute into the repertoire. Over the past thirty years, Caulker has developed a cadre of commissioned works by master dancers and musicians from throughout the African Diaspora.

Caulker began teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1971, creating the University’s first courses covering African, Caribbean and African American dance technique and history. Caulker then became a full professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Dance Department.

Since 1981, Caulker and the Ko-Thi Dance Company have created major full length evening works, collaborating with various international artists from across world cultures, (East Indian, Irish), and cross disciplines, (Jazz and the spoken word), merging cross cultural forms such as the South African 'Boot Dance' and Tap. In 1995, Caulker received a Fulbright Research Fellowship, which allowed her to study in Tanzania, East Africa, for three months. While doing her own research, Caulker also taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, lectured children in the Arusha United African American Cultural Center and assisted a UWASA cultural group. In 1999, Caulker served on the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts in Education for the Wisconsin State Superintendent, and the following year, served for the National Endowment for the Arts 2000 Dance panel. She has proudly served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Accession Number

A2007.336

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/30/2007

Last Name

Caulker

Maker Category
Middle Name

Yangyeitie

Organizations
Schools

Custer High School

Annie Walsh Memorial School

West Cornwall School for Girls

University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ferne

HM ID

CAU01

Favorite Season

Fall, Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

God Doesn't Give You Anything You Can't Handle.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Wisconsin

Birth Date

8/9/1947

Speakers Bureau Region City

Milwaukee

Country

Sierra Leone

Favorite Food

Crane-Crane, Cussava Leaf

Short Description

Choreographer, dance professor, and dancer Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker (1947 - ) was the founder and director of the Ko-Thi Dance Company. She began her teaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1971, creating the University’s first courses that covered African, Caribbean and African American dance techniques and history.

Employment

Ko-Thi Dance Company

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:267,4:890,12:2759,55:3293,63:6764,107:7476,116:9523,166:10235,176:23114,272:24520,295:38632,466:40348,499:40660,504:43156,541:44248,556:45574,577:46120,585:46822,596:47368,604:48070,615:48616,623:50020,654:51658,681:58940,730:63775,789:65513,811:68041,851:68910,863:70253,883:70648,889:74772,904:75864,922:76200,927:87456,1114:91950,1131:95391,1186:97703,1200:99161,1220:99566,1226:104083,1277:105910,1311:114067,1425:114343,1430:117172,1479:120001,1530:130316,1693:133202,1740:133826,1749:136478,1807:144122,2005:145838,2042:146462,2051:156709,2135:157318,2144:157840,2155:158884,2174:160537,2198:161755,2210:164452,2282:165148,2293:166801,2327:170860,2337:171484,2346:172186,2359:176632,2433:177646,2476:178738,2493:182020,2501:184018,2535:184388,2541:184832,2550:185350,2558:186682,2574:187126,2581:190826,2636:191122,2641:191640,2649:193194,2671:193638,2678:193934,2683:195044,2703:195710,2713:196376,2724:202548,2762:204738,2807:212841,2941:213790,2957:218944,2996:223762,3057:225067,3078:228982,3131:232320,3147$0,0:11690,244:11970,249:13860,287:18772,312:19708,331:26361,408:27098,425:28371,448:29577,472:30448,492:30716,497:31587,517:33731,554:33999,559:34535,568:35406,607:36076,619:37483,639:38019,648:38488,656:39158,673:39493,679:43630,688:44162,696:44922,709:45758,721:46366,731:46746,737:47126,743:47430,748:48722,769:49102,776:49482,783:50166,793:51914,820:52218,825:54574,863:55182,873:58510,879:59086,889:59590,897:59878,902:60886,918:61318,925:62110,939:64054,982:64702,994:65566,1009:66358,1021:67582,1034:68086,1043:68590,1051:69454,1066:70246,1078:75332,1091:76160,1102:76712,1109:79012,1132:80760,1156:81128,1161:84329,1172:84644,1178:85463,1193:85904,1202:86534,1222:87038,1233:87479,1242:87794,1248:88802,1275:89684,1290:94661,1387:95480,1406:95984,1415:96236,1420:97118,1441:97370,1446:97685,1452:98315,1474:104715,1524:105225,1534:105735,1541:113060,1632:113444,1640:115364,1675:116132,1693:116580,1701:117220,1713:117476,1718:117924,1727:127074,1827:127606,1836:129658,1875:130114,1882:132546,1942:133002,1950:133458,1957:138094,1975:139158,1991:139842,2002:142525,2018:143521,2034:144351,2046:146094,2066:148584,2100:148916,2105:157854,2203:158289,2209:159507,2226:161856,2247:162291,2253:165162,2289:165945,2299:166815,2310:168120,2329:174361,2351:174900,2358:175362,2365:176286,2382:179751,2459:180598,2474:184679,2536:184987,2541:185295,2546:185680,2552:191110,2598:193440,2622:193840,2628:194800,2641:195600,2652:200880,2740:203440,2780:209270,2812:209674,2817:215431,2899:218500,2906:219300,2915:220500,2929:228850,2983:229291,2991:229795,3001:230173,3008:230551,3016:234765,3046:238908,3076:244260,3139:244685,3145:246020,3151
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeiete Caulker talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her early awareness of racial discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her paternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her early experiences in the United States

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her likeness to her father

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Sande initiation

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker remembers living with her maternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about American attitudes toward African culture

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her early education

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker remembers Custer High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her early personality

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her early interest in dance

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about Pearl Primus

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Katherine Dunham Company's legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about the importance of history

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about her dance philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her dance training

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her dance experiences in Ghana

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls visiting the Elmina Castle in Ghana, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie recalls visiting the Elmina Castle in Ghana, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about South African dance traditions

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker remembers founding the Ko-Thi Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about African American dance companies

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Ko-Thi Dance Company's educational outreach

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the growth of the Ko-Thi Dance Company

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about gentrification in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her hopes for the black arts community

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker reflects upon the success of the Ko-Thi Dance Company

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about discrimination in funding for the arts

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes Ko-Thi Dance Company's performances

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker reflects upon her life and legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her life philosophy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Katherine Dunham Company's legacy
Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Ko-Thi Dance Company's educational outreach
Transcript
And then in comes [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham, and here is another black woman who now is the complete opposite from Pearl [Pearl Primus], light skinned, but who would not negotiate her colored-ness. Who said I'm light but I'm black and she went the Caribbean route, Haiti. Pearl went the African route with the 'Fanga' [Pearl Primus]. But these two women, I was stuck in the middle of the two of them. Looking at both of them going, my god, I can be all of this; I can be all of this. And then when I saw the academic level of the work they were doing, Katherine was writing grants and getting funded and writing articles and then now there is this huge amount of legacy this woman has left of her written works that go back to the '40s [1940s] and Pearl you know it just--. And then in steps Lavinia Williams, who was one of the dancers in Katherine's company and was her right hand. Lavinia became mu- became very accessible to me.$$Now was she--let's kind of put this in, I guess in the context of biography. When did, did you, when did you meet Katherine Dunham?$$I met Katherine--I had taken, the first time I had actually, actually really physically met her and got a chance to sit near her and take a class from her was at the--in East St. Louis [Illinois], when we did the--well there was a workshop down in East St. Louis and that's actually where I met the drummer Mor Thiam, who really helped us a lot with building the drum corps and gave us the training mechanism that we used on gym base in Ko-Thi Dance Company is Mor Thiam's technique.$$That's M-O-R capital T-H-I-A-M (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) T-H-I-A-M, um-hm. And she actually brought him from Senegal. So that's where I met Mor Thiam and, and took the workshop with Dunham and I was ju--$$Now about what year is that?$$That was like in the early '70s [1970s]--$$Okay.$$--mid-'70s [1970s].$$So, but you were inspired by her prior to--$$Yeah I was inspired by--$$--you became aware of her.$$--by Katherine from reading about her and then I got a chance to actually meet her. Then it was later on that I met Lavinia Williams and met a whole 'nother group of people who were actually--you know she was like their guru. Noel Hall [Noel Nantambu Hall] and Rima Pinnuck [ph.], Thomas Pinnuck [ph.], these were people in New York [New York] who were like studying with Lavinia because Lavinia learned all of the Dunham technique 'cause she was in the company [Katherine Dunham Company] but she branched off and started really doing a lot of the Haitian dance form and started teaching it and became known as a specialist in Haitian dance. And then Noel Hall studied with her, in fact she pretty much gave him all of her knowledge before she passed, and we then commissioned Noel Hall to come to Milwaukee [Wisconsin] and he choreographed a--we call it 'Suite Lavinia,' S-U-I-T-E, but S-W-E-E-T Lavinia. And it's a whole, it's a whole show that's forty-five minutes long of just the Haitian dance pantheon and he gave that all to us. So we have the lineage now through the choreography and the repertoire of--from Noel, from Lavinia to Katherine, Haiti, you know.$How did you form, how did assemble your dancers? Were the people already here involved in African dance on some level, or did you have to train them all from scratch or how did you do it?$$It was both, it was both. I, I, I started off the way most dance companies start off is you have somebody who's, who is a teacher who has an idea for a philosophy and a concept, starts throwing down some classes. And then the natural progression out of the classes is you take the students who are in your classes and you put together some kind of mini-show. And what happened with Ko-Thi [Ko-Thi Dance Company] was very simple actually. I'm like actually stunned sometimes when I think about it because there was no plan per se until ten years after we'd been working--that's when I made a conscious decision to turn it into a real serious dance company, okay. But the first ten years really we started just doing shows and people would see the shows and say you know we want you guys to come to our school and our educational outreach was what the company became, was an educational tool and put together a format that we're still using that we call Drumtalk. This format has great flexibility in terms of what it can do in a school, in terms of going into geography. We've had residencies in schools that would just blow your mind in terms of we'll go in and talk to the principal and the principals and the teachers will decide that you know this whole week that you all are here we're going to focus on Africa. We went one time to a school where each room--each classroom took a part of Africa, and that's all they focused on, and then we came in and did the whole movement thing, and it was awesome because you walk down the halls and--. I mean from the minute you entered the school it was Africa for the whole week. To me that was when a light went on for me. This was twenty years ago 'cause we're thirty-eight years old now so that's twenty, thirty years ago. We do social science, geography, history, music, song, dance and fitness and health and learning group work dynamics. How, how to work with one and other, how to, how to see yourself in space you know what I'm saying 'cause that's a whole different way of communicating in the world when you learn dance as a form in a classroom because it teaches you how to negotiate space. And that's really important in the workplace, you know. So if you never danced again in your whole life you go into a job you have to learn how to negotiate space, boundaries. How do you work with other people who are different from you, how do you communicate you know to other people? The arts teach that, that's the benefit of that, so it's for everybody. And so that's, that's was the essence of Ko-Thi Dance Company. So to preserve, promulgate, teach and give children experience and audiences and experiences--that's two-pronged, one is the actual physical experience in class the second one is the experience as an audience because those two things have to occur, you know. And it's the audience building that is the hardest you know for our community, for those of us who are in these forms.

Eleo Pomare

Choreographer and dancer Eleo Pomare was born on October 20 1937 in Santa Marta, Colombia. His father, Tawny Forbes, was the captain of a civilian freighter that was torpedoed near Colón, Panama during World War II. Pomare, at age six, who was with his father during the attack, survived and moved to live with his mother, Mildred Pomare Lee, in Panama. In 1947 Pomare was sent, alone, to New York City to live with an aunt and uncle who cared for him until some years later when his mother also moved to New York. He attended the New Lincoln School in Harlem, and later both P.S. #184 and James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School. At New York’s famed High School of Performing Arts, Pomare was mentored by Verita Pearson, and was exposed to such guest teachers as Uta Hagen and Martha Graham. While still a student, Pomare taught dance to other youth at the Police Athletic League (PAL). Soon, his pupils were performing at churches, schools and nearby Fort Dix. Moving into a building that housed Syvilla Fort’s studio near Town Hall, Pomare was exposed to the Durham technique by Walter Nicks and Talley Beatty. Graduating from the High School of Performing Arts in 1953, Pomare maintained his own dance company as he continued his training with Louis Horst, José Limón, Asadata Dafora, Pearl Reynolds and Curtis James. Pomare also befriended author James Baldwin, whose writing greatly influenced him.

In 1960, Pomare held his first major performance at the 92nd Street YMHA to favorable reviews. The following year he was awarded a John Hay Whitney Fellowship to study dance with Kurt Jooss in Essen, Germany. Pomare left the Jooss School and went on to reestablish the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, based in Amsterdam. He became a sensation in Europe. Using his own approach to choreography and teaching, he created his most celebrated works: Missa Luba, which combined the Catholic Mass with the music and voices of the Congolese Boys’ Choir; Blues for the Jungle, which depicted the history of African Americans from the earliest days of enslavement to the fight for equal rights in the 1960s; and Las Desenamoradas, which was inspired by Garcia Lorca’s play, The House of Bernarda Alba.

Over the years, Pomare received a number of dance fellowships including the aforementioned John Hay Whitney Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972. The Eleo Pomare Dance Company toured North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. They also performed in Lagos, Nigeria for FESTAC ’77, the World Festival of African Arts. Some of his featured dancers include Dudley Williams, Loretta Abbott, Al Perryman, Dyane Harvey, Charles Grant, Chuck Davis, Martial Roumain, Carl Paris, Leni Wylliams and Diana Ramos. In 1986, Pomare created Morning Without Sunrise, set to music by Max Roach, in honor of the heroism of Nelson Mandela.

In 1968, Pomare, along with Carole Johnson, Rod Rodgers, Gus Solomon and Pearl Reynolds, formed the Association of Black Choreographers and THE FEET, a black dance magazine. The Eleo Pomare Dance Company celebrated twenty-five years of dance in 1983, and January 7, 1987, was declared Eleo Pomare Day by the borough president of Manhattan, David Dinkins.

Pomare was a highly sought after teacher and choreographer until his death on August 8, 2008, at the age of 70.

Eleo Pomare was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.147

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/18/2007

Last Name

Pomare

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

P.S. 184

James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Eleo

Birth City, State, Country

Santa Marta

HM ID

POM01

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

I Ain't Doing That.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/20/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Colombia

Favorite Food

West Indian Food

Death Date

8/8/2008

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Eleo Pomare (1937 - 2008 ) founded his own successful company in Amsterdam. He co-founded the Association of Black Choreographers and later THE FLEET, a black dance magazine.

Employment

Eleo Pomare Dance Company

R. H. Macy and Co.

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:2300,23:2900,30:8640,71:17662,136:18202,142:19606,158:33601,321:44845,433:55608,565:60104,577:131610,1046:133270,1058:215860,1665:216220,1671:216580,1676:225580,1911:226120,1947:232397,1973:258120,2315:282623,2484:292130,2585$0,0:570,7:5694,99:8298,149:15890,237:16302,243:16920,251:19392,282:24170,346:24786,357:30564,421:34212,469:34668,475:39055,496:40657,523:58950,705:60364,720:62990,752:74199,839:83022,949:88835,994:90226,1014:98680,1080:99450,1089:116420,1214:117134,1225:147599,1476:166029,1619:177222,1700:213420,1985
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eleo Pomare's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes the feud between his maternal and paternal families

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his mother's upbringing in San Andres, Colombia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare remembers his father's death

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eleo Pomare describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eleo Pomare describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eleo Pomare recalls how he came to the United States

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare remembers the Carnival in Panama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare describes Latin American dance and music

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes the impact of African culture on Latin America

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his experiences upon arrival in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare remmebers P.S. 184 in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his uncle's influence on his education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls his relatives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare remembers the Harlem community

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the influence of the church on his dance career

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare remembers James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare recalls his woodshop class at James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to attend the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare talks about teaching dance in New York City, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about teaching dance in New York City, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls African American dancers from his youth

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes the High School of Performing Arts in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare recalls his teachers at the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his volunteer work as a dance teacher in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to leave his family home

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his relationship with his maternal family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare remembers seeing a performance by Talley Beatty

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls the African American dancers of his generation

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the works of Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare remembers his classmate, Arthur Mitchell

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes the first Eleo Pomare Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare remembers his company's first performance in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare remembers obtaining a John Hay Whitney Foundation fellowship

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes the Folkwang School of Music, Theatre and Dance in Essen, Germany

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes the European Eleo Pomare Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to return to the United States, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to return to the United States, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Missa Luba'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare recalls the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Blues for the Jungle'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare remembers performing "Junkie" from 'Blues for the Jungle'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Las Desenamoradas'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about his choreographic method

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls founding the Association of Black Choreographers, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare recalls founding the Association of Black Choreographers, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon black choreographers

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the cultural influences in his choreography

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare talks about the Harlem Cultural Council Dancemobile

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare remembers the political climate of the late 1970s

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls the lack of funding for African American dance companies

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Morning Without Sunrise,' pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Morning Without Sunrise,' pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his dance career

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his teaching style

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare recalls the members of the Eleo Pomare Dance Company

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare remembers performing at the Adelaide Festival in Australia

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about contemporary dance companies

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare describes his recent choreographic work

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Eleo Pomare talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Eleo Pomare describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Eleo Pomare reflects upon the influence of the church on his dance career
Eleo Pomare remembers performing "Junkie" from 'Blues for the Jungle'
Transcript
I was close to so many places where I'm, I'm excited by music, the way Carnival, the music affected me, the, the parallel to it was the small churches or the churches in Harlem [New York, New York]. And at the time I didn't realize that I was really studying theater (laughter) by attend, by going to these places. I can remember at the corner, at the corner of a 125th Street [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard] was Daddy Grace Temple [Grace Temple, New York, New York] right there at the corner. And, and I used to visit Prophet Jones' [James F. Jones] small church. And mainly for, for the music, it's the music that attracted me. And a passion that, that is very difficult to define, the, the life, you know, that, that pushed you, (laughter) you know. And I wouldn't say it had anything to do with my beliefs, my [maternal] uncle [Barsabas Anab Pomare] had already influenced me when it came to the purpose of an Almighty and whatnot. But the sincerity, the humanness of what I saw in these places gave me some sense of, of the depth of emotion. It also prepared me for, for what I would make if, if I was an actor, what I would make if I was a painter. And the search would be to, to, to not be involved with the religion but to be involved with the ability to, to, to experience so deeply, so real, you know, to see people who actually feel. And the, the, that, I had, had really a phenomenal interest to me. And, of course, there were the five cents parties the grind sessions and all of that that you were forbidden to go to, red light, blue light parties and things of that nature.$$Yeah, the church experience, I mean, I, sounds a lot like, you ever read, read James Baldwin where he describes a little church where he was a, he was a, a boy pastor in the church and could (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, oh, yes, James--$$He, he could make--$$James was a friend of mine.$$Yeah, okay.$$As a matter of fact, I often tell people that James Baldwin is the reason, had something to do with what, with my sitting where I am right now.$$Okay.$$You know, he--$$Did you meet him before you started dance, you know, dancing professionally, did you?$$Not before.$$Okay.$$See I lived in the village, Greenwich Village [New York, New York]. And at that time there used to be these afternoon soirees for the intellectual or the searching mind and whatnot. And I, I first met James at one of these affairs that was given by someone by the name of Lionel Mitchell who, who was a writer. He's written for the Amsterdam News [New York Amsterdam News], and the, the black newspapers.$I, for instance, when I started doing "Junkie" ['Blues for the Jungle,' Eleo Pomare], Judy Dearing said to me, "You will never be convincing because first of all, you're holding the joint improperly, no one holds a joint like that." You know, where I learned how to do "Junkie"? In back of the Apollo Theater [New York, New York]. It was a place called the Bucket of Blood [ph.] (laughter). A bar, and for several nights John Parks, a whole group of us, would do field work, until I learned from those guys who hung out in back of the Apollo, they got so they would do this to me (gesture) they would say hello. But I learned that you don't nod as if you've had many dance classes. Everything you learned about form and structure have to go out of the window because you're creating a different reality. And this thing was accurate. I can remember the premier of that, it was like all hell broke loose in the theater, (laughter) you know, it's like that (gesture). And when the dancers for the first time used the word it was like brand new, no one, no one, you know, come at you down the aisle going, "Hey, man, you, you wanna buy a joint (makes noise)?" And you realize someone is dying down there in the aisle. That's the theater I am in to. Along with the other craftsman type things that I've done. So what was interesting about that to me is, is the audience. You, you know, it's interesting to see an integrated audience look at it, and watch, it looks like mixture of people where everyone is going like (gesture). And then the middle class blacks, especially the ones out of the, not in the East, the southern middle class, "Why did you bring that dance to our theater? Why did you do this? That is only pushing us back decades. You should have, you, you know." What is pushing you back decades is your phoniness. And so it's, it is, it could have caused me great angst, great pain, you know, but you don't do something you believe and then apologize for it. So that was that.

George W. Faison

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.

Accession Number

A2007.073

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/5/2007 |and| 5/14/2007

Last Name

Faison

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

FAI02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

What Are You Doing?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/21/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer George W. Faison (1945 - ) founded the George Faison Universal Dance Experience. Faison was the choreographer of the Broadway musicals Via Galactica, Tilt and The Wiz.

Employment

Arthur Mitchell Dance Company

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

George Faison Universal Dance Experience

George Faison Firehouse Theater

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:37100,410:37860,419:56352,632:59316,775:60252,794:72186,1112:72576,1118:88042,1264:97117,1417:102896,1468:106428,1506:110400,1530:123270,1711:133760,1777:139340,1867:149870,2004:150320,2010:169928,2180:170540,2187:178856,2282:180988,2321:232550,2960$0,0:1463,35:2079,44:13616,223:25643,349:29210,403:32777,448:33299,455:34082,467:36866,523:38258,541:38867,549:39215,554:58664,757:61013,782:70980,874:82950,1146:83300,1152:83720,1159:104790,1423:105910,1444:115801,1532:124579,1666:125041,1674:128660,1722:129122,1729:129738,1740:130123,1746:159450,2064:165110,2085:165593,2093:166628,2113:167594,2127:170932,2149:183962,2267:188617,2318:199755,2437:203547,2501:204179,2511:204495,2516:204811,2521:213556,2620:214447,2632:218160,2659
DAStories

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

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$9

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 3
George W. Faison describes the perceptions of African American theater
Transcript
Let me ask you, you did very well with sights and sounds, what about smells. Were the smells of food or--?$$Oh food, yeah, food cooked, you know.$$Any other smells?$$Smells, or the perfume my mother [Agnes Crockett Faison] would wear, you know, or the clothes she would wear, you know.$$So--$$Refine, I don't know I guess that you know you don't know where, you don't know--I grew up not knowing or caring or thinking about where I belonged. I thought I belonged everywhere. So venturing out of that neighborhood would become, and you know, would give my parents, "Where are you? Boy what are you doing?" And I would, I, I can remember in high school [Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, Washington, D.C.] it's the, the early, the early '60s [1960s] when Kennedy [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] went to the Trinity Church [Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.], you know, not, know, you know and you read about these things. But, it was the '60s [1960s] and everybody was hopeful. Motown [Motown Records] was, you know, you know we all of a sudden saw Diana Ross and, and The Supremes or, no The Supremes and The Temptations and all of the people that [HistoryMaker] Berry Gordy had mentored and looking shiny and new on 'Ed Sullivan Show' ['The Ed Sullivan Show']. We had a TV, and we would gather in, in front of that. Seeing, you know seeing that, but that was later. Earlier it was, it was the Howard Theatre [Washington, D.C.] and seeing everybody, Moms Mabley, making jokes, saying how, how JFK and Jackie [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] were her grandbabies, you know, and you know saying, you know saying how they were part of her family. Or seeing Pearl Bailey or Etta Ja- or watching them turn Etta James, because she was fair-skinned and a blonde, pink and green and, and, and blue under all of these lights, the magic of the theater, Roy Hamilton. You know we, you know we all were and are still very prolific. We had a new song along with a new dance coming through our neighborhood every week. So, what was I missing? Gladys Knight was a kid, you know what I mean. [HistoryMaker] Smokey Robinson was coming through, The Platters, who was I missing? A kid, who was I missing? I knew all of the people that I knew, so we you know. Growing, just growing up and seeing the Jewel Box Revue, you know, twenty-five, twenty-four female impersonators and one woman, you know, who was the man. It was like, you know, and us, and Peg Leg Bates, a man dancing with one leg and, and all of that and you know ventriloquist with black dummies. I didn't miss anything, I mean because I saw myself. It was me. And going to the movies and seeing the movies, the movie of Oscar Micheaux who made black cowboy films, and then all of those other shorts that were made of the Apollo [Apollo Theater, New York, New York], you know. What was I mi- you know, I didn't know I was missing something.$Can we talk a little bit about the creative process, you know what happened, you know, in, in the process of building the, the play. I know that it had been, you know, a play before it was a musical right.$$Well, it was a play before the mu- well it was a musical and Judy Garland was the star.$$Right, right, right, right, right.$$And our biggest challenge was to get them to fall in love, yes with a black girl, our black Dorothy. And that was really kind of met with a lot of opposition because all, I guess all white people, you know, thought that Judy Garland and, and Dorothy of 'The Wiz' belonged to them, but we had been watching Judy Garland be Dorothy since 1939 right along with them, even if it were from the crow's nest. And we fell in love with her, with that same message and all of the other white characters that were in that. So, you know, in doing it that was our challenge, and then you know they would, you know back then that was 1975 so we weren't so urban. You know there were a few words out of that, but those were a few words out of 'Raisin' ['A Raisin in the Sun,' Lorraine Hansberry] and 'Purlie' and all of the other things that we could, could do or what was on TV in '75 [1975], whatever was on in TV in '75 [1975] which, which would probably have been 'Good Times' right.$$Right, 'Good Times' right.$$With J.J. [J.J. Evans] and all of that and Esther Rolle's family and how smart they could be or whatever blaxploitation film. But 'The Wiz' actually gave us an opportunity to, to emerge from, from that day to day life and then take on characters that we weren't allowed to take on or subjects, a script that had the coherence that we needed it to, you know, to move on, move on be- beyond slavery or civil rights, move on and be, you know, what, the promise of what being in the theater could really be. We could dance and sing, have smiles on our faces, wear colorful costumes, wear sequins and beautiful things, silks and velvets and all of those things, and then be characters that were yes not too far from us, but far enough for us to, to imagine something else. We were emerging from civil rights was like ten years old. 'Purlie' was five years prior to, to all of this. And then we were joined by 'Eubie!' and other black musicals that kind of kept Broadway alive at that point. I know they wouldn't admit it, but all they were doing was being wrapped in, in music, you know, musicals like 'Raisin' and 'Purl-,' well 'Purlie,' 'Lilies of the Field' which was that same year and 'Eubie!' and, and 'Bubbling' ['Bubbling Brown Sugar,' Loften Mitchell] and revue kinds of shows. But this was our first musical.

Carmen De Lavallade

Dance luminary Carmen De Lavallade was born on March 6, 1931, to Grace Grenot and Leo Paul De Lavallade in Los Angeles, California. There, her aunt, Adele De Lavallade, owned the Hugh Gordon Book Shop, one of the first African American history bookshops on Central Avenue. Her cousin, Janet Collins, was the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. De Lavallade discovered her talent for dance early. In 1945, she began studying ballet with Melissa Blake, and at the age of sixteen, upon graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, she was awarded a scholarship to study dance with the renowned Lester Horton.

In 1949, De Lavallade became a member of the celebrated Lester Horton Dance Theater, where from 1950 to 1954, she enjoyed the status of lead dancer. During this time, De Lavallade continued to study dance, becoming proficient in ballet and other forms of modern and ethnic dance. Lester Horton insisted that she study other art forms, including painting, acting, music, set design and costuming. De Lavallade began studying ballet privately with Italian ballerina Carmelita Maracci and later acting with Stella Adler. In 1954, De Lavallade made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers, and that same year, Alvin Ailey, the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, moved to New York City to partner with her in that production.

During that engagement in 1955, De Lavallade met and married dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder. With Holder, she completed her signature solo, Come Sunday, which he suggested choreographing to a black spiritual, sung by Odetta Gordon. In 1956, De Lavallade danced as the prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera performances of Samson and Delilah, and Aida. Also in 1956, she made her television debut in John Butler’s ballet Flight, and in 1957, she appeared in the television production of Duke Ellington's A Drum Is a Woman. In pursuit of an acting, Lena Horne introduced her to the executives at Twentieth Century Fox, and between 1952 and 1955, she appeared in several films, including Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge. In 1959, she starred in Odds Against Tomorrow with Harry Belafonte. De Lavallade also appeared in several off-Broadway productions, including Othello and Death of a Salesman.

By the early 1960s, De Lavallade was a principal guest performer with Alvin Ailey’s company and on the company's first European tour in 1962, the billing was De Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company. In 1964, she danced with Donald McKayle and in 1965 appeared in Agnes deMille’s American Ballet Theater productions of The Four Marys and The Frail Quarry. In 1970, De Lavallade joined the prestigious Yale School of Drama as a choreographer and performer-in-residence. She staged musicals, plays and operas, and later became a professor and member of the Yale Repertory Theater. Between 1990 and 1993, De Lavallade returned to the Metropolitan Opera as choreographer for Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger.

In 2004, De Lavallade received the Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rosie Award and the Bessie Award in 2006.

De Lavallade resides in New York City with her husband, Geoffrey Holder.

De Lavallade was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.162

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/12/2006

Last Name

De Lavallade

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Vernon City Elementary School

Thomas Jefferson High School

Los Angeles City College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Carmen

Birth City, State, Country

Los Angeles

HM ID

DEL05

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/6/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Berries, Fish

Short Description

Choreographer, actress, and dancer Carmen De Lavallade (1931 - ) performed in films, television and in live performances, including the operas, "Aida," and "Samson and Delilah." In 2004, De Lavallade received the Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rosie Award and the Bessie Award in 2006.

Employment

Lester Horton Dance Theater

Yale School of Drama

Favorite Color

Warm Colors

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carmen De Lavallade's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls the impact of her mother's illness

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her paternal family's move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls being raised by her father in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers St. Martha's Church in Vernon, California

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her childhood holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her cousin, ballerina Janet Collins

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls Janet Collins' early ballet career

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers Janet Collins' duet with Talley Beatty

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her cousin, Alma Collins

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls Vernon City Elementary School in Vernon, California

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her activities at Vernon City Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade describes the demographics of Vernon City Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her early interest in dancing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her dance training with Melissa Blake

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her time at Los Angeles' Thomas Jefferson High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her high school classmate, O.C. Smith

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing 'Scheherazade' at Thomas Jefferson High School

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her dance training with Lester Horton

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls when Bella Lewitsky left the Lester Horton Dance Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade describes Rudy Gernreich's choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about the Lester Horton Technique

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing in Lester Horton's 'Salome'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her ballet training with Carmelita Maracci

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon the business side of dance

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers Lester Horton's death

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls moving from Los Angeles to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls being hired as a dancer in 'Carmen Jones'

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade describes the cast and crew of 'Carmen Jones'

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls joining the dance company of 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing in 'Yerma'

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her career path after Lester Horton's death

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls the makeup for Jack Cole's choreography in 'Lydia Bailey'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers working with choreographer Jack Cole

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade describes Geoffrey Holder's generosity as a husband

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing 'A Drum Is a Woman' on live television

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls touring with Alvin Ailey's company in Southeast Asia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her role in 'Odds Against Tomorrow'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her experiences on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls memorable performers from the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers learning pointe from Carmelita Maracci

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her transition to acting

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls teaching at New Haven's Yale School of Drama

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about Ballet Tap USA

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers 'The Four Marys'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls teaching at New Haven's Yale School of Drama

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade describes differences between dancing and acting

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her teaching style

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls understudying as Googie Gomez in 'The Ritz'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls acting with Christopher Lloyd in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about playwright Adrienne Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her idea for a play

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her portrayal of Emilia in 'Othello'

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls appearing on 'The Cosby Show'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon aging as a performer

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls choreographing 'Lucia di Lammermoor'

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Carmen De Levallade recalls performing with Benny Goodman and Bill Evans

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon teaching at the Yale School of Drama

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her work with Gus Solomons jr

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her monologue, 'Willie's Lady Sings the Blues'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her dramatic monologues

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about learning from one's past

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon the world of dance

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about the importance of originality

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Carmen De Lavallade describes her cousin, ballerina Janet Collins
Carmen De Lavallade remembers working with choreographer Jack Cole
Transcript
Well at that time what did you want to become? What did you think, you and your sisters [Yvonne De Lavallade Davis and Elaine De Lavallade Johnson], what did you talk about becoming? Teachers, nurses?$$Yeah, the usual. But I think I--at an early age I was always dancing around the, I don't know at school--my cousin, Janet Collins, now this is my cousin, who became one of the--it's too bad Janet died about a couple years ago, and she was one of the great dancers, you know, of color and she was the first, well of color, ballerinas--or, prima ballerinas at the Met Opera [Metropolitan Opera] and Janet was at that time was dancing with Talley Beatty and [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham and all that so you know, I mean gee, Janet would blow into town like (unclear), gee whiz, what do you want better than that. She was vivacious and lovely, and I want to be like Janet, I want to be like Janet. So that was my, she was my light. So I (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Your beacon. She was, yeah--$$Yes absolutely. She was just remarkable.$$What other stories can you tell me? When did she come to town?$$Once a year or something like that, you know, and with her giggly self. I remember when she came to town, I think it was her last concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre [Los Angeles, California]. I remember her being very tired and sitting in a chair and I remember rubbing her feet for her. I mean, she was just one of those mythical people to me, you know. And when I went to New York [New York] she was partially responsible for my going because I know--oh, it's such a complicated story because I think in my travels I went there with the, with the Lester Horton company [Lester Horton Dancers] and I auditioned for 'House of Flowers' and went back to New York--to, to L.A. [Los Angeles, California], and my mentor [Lester Horton] died. And Janet was the one who got my job for me (laughter)--or who negotiated for me for 'House of Flowers' because she knew Saint Subber, the producer.$$Had you seen her perform?$$Oh yes. There was nothing like Janet in the world. She was like, she was this creature, that was so fast and so light on her feet that, you know, you'd look at this side of the stage and she's there and then she's no longer there she's over there and you don't know how she got there. She was like a will of the wisp, she was beautiful.$It was a wonderful piece, it was very good, and he was, to work with him, duet, oh my goodness, I would talk to Gwen Verdon because she danced with him a lot and it was a terror to work with him, but he was, he was very nice to me.$$Why was it a terror to work with him?$$Because he was like working with a tornado. He's was--he's intense and he means business, and I learned those steps so fast he said next to Gwen Verdon I was the quickest, I was scared to death of the man. Not only that, he had one eye that kind of was out of focus, and he would look at you and with his hawk nose--. He was magnificent, I mean a body like a cat and he developed his technique, the Jack Cole technique, was the most difficult technique I've ever danced, it's all in plie, it was all kind of--. I don't know it was a special kind of way of moving that's extremely difficult, and he didn't let you get away with anything, it was very precise. And I got through the day with Jack Cole and the machetes and the chicken blood--it was tomato juice--and we were laughing all the time on the set [of 'Lydia Bailey'] and Mr. Curtiz [sic. Jean Negulesco] asked, when we looked at ourselves, we thought we looked funny, and Mr. Curtiz asked Mr. Cole, "Will you tell your people to be quiet, please," (laughter), you know. But I loved Jack, I think he was, I learned a lot from him, discipline, discipline, discipline. And every once in a while you need that you know; you get complacent, the body gets complacent, so he scared me enough that I really learned very quickly. We had a drummer named Emanuel Vanderhans, better known as Gaucho. He was my cousin Janet Collins' drummer when she would do certain concerts. And Gaucho, Jack told me that Gaucho told him, he said, "Don't you yell at her; you just tell her what to do and she'll do it. If you don't, I'm going to dress your head up with my drum," (laughter). And he told me that. Gaucho was my guardian.$$Was Gaucho black?$$He was from Dutch Guiana. Very brown but he was from the Guianas. I loved him, but he was like my uncle, he was like my Uncle Gaucho, he would watch out, nobody's going to get near me and if anybody gives me the eye he's going to (gesture), you know. Which was really great, I could relax.

Maurice Hines, Jr.

Choreographer, dancer, actor and director Maurice Robert Hines, Jr. was born on December 13, 1943 in New York City. His parents were Alma Hines and Maurice Hines, Sr. He is the brother of the late jazz tap dancer and actor, Gregory Hines. A graduate of Jose Quintanos School for Young Professionals, Hines began studying tap dancing in New York City at age five at the Henry LeTang Dance Studio in 1948. LeTang realized his pupil’s gift for dance and began choreographing numbers tailored for Hines and his younger brother Gregory.

In 1954, when Hines was 10 years old, he and Gregory appeared in the Broadway musical comedy The Girl in Pink Tights. Following in the footsteps of the famed Nicholas brothers, they soon began appearing on stage throughout the country. They toured as the opening act for such headliners as Lionel Hampton and Gypsy Rose Lee. Their father joined the act as a drummer, and the threesome became known as Hines, Hines & Dad, performing to rave reviews in New York, Las Vegas and Europe. They made television appearances on The Pearl Bailey Show, Hollywood Palace and appeared 35 times on The Tonight Show.

In 1973, Hines began his solo career singing and dancing as Nathan Detroit in the hit musical National Touring Company of Guys and Dolls with Debbie Allen and Richard Roundtree. After his performance, Hines created a sensation in the hit Broadway musical Eubie, which opened at the Ambassador Theatre in New York on September 20, 1978 and closed October 7, 1979. The show also starred his brother Gregory and was choreographed by Henry LeTang. In 1981, Hines returned to Broadway with his performance in Bring Back Birdie with Chita Rivera. That same year, he also appeared in Sophisticated Ladies.

Turning his talents to the big screen, Hines made his film debut in 1984, in Francis Ford Coppola’s Cotton Club and during that same time with Mercedes Ellington formed Ballet Tap USA, a dance company. In 1986, he conceived, directed, choreographed, and starred in the musical Uptown…It’s Hot!. The show played for seventeen sold-out weeks in Atlantic City before moving to Broadway where Hines received a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Musical. He went on to direct several theater productions including the National Tour of the musical Harlem Suite with leading ladies Jennifer Holiday, Stephanie Mills and Melba Moore and internationally the musical Havana Night in Cuba.

In 2006, Hines collaborated on a new Broadway dance musical, Hot Feet, with Maurice White, the creator of the renown R&B group Earth, Wind and Fire and also released a jazz album, To Nat King Cole with Love.

Hines resides in New York City.

Hines was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 9, 2007.

Accession Number

A2006.154

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/8/2006 |and| 1/9/2007

Last Name

Hines

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Maurice

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

HIN02

Favorite Season

Christmas

Sponsor

Carol H. Williams Advertising

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Gotcha!

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/13/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Fish

Short Description

Choreographer, entertainer, and stage director Maurice Hines, Jr. (1943 - ) received a Tony Award for his performance in 'Uptown...It's Hot!'

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:2805,65:16505,257:23728,397:27904,824:29488,1013:29992,1021:33500,1323:57244,1519:76482,1777:80900,1797:82928,1894:118746,2281:119116,2287:123334,2393:127848,2479:131252,2542:134890,2547$0,0:2475,54:9450,220:24266,487:24646,493:41780,744:45224,832:46148,845:46736,853:50684,1032:51272,1041:51692,1048:61024,1257:62520,1302:64968,1349:70000,1460:76662,1717:85714,1982:91840,2051
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maurice Hines, Jr. interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls walking with his brother on Harlem's Lenox Avenue

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his and his brother's first dance lessons

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the start of his father's drumming career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his early performances at New York City's Apollo Theater

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the role of religion in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his family

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his maternal uncle paying for his dance lessons

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls seeing the Nicholas brothers for the first time

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's performances with Shirley Temple

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers African American tap dancers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers Harlem's dance culture in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers his early dance training

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his first Broadway role

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his mother acting as his business manager

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his experiences of discrimination in Miami, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. how African American artists were received in Europe

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the formation of Hines, Hines and Dad

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers Johnny Carson's support

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the changes in the entertainment industry

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers working with Ella Fitzgerald

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls opening for Ella Fitzgerald in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers meeting Tallulah Bankhead in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls portraying Nathan Detroit in 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his and his brother's career changes

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the end of his act with his brother, Gregory Hines

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers performing in 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the importance of respect

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his early choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls performing with his brother in 'Eubie!'

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers acting with his brother in 'The Cotton Club'

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers collaborating with Maurice White on 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the reviews of his musical, 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. shares his perspective on Broadway critics

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the challenges of choreography

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the success of 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his and his brother's styles of tap dance

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls choreographing the music video for Quincy Jones' 'I'll Be Good to You'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating Maurice Hines, Jr.'s interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about choreographer Michael Peters

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls working with his brother on 'The Cotton Club'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his nightclub circuit in the Catskill Mountains

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his return to the entertainment business

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers New York City's cabaret nightclubs

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls replacing his brother in 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his style of tap choreography

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his show, 'Uptown... It's Hot'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about racial discrimination on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers marketing his musical, 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the impact of his Tony Award nomination

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about African American performers in Broadway shows

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers working with the stars of 'Dreamgirls'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his choreographic work in Cuba and the Dominican Republic

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers choreographing for the Rockettes

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls musicals featuring Savion Glover and Gregory Hines

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon the changes in dance training

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon his experiences as an actor

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers his transition to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about African American dance company directors

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his project, 'Yo Alice'

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his style of choreography

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers 'Jelly's Last Jam' and 'Pippin'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his mentor, Joe Layton, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his mentor, Joe Layton, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the history of African American dancers

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his collaboration with Maurice White

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remember his brother, Gregory Hines' death

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon the changes in show business

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his daughter

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the development of his spirituality

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon his career

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his early challenges as an entertainer

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon his mother's support for his career

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his recent projects

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the importance of stage presence

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his early performances at New York City's Apollo Theater
Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the success of 'Hot Feet'
Transcript
How old were you when you--?$$When we started traveling? Oh, we were eight and ten when all of a sudden we hit it big. Because we got with this great teacher, Henry LeTang. And Henry took us to see--I'll tell you the punch line of the story--to see this lady at the Apollo Theater [New York, New York] because he wanted us to get on the 'Amateur Night' ['Amateur Night at the Apollo']. So, we went to--upstairs, and she looked at us and she said, "Yeah, they're cute. So--but don't put them on the show, because they're cute, they'll win because they're cute." And she didn't know we really could dance. And Henry said, "Okay, do whatever you want." And I asked her, I said, "Well, what do you do?" And she said, "Well, I'm a comedian on the regular show." So, she said, "Well you go out and see the regular show" because the 'Amateur Night' was after the regular show, in between the two shows in the evening. So, we go out there and we sit in the front. She, obviously she was the, she was the star because they made seats for us. And at the end of the show when the star comes out, it was Dinah Washington. And I--she came on singing 'Blue Gardenia.' And I said, "Oh," and I remember saying--because she said she was a comedian. And of course, the place went crazy, it was Dinah Washington singing. So, then she said--we went on the show, and she stood in the wings. She said, "Henry LeTang, they really can dance." She said, "They should have been on." He said, "Well, I didn't want to tell you that, because you just thought they were cute." So, we were doing flips and dips, like the Nicholas brothers [HistoryMaker Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas]. She said, "Okay, I'll tell you what. Put 'em on next week with Ruth," meaning Ruth Brown. So, that was 1955. And that was the first time we ever worked the Apollo Theater, and we worked it fifteen times. They would have us every other week. And, and we worked, oh, we worked with (unclear)--the Spaniels, (unclear) there was Lar- Larry Williams, 'Bony Maronie.' We worked it with everybody. And we did one great show. It was a wonderful show with the Four Aces, Gregory [Gregory Hines] and I, The Hines Kids, [HistoryMaker] Diahann Carroll, and Nipsey Russell. It was a great show, it was a great show. And I'm still friends with Diahann to this day.$$Are any of those shows on tape?$$No, they did not tape them. The only thing are pictures--that great photographer, he did this kind of picture with pictures around it, with one in a circle, which I have.$So, they forced me. And when I was looking--and, oh, this wonderful story. When I was doing the end, the end of the ballet "Faces"--it's called "Faces" when all the dancers dance. I look over, and I see Maurice White like wiping his face. I thought, you know, he'd been there all day and he was tired. I thought he was just wiping his eyes. And he was crying. I asked his manager, I said, "Herb [Herb Powell], what's--is Maurice okay?" He said, "Yeah. He never thought that his music would inspire dancing like this." See, that's the humbleness of the man. And I, I got choked up, I did. Because I wanted him to be happy. He was, he was the one I really wanted to please. I mean, I want Maurice White to say, "It's okay." But he said more than that. He can't wait to do it again, he can't wait, you know.$$Well, you exceeded the Joffrey Ballet. Remember when they did their little Prince thing ['Billboards'], and they did all that stuff to Prince music (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yes, yes.$$And I thought that was great, until I saw 'Hot Feet' [Heru Ptah]. And I'm like, this is how it should be done.$$Well, that's an honor, that's an honor.$$This is how it should be done.$$Because I adore Joffrey Ballet. So, that's an honor that you said that, and I'm very pleased you said it. Because I di- thought that they--but this is--that's me up there. Everyone that saw it--all the dancers, all the dancers that came--all my buddies that know me from 'Jelly's Last Jam' [George C. Wolfe], and 'Guys and Dolls,' Debbie Allen said, "Maurice [HistoryMaker Maurice Hines, Jr.], that's you up there. That's how you dance, you know." That's it. So, now, with me getting in it, now there'll be some tap in it. Because [HistoryMaker] Louis Johnson said, "You cannot get in this show and not tap. Now, they're going to want you to tap. You can do all that other jazz stuff. But you--." I'll be part of the ballet. I'm going to do, I'm going to change the ballet, and I'm going to dance more in it with Vivian [Vivian Nixon].

Randy Duncan

Renowned choreographer and dancer Randy Louis Duncan was born on December 14, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up and attending public schools on Chicago’s west side, Duncan’s career began at age fifteen with the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre. Duncan later began formal dance studies with Geraldine Johnson, followed by classes at the Sammy Dyer School of Theater, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Illinois State University. Duncan credits Harriet Ross and Joseph Holmes with much of his inspiration.

Drawing upon ballet, jazz dance, and modern dance for his choreography, Duncan created works that have been performed by numerous dance companies including the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, River North Dance Company and Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago as well as companies in Seattle and Tel Aviv. In 1987, Duncan choreographed for the first all-African American cast of A Chorus Line. Duncan’s musical theater credits include Guys and Girls, Street Dreams, West Side Story, Carousel, Hello Dolly, and Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope. He has taught and judged dance competitions throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. Duncan’s classes in jazz dance have taken him to Mexico, England, France, Amsterdam, and Israel.

Duncan has been a three-time recipient of Chicago’s prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the Year (1988, 1990, and 1992). In 1994, Duncan won the Jazz Dance World Congress Award. He regularly serves on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, Arts Midwest and the Illinois Arts Alliance. Other awards include the 1999 Artistic Achievement Award from the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, and the 2000 Black Theater Alliance Award for Best Choreography.

An avid supporter of HIV/AIDS causes, Duncan has donated his time and choreography to Dance for Life, creating world premieres for Chicago’s largest dance benefit for HIV/AIDS. His television ballet, Urban Transfer, was produced and distributed nationwide by PBS-TV’s WTTW. Duncan’s first major motion picture by Paramount Pictures, Save the Last Dance, earned him a nomination for the American Choreography Award for dance on film.

Duncan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 15, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.142

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/15/2006

Last Name

Duncan

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Illinois State University

Joseph Medill Elementary School

Austin Polytechnical Academy Hs

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Randy

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

DUN03

Favorite Season

December

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Acapulco, Mexico

Favorite Quote

Just Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/14/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lasagna

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Randy Duncan (1958 - ) was a three-time recipient of Chicago's prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the Year (1988, 1990, and 1992), among numerous other awards and his works were performed internationally.

Employment

'Save The Last Dance'

Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Joffrey Ballet

Chicago Academy for the Arts

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:840,39:1190,45:3080,72:3500,84:3850,90:4900,105:5180,110:5810,128:7350,148:7630,153:9730,235:16520,372:19180,412:19670,423:19950,428:26244,467:29537,519:29982,525:31139,543:33542,574:33898,579:37450,624:50190,865:50540,871:51100,882:52990,936:57766,963:58118,968:59790,1002:60142,1007:61286,1025:63486,1065:64014,1093:66390,1131:66742,1136:79440,1330:79744,1335:85672,1444:86964,1469:87344,1475:87648,1480:89320,1516:89928,1525:90916,1541:96874,1584:97576,1595:98902,1611:101320,1651:101866,1660:102178,1665:102958,1678:103738,1690:109940,1723:110244,1728:111004,1742:115564,1837:115944,1843:116400,1860:117996,1884:118300,1889:118756,1896:120200,1937:122708,1987:123012,1992:123620,2001:128777,2017:129934,2031:138656,2197:141593,2258:145453,2285:147112,2331:150746,2382:157748,2459:158632,2476:159516,2495:160604,2518:163664,2592:169427,2670:171047,2701:171533,2708:172262,2722:173153,2743:173558,2749:187220,2953:187620,2959:191140,3029:192020,3042:194420,3089:195300,3108:196900,3139:201738,3160:203132,3221:204198,3252:204936,3265:205264,3270:206494,3343:211168,3432:212398,3461:221565,3612:223775,3666:226280,3685$228,0:988,13:1368,23:1672,28:2204,37:5624,88:6232,97:16268,221:17678,240:18806,257:20968,293:22190,307:26232,358:27548,369:28018,375:34755,403:35308,411:37520,440:37836,445:39100,479:40285,499:42418,535:42734,540:47884,568:52034,598:52398,603:54127,635:54764,644:55128,649:56038,663:56493,669:58040,697:59223,711:60679,728:61316,737:62226,749:62863,758:70550,836:71252,848:72500,868:72968,879:73358,890:75152,939:75776,950:76088,955:76478,961:78896,999:80300,1024:82328,1062:95140,1214:95940,1228:105401,1314:105870,1322:110570,1405:110854,1413:112132,1432:112416,1437:112700,1442:113694,1478:114546,1494:115043,1503:115327,1508:115895,1519:118309,1568:118948,1580:119303,1586:119587,1591:120936,1619:121788,1633:122853,1653:123208,1659:123705,1667:126332,1735:126758,1742:127184,1754:127681,1762:128817,1784:130734,1834:138380,1863:140250,1905:141130,1915:144981,1960:145791,1982:147249,2020:152838,2119:159826,2161:161884,2193:162276,2204:164922,2245:165314,2250:166196,2263:167078,2275:168058,2295:178008,2396:180896,2459:182568,2496:184088,2520:184544,2527:185456,2547:187128,2576:188420,2594:193080,2609
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Randy Duncan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan talks about reuniting with his paternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Randy Duncan recalls Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s visits to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Randy Duncan describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Randy Duncan describes his father's ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan talks about his maternal great-grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan describes his neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes his parents and how he takes after his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan describes his early interest in gymnastics and dance

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan remembers his audition for a production of 'West Side Story'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Randy Duncan describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Randy Duncan describes his education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Randy Duncan describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Randy Duncan remembers Joseph Medill Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan remembers Austin High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan describes the All-City High School Theatrical Troupe, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes the All-City High School Theatrical Troupe, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan remembers Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes the history of the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan talks about the influence of dance teacher Harriet Ross

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan remembers dancing for the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan recalls becoming the artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan recalls becoming the artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes his and Joseph Holmes' dance styles

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes Harriet Ross' role at the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes his career after leaving the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan describes his ballet, 'A Tri-Fling'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan recalls the Joffrey Ballet's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his choreography for the Joffrey Ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan lists the dance companies with whom he worked

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan describes his influences as a choreographer

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan recalls the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre's tour in Israel

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes his international dance tours

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan remembers his work on the film 'Save the Last Dance,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan remembers his work on the film 'Save the Last Dance,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan talks about dance instruction and choreography

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his ballet, 'Ida/A Day in the Life of Ida B. Wells'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Randy Duncan describes the ballets created for dance companies in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Randy Duncan reflects upon his life, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan describes his choreographic process

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan reflects upon his life, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan reflects upon the changes in professional dance

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Randy Duncan remembers his audition for a production of 'West Side Story'
Randy Duncan recalls becoming the artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, pt. 2
Transcript
(Simultaneous) Well, 'West Side Story' truly inspired me. But the early movies, the early musical movies that would, that would come on, those were also very inspiring. And I'd, I'd watch them all the time, from Elvis Presley, all the time, watch Elvis Presley movies, so, you know.$$The dances.$$(Singing) "You know that can't be true," you know. And I, you know, all of that stuff, I just loved it, 'Jailhouse Rock,' all that stuff. But anything that would come on that had music to it, any movie musical, I would, I would watch, but it was particularly 'West Side Story' that said, "Boom, I want to do that; I want to do that." Yeah, because they were flipping; they were singing; they were dancing. And you know, they had regular clothes on, and it wasn't like they were in tights and leotards. It was, it was really fascinating to, to watch. And so, two years later when I was twelve, there was actually an audition for 'West Side Story' [Arthur Laurents] a high school audition. I wasn't even in high school yet, but I called in and asked if I could audition anyway, and they said sure. This was the first time they're gonna have this all-city production, you know, of (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And what year was that?$$That was in '72 [1972] I believe, yeah. And I, I, I, I, I had called and said, "Well, I'm not in high school, but can I come and audition anyway. I'm in eighth grade." And they said, "Well, sure," and so I came down. And there were all these high school students, I mean like over a thousand kids waiting to audition for this, which was gonna be a, a premier of this, or maiden venture, for 'West Side Story' that was going to take place at the Civic Opera House [Chicago, Illinois]. So, I went down, and I'd never, remember, I've never had any training before; it was all self-taught. So there were all these people that were there. And some of them were really good, and some of them really weren't so good. But there were a lot of folks there who had some training before. And the choreographer said, you know, she called a number of us up to come and do what she did, just kind of replicate what she did, and I said okay. I didn't know what an audition was at first, but I found out real fast. So I went up there and did that and came and sat back down. I said, "Hm, I don't think I did really well." But on the sheet for the audition, the, the publicity sheet, it said they were looking for acrobats. And so, I raised my hand amongst all these thousands of folks, and I raised my hand. I said, "I thought you were looking for some, some acrobats for the show." And she said, "Well, can you do any?" You know, now there's a panel of judges up there as well. And I looked around, and I said, with my little young self, I said, "Well, yeah." They said, "Well, come on up, and let's see (laughter)," and so I, I came up on stage and did all my little 'Bozo's Circus' ['The Bozo Show'] tricks (laughter), and I got this great applause, and next thing you know I was a Shark.$$Amazing.$$Yeah, and that started everything off. And she asked me if I wanted a scholarship at the school where she was teaching, which was Sammy Dyer School of Theatre [Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre] here in Chicago [Illinois]. And I said sure. I went back home and you know, parents [Betty Mason Boglin (ph.) and Ernest Duncan], everybody was so, so happy that I went off and did, and this was all on my own. Nobody's pushing me to do anything. I just went out there and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Curiosity--$$--and did it, yeah.$$--and talent.$$Yeah, and I think that's when they found out this boy's got something. Yeah, so, that's how it all started off though.$This was at, also at a time when the company was getting ready to take off in its first European tour, and I needed to get a, a program together for that. So actually, it wasn't the first European tour with the, the, the first tour we took that was kind of outside, you know, across the water somewhere was Hawaii (laughter). So the company actually went to Hawaii for three weeks and, and performed at various universities and auditoriums that they did, that they had there. So that was one of the first things that, that we did, and came back, did a full concert of which Oprah Winfrey, when she came here for ABC [sic.] (laughter), when she came here for 'The Today Show' ['Today'], one of the opportunities that she thought would be good was to host the Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre [Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre] in a, in an event for a fundraiser. So, she hosted the event. And this was prior to Joseph's [Joseph Holmes] death first. And then after that, she did another event for us in which I was the artistic director. And this is when we had our performance at the Auditorium Theatre [Chicago, Illinois]. And she was just so impressed, yes, really, really impressed with the company. So, there is, there is that connection as well. And before you know it, the critics started coming out to see the company when I was there, 'cause everybody wanted to know, "Okay, now that Joseph is gone, what is this company gonna look like under [HistoryMaker] Randy Duncan's direction?" Now they had seen some of my choreography, some of my own choreography on the company, in which they really enjoyed. And then so everybody was coming out for this first concert after Joseph's death at the Auditorium Theatre. There were concerts before that and in between that time. And on the night of Joseph's death, actually, we had a, a, a performance in a really big, College of DuPage [Glen Ellyn, Illinois], which was just tremendously sad. Nobody knew but me at that time. I wouldn't tell the dancers until the end of the performance. But I had to keep it to myself 'cause I didn't want anybody, you know, falling out on stage (laughter) at all. But, but anyway, everything just started rolling from that, that day forward, and we started getting more funding. The critics had come out to see the performances and thought, "Wow, this guy has got something here." And I got some really, really good press, very, very good reviews, glowing reviews as a matter of fact. And folks said, "I want to buy into his dream." And so that's really what started happening. So we started our European tour. We went to France.

Charles Randolph-Wright

Charles Randolph-Wright was born an only child in York, South Carolina, on August 26, 1956, to Ruth and Charles Randolph-Wright, Sr. He attended Jefferson elementary and junior high schools. Randolph-Wright graduated with honors from York High School in 1974, where he was the first African American A.B. Duke Scholarship recipient.

Randolph-Wright entered Duke University as a pre-med major. During his junior year at Duke University, Randolph-Wright decided to change his major to religion and theater. In 1976, he was afforded the opportunity to go to London. Subsequently, he studied acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and danced with Alvin Ailey in New York. Randolph-Wright graduated with honors from Duke University in 1978 with his B.A. degree in theater and religion.

In 1979, Randolph-Wright relocated to New York City where he was cast in Pippin and in the original cast of Dreamgirls. Randolph-Wright has built a dynamic and diversified career in performing, producing, directing and writing for theater, television, and film. He was the producer and writer for the Showtime cable television series Linc’s. Randolph-Wright’s musical staging has been seen on a variety of programs, including The Golden Girls. Randolph-Wright’s direction of Senor Discretion Himself won the Helen Hayes Award for the Best Musical. He made his film directorial debut in 2006 with Preaching to the Choir, which won feature prizes at the ninth annual American Black Film Festival.

Randolph-Wright serves on the board of directors of the Roundabout Theater and the artistic board at Duke University. He is also a founding member of the Wright Family Foundation of South Carolina. After learning that an ancestor was a free man during slavery, this foundation converted the family’s former funeral home into a family history museum.

Accession Number

A2006.129

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/5/2006

Last Name

Randolph-Wright

Organizations
Schools

York High School

Jefferson Elementary School

Duke University

York Junior High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

York

HM ID

RAN05

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Amy Tate Billingsley

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/26/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Choreographer and film director Charles Randolph-Wright (1956 - ) was cast in the original theatrical production of 'Dreamgirls,' and produced and wrote for the Showtime cable television series, 'Linc's.' He was also the award-winning director of the musical, 'Senor Discretion Himself,' and the film, 'Preaching to the Choir.'

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Randolph-Wright's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Slating of Charles Randolph-Wright's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his mother's move to York, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his Native American ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's high standards

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the Wright Funeral Home in York, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his paternal grandfather, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his family's values

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his paternal grandfather, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about how his parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his childhood holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes York, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about Hylan Lewis' study, 'Blackways of Kent'

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls Jefferson Elementary School in York, South Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls Jefferson Elementary School in York, South Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls attending Jefferson Junior High School in York, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the desegregation of York High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the desegregation of York High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his experiences at the integrated York High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his family's civil rights involvement, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his family's civil rights involvement, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's teaching style

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his teachers at York High School in York, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his election as vice president of the state student government

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls winning the Sons of the American Revolution award

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers his aspirations in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers retaking the SAT examination

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his decision to attend Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his experiences at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls befriending Duke University's campus staff

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the support of his literature professor

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his foray into the arts at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his first experience in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the impact of his time in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his experiences at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls being cast in his first professional role in 'Pippin'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's support for his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls working with disco singer Anita Ward

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers choreographing disco acts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his transition from acting to directing

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about stereotypes of African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about the importance of storytelling

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers directing 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes Frank Loesser's musical 'Senor Discretion Himself'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his collaborations with Budd Schulberg

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his play, 'Cuttin' Up'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes how his family inspired his play, 'Blue'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about Phylicia Rashad's performance in 'Blue'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about working with Nona Hendryx

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon the impact of the Harlem Renaissance

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls directing a production of 'Hair'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright shares a message for African American youth

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls celebrating New Year's Eve in Brazil

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about giving back to his community

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
Charles Randolph-Wright describes the Wright Funeral Home in York, South Carolina
Charles Randolph-Wright recalls being cast in his first professional role in 'Pippin'
Transcript
Okay, so we were talking about your [paternal] ancestors and the Wright family.$$Right.$$And--$$It was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Isaac [Isaac Wright] and Harriet [Harriet Wright (ph.)], I wanna--$$Isaac and Harriet, yes, and I mean, you hear about these things growing u-, you hear about your relatives growing up but you really (laughter) pay no attention to it, and it was astonishing. You know, fifty years later to--for all of us to be stand--these cousins to stand around down in the woods and look at this, this tombstone of, of our ancestors. These extraordinary people who had businesses, who had their own--you know, they had they had their own companies I mean they were very enterprising in the Carolinas, you know, hundred years ago. My--Fannie Wright [Fannie Wylie Wright], who was I'm trying to think of all the connections now, but so the, the family funeral home [Wright Funeral Home, York, South Carolina] was started with Fannie and her husband, Isaac [Isaac "Bub" Wright]. And Isaac died of influenza at the turn of the century she had twelve children. They had twelve children, and she ended up running a funeral home, two farms and raising twelve children by herself, and this was early 1900s. And so our funeral home is about to turn, you know, a hundred. And so it's--then it went to Fannie--there was Fannie. Then it went to Isaac [Isaac N. Wright, Sr.] then it went to now my cousin Isaac [Isaac N. Wright, Jr.], you know. So everyone--we laughed everyone in my family is called Isaac, Paul, Charles or Robert, you know. And you go back if you look at the records Isaac, Paul, Charles, Robert, it's just aren't there any other names in our family? And what's interesting too is to see the--I went back to the records in York County [South Carolina] where we're from and on the roles, you know, they had the slave roles. And you saw the slave markings and all the names, Isaac, Paul, Charles, Robert, et cetera, but they were Withers-, they were Witherspoons because they were listed as Witherspoon. And right after emancipation, you see these names same names, but they're Wrights. And, and I, I saw that on, on paper and I just remember standing there to--and I just started weeping. You know, just that I could almost touch them--that I could--I was so proud of what they had done that they said, no, we're taking a stand even with our name. You know, our name is important that's what we're doing. So I spent, you know, these, these generations that, that had this, this business this family business 'cause if you have a family funeral business. Obviously, you're--it's so different from--I always tell people it's very different from 'Six Feet Under,' the television show that everyone watch. I say that's the black family that has the funeral home is the elite family, they're the upper-class family. The, the woman in that family is the arbiter of style a lot of times. It's this--it's that, that thing of, you know, these kids go to go to great schools, and they get to have this in life allegedly. You know, but it's, it's an energy that you never ever see. You don't see that kind of history you don't see that. So when I wrote 'Blue' [Charles Randolph-Wright] which is about a funeral home family. It was intentionally showing this elite family, which, you know, critics had trouble with because they said that, you know, family like this doesn't exist. You know, people like that don't exist.$So I went to New York [New York], and I said okay, I p- (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Wait, you went to New York after graduation?$$So after graduation, so I came back to Duke [Duke University, Durham, North Carolina], we had started these things I did everything imaginable in theater (laughter). You know, finished up my credits and as I said pre-med was the major, so I had all my courses physics both organic chemistry--all the things I needed to be a pre-med major. And again I went through the exact same thing I went through in high school [York High School, York, South Carolina] because here I was, from Duke, black kid from the South. And I was a religion and theater major who was pre-med applying to med schools, and they went crazy because they thought, oh he'll be humane. You know, what a great doctor this will be this whole thing so again my friends were killing themselves trying to get schools to see them. And I was getting, you know, offer after offer to come to this school to come to that school and I couldn't decide what to do. You know, I went to I, you know, I visited I went to Harvard [Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts] thinking do I go do this what do I do? And I got back to New York and the same day I got my--I had auditioned for the show 'Pippin' and got in it. And it was my first professional role and which was a tour which was outside the city. And I thought okay that's my sign. And I'm going to do this until--'cause I can always go back to school but I can't, you know, I'm twenty, I'm twenty-one I can't always have this career. I'm not going to be this young, I can't do this. So I ended up, you know, going after this performing career and started it and got my first job and it was, you know, and I've worked ever since.$$Okay. (Laughter) So you graduated from (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So there, I'm done (laughter).$$No (laughter) you graduated from Duke in '78 [1978]?$$Seventy-eight [1978]--$$Okay.$$--but I actually left Duke--I finished--I through all my credits together and I finished in December 1977, but I was class of '78 [1978]. So, that's when I went to New York in January to start auditioning and to see if someone says I can do it. If I get a job or even close to a job, then I'll do this. If not, I was gonna go to med school or grad school or something else in the fall 'cause I had done my med boards. I had done, you know, the--I had done all my boards just in case and, and had these offers. So I was trying to decide do I go to school or do I go after this career. And then when I got, you know, this first job I went, that's it.