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Carolyn Adams

Dancer Carolyn Adams was born on August 16, 1943 in New York City to writer and composer Olive Arnold Adams and newspaper editor Julius J. Adams. She attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and studied dance at the Martha Graham School in New York City. Adams received her B.A. degree in 1965 from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where she spent her junior year studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Later, she earn her M.S.W. degree from Fordham University in 2006.

In 1965, Adams joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company becoming the company’s first African American dancer. During her seventeen year career with the company, Adams starred in several major productions including Orbs in 1966, Big Bertha in 1971; Aureole and Esplanade in 1975; and Le Sacre du Printemps in 1980. In 1973, Adams co-founded the Harlem Dance Studio and Foundation with her parents and sister, Julie Adams Strandberg, who was also a professional dancer. The studio and foundation held dance classes, produced holiday musicals and organized community events to expose the area’s underprivileged children to the arts. Adams and her family also founded the Central Harlem Brownstone Preservation Committee. She left the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1982, and became a professor of modern dance at The Juilliard School in New York City in the following year. In 1989, Adams became the founding artistic director for the School of Dance at the New York State Summer School of the Arts. From 1991 to 1993, she served as the dance director at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts. In 1993, Adams and her sister founded the American Dance Legacy Initiative at Brown University, which featured a series of instructional videos from well-known choreographers known as the Repertory Etude Collection. Adams went on to become a professor of modern dance at The Ailey School in New York City.

In 2005, Adams curated an exhibition on the New Dance Group for the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York. She served as co-chair of the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts for the New York State Education Department and chaired the Dance/USA’s national task force on dance education. Adams also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and for the New York State Council on the Arts. In honor of her work and dedication to dance, Adams received many awards and honors including the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching in 2009 and the 2016 Dance Magazine Award for which her former student, dancer Robert Battle, choreographed the piece, For Carolyn, in her honor.

Adams and her husband, former Paul Taylor dancer Robert Kahn, have two children, Sandra and Vitali.

Carolyn Adams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 26, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.107

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/26/2018 |and| 6/28/2018

Last Name

Adams

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Carolyn

HM ID

ADA15

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Other People Were Not Put On This Earth To Ruin Your Life. They're Dealing With Their Own Stuff.$

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/16/1943

Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Fish and Chicken

Short Description

Dancer Carolyn Adams (1943- ) toured with the Paul Taylor Dance Company from 1965 to 1982 as its first African American dancer. She also founded several organizations including the American Dance Legacy Initiative and the Harlem Dance Studio and Foundation.

Favorite Color

Blue

Garth Fagan

Choreographer Garth Fagan was born on May 3, 1940 in Kingston, Jamaica to Louise Walker and S.W. Fagan, a chief education officer of Jamaica. As a teenager, Fagan studied dance with Ivy Baxter and the Jamaica National Dance Company. He attended Excelsior High School in St. Andrews, Jamaica, and performed at the inauguration ceremony for Cuban President Fidel Castro in 1959. After moving to Detroit, Michigan in 1960, Fagan danced with the Detroit Contemporary Dance Company and the Dance Theater of Detroit, where he studied with Jose Limon, Mary Hinkson, Alvin Ailey, Lavinia Williams, and Katherine Dunham. In 1968, Fagan received his B.A. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He later earned his D.F.A. degree from the University of Rochester in 1986.

Upon graduating from Wayne State University, Fagan moved to Rochester, New York, where he was hired as a dance teacher and choreographer at the educational opportunities center. In 1969, Fagan began teaching at SUNY Brockport; and in 1970, he founded his own dance company, originally called The Bottom of the Bucket, But…Dance Theater. The name was later changed to Garth Fagan Dance. Fagan produced a number of successful pieces through his dance company, including From Before in 1978, Prelude in 1981, and Never Top 40 (Jukebox) in 1985. Fagan choreographed the first fully staged production of the Duke Ellington street opera, Queenie Pie, in 1986. He then opened the Garth Fagan Dance School in 1990. The following year, Fagan collaborated with musician Wynton Marsalis and sculptor Martin Puryear for the production of Griot New York. In 1997, Fagan became the choreographer of the Broadway musical production of The Lion King, for which he won a Tony Award for best choreography. Over the next two decades, Fagan continued to choreograph notable pieces like Trips and Trysts in 2000, —ING in 2004, and Mudan 175/39, which was named by The New York Times as the third of the top six dance watching moments of 2009. He also developed the Fagan Technique, a unique and evolving vocabulary, which fuses the weight of modern dance, the vitality of Afro-Caribbean movement, and the speed and precision of ballet with the risk-taking experimentation of post modernism.

Fagan received numerous awards and honors for his choreography. In addition to his Tony Award for his work in The Lion King, Fagan also received a Laurence Olivier award for Best theater Choroegrapher in 2000, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography, and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Choreography for the production. In 1998, Fagan was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Choreography Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Fagan was honored with the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001; and in 2012, Dance Heritage Collection named Fagan among “America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.” Fagan received honorary degrees from Juilliard School, Hobart College, William Smith College, and Nazareth College. In 2017, Fagan received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Guild.

Garth Fagan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 18, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.068

Sex

Male

Interview Date

04/18/2018

Last Name

Fagan

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Garth

Birth City, State, Country

Kingston

HM ID

FAG01

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Discipline Is Freedom.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/30/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Rochester

Country

Jamaica

Favorite Food

Oxtail

Short Description

Choreographer Garth Fagan (1940 - ) founded the Garth Fagan Dance company, and choreographed the Tony award winning musical The Lion King.

Favorite Color

Blue

Donald Byrd

Choreographer Donald Byrd was born on July 21, 1949 in New London, North Carolina to Emmarine Clark and Jeter Byrd, Jr. Byrd graduated from Pinellas High School in Clearwater, Florida in 1967, and enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. In the following year, he transferred to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. In 1969, he left Tufts University and moved to New York City, where he studied at The Ailey School for two years. In 1974, he returned to Tufts University to earn his B.A. degree in drama.

In 1972, Byrd was a member of the Twyla Tharp dance group. He later joined Gus Solomons, Jr.’s dance company in 1976, and moved to California to work as a dance instructor at The California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, California, where Solomons was named dean of the dance program. In 1978, Byrd founded the Donald Byrd/The Group dance company. Byrd served as the company’s choreographer, and incorporated classical ballet, modern dance, and urban street dancing into the pieces. Byrd returned to New York City in 1983, and established the Donald Byrd Dance Foundation in 1985. In 1987, he choreographed the dance piece Crumble for the Alvin Repertory Company, followed by Shards, a work he choreographed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 1990, the Donald Byrd/The Group premiered Prodigal, which was inspired by George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son. Byrd went on to debut Minstrel Show in 1991, Drastic Cuts in 1992, Bristle in 1993, and Domestic Violence Project and The Harlem Nutcracker in 1994. Over his career, Byrd has choreographed over eighty dance pieces and toured throughout the United States and Europe. In 2002, he became the artistic director of the Spectrum Dance Theater.

Byrd has received numerous honors including the 1992 Bessie Award for Minstrel Show and the Emerging Dance Award from the Metropolitan Life Foundation. He has also taught at the University of California-Santa Cruz, Ohio University, and Wesleyan University, and served on the board of directors of the Dance Theater Workshop and Dance USA.

Donald Byrd was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 4, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.182

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/08/2017

Last Name

Byrd

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Pinellas High School

Tufts University

First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

New London

HM ID

BYR03

Favorite Season

Spring; Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bali and Southern Africa

Favorite Quote

Time To Make The Donuts

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Washington

Birth Date

7/21/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Seattle

Favorite Food

N/A

Short Description

Choreographer Donald Byrd (1949 - ) founded the Donald Byrd/The Group dance company and served as the artistic director of the Spectrum Dance Theater.

Employment

Donald Byrd/The Group

Favorite Color

Blue

Peter London

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Peter London was born on May 10, 1960 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to Dennis Bedeau Stanclaus and Belle Stanclaus. While in Trinidad and Tobago, London studied West African dance. He received a certificate in male elementary ballet from the Royal Academy of Dancing in 1982 and attended the Caribbean School of Dancing before coming to the United States and enrolling at The Julliard School in New York and earned his diploma in dance in 1987.

Before moving to the United States, London was part of the Barataria Folk Dance Group from 1976 to 1983 and joined the Astor Johnson Repertory Dance Theater of Trinidad and Tobago, where he danced as Astor Johnson’s protégé. London also was a dance teacher in Trinidad and Tobago. In 1987, London joined the Limón Dance Company, which he toured with as a principal dancer. London moved to the U.S.; and, in 1988, he was recruited to join the Martha Graham Dance Company as a principal dancer, where he performed with dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Denise Vales. After Martha Graham’s death in 1991, London took a yearlong break from dancing and began teaching at the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. He was invited to tour with the Martha Graham Dance Company again by Ronald Protas in 1992, which he toured with until 1997.

London returned to the New World School of the Arts that year and served as a professor of dance at Miami Dade College. From 2007 to 2010, London taught at The Alvin Ailey School in New York. In 2011, London received a grant of $120,000 from the Knight Foundation in order to form the Peter London Global Dance Company. London showcased pieces that featured Afro-Caribbean dance, as well as Haitian and Afro-Cuban music. London also served as a mentor to; Jamar Roberts of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lloyd Knight of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Robert Battle, artistic director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Peter London was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 7, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.038

Sex

Male

Interview Date

03/07/2017

Last Name

London

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Piccadilly Government Primary School

Barataria Junior Seconday School

South East Port of Spain Government Seconday School

The Juilliard School

Miami Dade College

First Name

Peter

Birth City, State, Country

Port of Spain

HM ID

LON04

Favorite Season

Christmas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barbados

Favorite Quote

Can't is not in the dictionary.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

5/10/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Country

Trinidad & Tobago

Favorite Food

Salt Fish, Cassava, Black Eyed Peas and Rice

Short Description

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Peter London (1960 - ) was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company and became founder and artistic director of the Peter London Global Dance Company.

Employment

Miami Dade College

Martha Graham Dance Company

Jose Limon Dance

Shell Chemicals

Favorite Color

Blue

Savion Glover

Tap dancer, choreographer and actor Savion Glover was born on November 19, 1973 in Newark, New Jersey. Glover began taking in music classes at Newark Community School of the Arts at four years old. He soon progressed to advanced classes, becoming the youngest student in the school’s history to receive a full scholarship. At the age of seven, Glover enrolled in tap dance classes, and was soon opening at festivals with such greats as Jimmy Slyde, Chuck Green, Honi Coles, and Buster Brown. In 1991, Glover graduated from Newark’s Arts High School.

Glover appeared on Broadway for the first time at ten years old in The Tap Dance Kid. He was featured in the title role when the production moved to the Minskoff Theater in 1984. From 1988 to 1989, Glover danced in Black and Blue, a Broadway musical revue of black Parisian culture in the interwar period. His performance earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, and he was dubbed a “teen-age prodigy” by The New York Times’ dance critic Anna Kisselgoff. In 1989, Glover made his film debut dancing in Tap, alongside Gregory Hines. The following year, at the age of seventeen, Glover made his choreographic debut at the Apollo Theater’s Rat-A-Tat-Tap Festival in New York City, and began dancing on Sesame Street. Upon his graduation from Newark’s Arts High School, Glover portrayed the young Jelly Roll Morton, appearing again with Gregory Hines, in George C. Wolfe’s Jelly’s Last Jam. In 1996, Glover rejoined Wolfe to conceive, choreograph and star in Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, a Broadway musical revue of black history. Glover returned to film in 2000 to portray the tap-dancing minstrel Manray/Mantan in Spike Lee’s satire, Bamboozled. He also appeared in the television biopic Bojangles (2001), Classical Savion at New York City’s Joyce Theater, and provided the choreography for the tap-dancing penguin Mumble in the animated movie Happy Feet (2006). Glover opened his tap school, The HooFeRzCLuB School for TaP, in Newark in 2009. He continued performing pieces such as SoLe Sanctuary (2011) and Om (2014) at the Joyce Theater, until reuniting with director George C. Wolfe as choreographer of the 2016 musical Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.

In 1992, Glover became the youngest recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Glover was nominated for several Tony Awards for Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, winning the Best Choreography Award, in addition to a Drama Desk Award.

Savion Glover was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 30, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.090

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/30/2016

Last Name

Glover

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Arts High School

BRICK Avon Academy

Queen of Angels School

Professional Children's School

Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School

First Name

Savion

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

GLO03

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica, Anywhere Tropical, Paris

Favorite Quote

What Did He Do?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/19/1973

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni And Cheese

Short Description

Tap dancer, choreographer, and actor Savion Glover (1973 - ) first appeared on Broadway at ten years old, and went on to choreograph and star in Jelly’s Last Jam (1991), Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk (1996), and Shuffle Along (2016).

Employment

The Tap Dance Kid

Black and Blue

Tap

Apollo Theater

Sesame Street

Various

Not Your Ordinary Tappers

HooFeRzCLuB School for a Holistic Approach to Tap

'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk'

'Jelly's Last Jam'

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Savion Glover's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Savion Glover lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Savion Glover talks about his mother's singing career

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Savion Glover describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Savion Glover talks about his maternal great-grandfather

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

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Savion Glover describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Savion Glover describes his maternal grandmother's musical career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Savion Glover talks about his maternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Savion Glover reflects upon his lack of a father figure

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Savion Glover describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Savion Glover describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Savion Glover describes his schooling in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Savion Glover recalls the start of his tap training

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Savion Glover remembers his early tap lessons at the Hines-Hatchett dance studio in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Savion Glover recalls his audition for 'The Tap Dance Kid'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Savion Glover describes his experiences on Broadway in 'The Tap Dance Kid'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Savion Glover describes his experiences at the Profession Children's School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Savion Glover remembers auditioning for shows in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Savion Glover talks about the impact of his early celebrity

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Savion Glover remembers performing in 'Black and Blue' in Paris, France, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Savion Glover remembers performing in 'Black and Blue' in Paris, France, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Savion Glover recalls the development of his technique during the production of 'Black and Blue'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Savion Glover talks about the influence of his tap dance predecessors

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Savion Glover describes the evolution of his tap style

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Savion Glover reflects upon the influence of his 'Black and Blue' cast members

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Savion Glover talks about his time in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Savion Glover remembers being cast in 'Tap'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Savion Glover describes the film, 'Tap'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Savion Glover remembers Sammy Davis, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Savion Glover describes his start as a choreographer and teacher

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Savion Glover remembers the death of Hassoun Tatum

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Savion Glover remembers his guest appearances on 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Savion Glover remembers performing in 'Jelly's Last Jam'

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Savion Glover reflects upon his experiences in 'Jelly's Last Jam'

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Savion Glover reflects upon the influence of his teachers and mentors

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Savion Glover talks about his maternal grandmother
Savion Glover reflects upon the influence of his 'Black and Blue' cast members
Transcript
My [maternal] grandmother [Anna Lundy Lewis] had a house on Farley Avenue [Newark, New Jersey], around the corner from Barr [Annie Barr (ph.)]. So we lived--and so when, when, so first we grew up on Rose Terrace in the, in the apartment, in the same house as Barr and Poppel [George Barr (ph.)]. We grew, we, we lived on the first floor, Barr and Poppel were on the second floor, and all, everybody happened on the second floor and the third floor. So then once we moved from there we moved maybe ten blocks down the hill to Livingston Street. My grandmother still had a room in the house, my mother [Yvette Glover] would, so my mother would have to be on the couch to accommodate my grandmother. To this day I don't understand that concept but that's what it is. And that carried on when we moved down the hill to Livingston Street. We were, it was a townhouse, you know, the first townhouses which were not, you know, it was, they were projects, people brought these things in on the truck and boom, boom, boom. We had three rooms upstairs, myself, my two older brothers, my mother, my grandmother. And then another friend of the family or aunt, Aunt Arlene [Arlene Graham (ph.)], and her child. We all lived in this unit, three bedrooms (laughter). My mother would, again, give my grandmother the largest room in the townhouse. I shared a room with Abron [Abron Glover] and then I shared a room with Carlton [Carlton Glover] and then I slept with--my mother shared the room with Carlton, she just slept in there. I slept with my mother in that bed or I would sleep on some clothes in Abron's (laughter) bed. And I'm saying all this to say meanwhile, my grandmother had a house on Farley Avenue.$$Where she didn't stay?$$It was for her hats. My grandmother had a house (laughter), my grandmother had a house--$$(Laughter).$$--full of hats, Harriette [HistoryMaker Harriette Cole].$$(Laughter).$$Excuse me.$$For her church--$$Yes.$$--church, the church hats; right (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yes.$$Performance hats?$$Her hats, I mean, it was a home. You walk in the home and there were just boxes. She paid rent for her hats (laughter). And would, and would stay with us though. I--we, we'd get evicted, we couldn't pay the bill, the, they would cut off the lights or lock us out, we'd come home from vacation, we'd pull up, all of us, me and my brothers, Aunt Arlene, my, my mother, her child, six of us pull up in a Nova [Chevrolet Nova], my grandmother would be on the porch with the dog, "Nana, what's, what's up?" "Well, they locked us out." Meanwhile she has a home (laughter) and I mean she has money too, my grandmother's best friend was Doris Duke.$$(Laughter).$$So at any given time, (laughter) you know, she had about five thousand dollars in the attache case, easily. She'd be sitting on that porch--$$(Laughter).$$--with the dog saying, "You know, praise all mighty God, they locked us out. We didn't have no lights, Mr. Williams [ph.] came," and boom, boom, boom. "Told me to get out, I have to get out." She could have bought the whole town, all twenty of the townhouses (laughter), she could have went to her home, she could have gotten a hotel, she could have called Doris Duke to send a helicopter for her (laughter), but she chose to, and this was, this would happen, you know, if the lights would go out, we couldn't, you know, my grandmother would not budge.$Back to these men for a moment.$$Um-hm.$$You are working with them during your formative years. You're--$$Right.$$--you're a teenager, growing up (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Everything I, after 'Tap Dance Kid' ['The Tap Dance Kid,' Charles Blackwell], everything I did was with them.$$So even though you didn't have your father [Willie Mitchell] in your life you now have these men?$$(Nods head).$$And they're also teaching you how to be a man?$$Everything. Everything. These men became everything to me. God is, (laughter) these men became everything to me. They became my fathers, they became my grandfathers, they became my brothers, they became my friends, my mentors, my teachers, they became everything to me. (Pause) I cannot, aside from my mother [Yvette Glover], I am not what I am if they are not in my life. If Jimmy Slyde, if I don't know a Jimmy Slyde, (sighs) if I don't, if I don't know a Lon Chaney or a Bunny Briggs or a George Hillman, I don't know what I would do, what I would be, where I would be. They became everything for me. George Hillman was the first to pass along, to transition. And again, that is when, I met George Hillman, he was eighty-one (laughter). I think he died like maybe, maybe he passed when he was like ninety-two or something like that, ninety-five, I'm, I'm not sure. But his passing it affected me. It was like a, like a wakeup call, it was like--it, it, his passing allowed me to realize how much I loved these men.$$And did you stay in touch with them after you were no longer working with them?$$Oh, yeah.$$Um-hm. They, they became your family?$$Oh, yes--$$Um-hm.$$--without a doubt.

Gus Solomons jr

Dancer and choreographer Gus Solomons jr was born on August 27, 1938 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Olivia Stead Solomons and Gustave Solomons, Sr. He attended Cambridge High and Latin School before enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956, where he studied architecture. During this time, he began studying dance as a student of Jan Veen and Robert C. Gilman at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

Upon graduation, Solomons moved to New York City to dance in Oscar Brown, Jr.’s musical Kicks and Company, with choreographer Donald McKayle. Solomons joined McKayle’s company shortly after, and began taking classes at the Martha Graham School. Solomons’ interest in postmodernism developed further at Studio 9, where he shared space with other modern dance colleagues and worked with avant-garde experimentalists, some of whom went on to form the Judson Dance Theater collective. While at Studio 9, Solomons caught the attention of Martha Graham’s student Pearl Lang, who cast him in Shira in 1962. In 1965, postmodern choreographer Merce Cunningham asked Solomons to join his company. There, Solomons created roles in How to Pass Kick Fall and Run, RainForest, Place, Walkaround Time, and partnered with Sandra Neels in Scramble. In 1968, Solomons left Cunningham’s company after sustaining a back injury. He then collaborated with writer Mary Feldhaus-Weber and composer John Morris on a dual-screen video-dance piece entitled CITY/MOTION/SPACE/GAME at WGBH-TV in Boston, produced by Rick Hauser. Solomons went on to found his own company, The Solomons Company/Dance, creating over 165 original pieces. He became known for his analytical approach and incorporation of architectural concepts as well as his exploration of interactive video, sound, and movement, as depicted in the piece CON/Text. In 1980, Solomons began writing dance reviews, which were published in The Village Voice, Attitude, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 1996, he founded PARADIGM with Carmen de Lavallade and Dudley Williams. Solomons also worked as an arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts until 2013.

In 2004, Solomons was named the American Dance Festival’s Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. He received the first annual Robert A. Muh Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and served as a Phi Beta Kappa Scholar in 2006.

Gus Solomons jr was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 7, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.054

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/7/2016

Last Name

Solomons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Kennedy-Longfellow School

Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

First Name

Gus

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

SOL02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Wherever I Have Work

Favorite Quote

Dance Like No One's Watching.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/27/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Gus Solomons jr. (1938 - ) created over 165 dance pieces for his two companies, The Solomons Company/Dance and PARADIGM. He was known for his analytical approach, architectural concepts, and use of video and other forms of media.

Employment

Donald McKayle and Company

The Joffrey School

Barbara Dona and Associates

Studio 9

Jacob's Pillow

Barbara Dorn Associates

Dance Circle

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Martha Graham Dance Company

Solomons Company Dance

Glimmerglass Playhouse and the Canadian Opera

PARADIGM Dance Company

Complexions

Favorite Color

Orange, Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:704,13:1496,24:1848,29:2288,35:3344,48:4312,71:5808,107:6864,126:19964,171:20354,177:21602,197:24242,224:32980,307:35418,333:37928,354:39134,384:39469,390:41211,421:42484,470:48940,551:50965,669:51340,675:62685,931:68114,1023:79654,1167:80474,1180:88839,1346:92832,1390:103795,1537:104619,1547:108376,1574:114750,1645:115185,1651:116577,1677:117795,1694:118404,1703:121888,1731:122785,1757:123268,1765:123958,1777:124234,1782:126925,1858:127339,1865:127753,1872:145318,2082:145780,2089:146319,2103:146781,2111:147782,2128:148090,2133:157270,2242:164354,2307:164975,2315:166760,2341:168590,2351:168974,2356:169646,2366:170030,2371:170702,2387:172142,2412:172910,2432:174770,2438:176062,2464:176402,2470:176810,2477:177082,2482:178442,2518:184474,2592:185956,2620:186736,2635:192508,2772:192898,2778:197570,2802:199219,2824:203390,2917:203778,2922:204360,2929:214808,3024:221008,3128:222412,3161:224284,3189:224908,3198:231852,3274:235480,3318:236558,3335:236866,3340:237482,3350:238637,3385:240947,3424:246464,3473:247928,3507:262058,3647:263085,3665:267272,3735:270350,3763$0,0:1764,31:3192,59:3948,70:47530,524:48055,530:63769,633:65188,645:69522,676:75350,710:76250,722:77240,736:77690,742:79490,764:80120,773:82190,819:82640,825:86330,878:88490,912:94080,936:95676,963:97680,971:98110,977:98454,982:101760,1002:107741,1058:108359,1065:109389,1081:114200,1162:115608,1196:116056,1204:135138,1338:136514,1353:136858,1358:137632,1370:138922,1393:139524,1401:148500,1536:148980,1543:151330,1586:152067,1605:152871,1619:166566,1737:170878,1810:174398,1864:175102,1874:175718,1883:176422,1893:182018,1932:185090,2037
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gus Solomons jr's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr remembers his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr describes his neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the lack of racial diversity in his neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gus Solomons jr recalls his early exposure to music and performance

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gus Solomons jr remembers the start of his career in performance

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr describes his early academic success

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his attitude towards racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr recalls his decision to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr remembers studying dance at the Boston Conservatory of Music

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr describes the start of his dance career in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr describes his position at Barbara Dorn and Associates

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr remembers performing in 'Kicks and Company'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr recalls joining the companies of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the techniques of Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr remembers performing with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr describes the formation of Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr describes his creative process for choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the theories of choreographic composition

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr recalls the funding for Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr remembers the dancers in Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr describes the rehearsal space for Solomons Company Dance

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr remembers touring with the National Endowment for the Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Gus Solomons jr describes 'City Motion Space Game,' pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr describes 'City Motion Space Game,' pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the dance installations 'Red Squalls' and 'Red Squalls II'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his work as a dance critic

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his committee service

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his experiences of clinical depression, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the Paradigm Dance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr talks about the loss of his family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr describes the live video dance 'CON/Text'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his collaborations with Jason Akira Somma

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his depression's influence upon his work

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gus Solomons jr describes the Paradigm Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his experiences of dancing at an older age

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gus Solomons jr describes his involvement with the It Gets Better Project

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gus Solomons jr talks about his involvement in the piece 'Monument 0.1'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gus Solomons jr reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gus Solomons jr shares his advice to aspiring dancers

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gus Solomons jr reflects upon the state of diversity in dance

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gus Solomons jr reflects upon his life

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Gus Solomons jr remembers studying dance at the Boston Conservatory of Music
Gus Solomons jr talks about the dance installations 'Red Squalls' and 'Red Squalls II'
Transcript
When did you perform in your first professional show?$$(Makes sound) I guess, I would say the Dancemakers. That was a company that I joined in 1958 maybe. It was Boston's first professional modern dance company. And, it was started by Martha Baird who lived out in Newton [Massachusetts] or somewhere. And, there was no modern dance company so that was, that was what I would call my first professional performing.$$And, when you were taking dance classes leading up to that, did you take traditional ballet and all of the--?$$Yes, when I went to the Boston Conservatory [Boston Conservatory of Music; Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Boston, Massachusetts]. See, in my first year at Tech [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts], I went out to audition for the show, the original musical. And, they said, "Wow, you can dance. Can you choreograph?" And, I said, "Oh, you mean make up dances? Yeah, I can do that." So, I was the lead in the show and choreographed it.$$What show is this now?$$It was called MI- the 'Tech Show.' It was an original--and the first one was called "Djinn and Bitters" [Harold Lawler]. And, I played the genie. But, when I--they said, "Can you choreograph?" I thought, well, maybe I should go and see what that's about. So, I went across the river [Charles River] to the Boston Conservatory and enrolled in a modern dance class, which was taught by Jan Veen, who was a German Viennese who had studied with Laban [Rudolf von Laban] and he taught us the Laban scales. Now, in the, in his system of teaching, making dance and technique and improvisation were all one. There were no categories, no sharp divisions. So, that was a wonderful way to learn to dance. And, then, they kept offering me more and more classes because men were scarce in dance in Boston [Massachusetts] at that time. And, then I started taking ballet classes with Rue Santon [ph.], and--Cecchetti technique, and jazz with Bob Gilman [Robert C. Gilman]. That was kind of Broadway jazz.$$And, this was all at the conservatory?$$Correct.$$So, you were taking, the entire time that you were in college you were also taking dance classes--$$Yes.$$--across the water?$$Yeah, (makes sound). Yes. Yes. As a matter of fact at one point in my senior year, or my, yeah, either the fourth or fifth year, I went up for jury with our projects. That week, the last week before the project, I had slept six hours in total that week, because I would sleep two hours before each performance. I was performing in an opera in Boston, 'Traviata' ['La Traviata,' Giuseppe Verdi] I think. And, when I got up to present my work one of my professors said, "Gus [HistoryMaker Gus Solomons jr], would you tell us how you managed to do a full time architecture course at MIT and still have time to be dancing professionally in the opera?" I thought, oops, busted (laughter).$$Right, right, right.$$But, yeah, I mean, 'cause when you're that age you don't need sleep. You just need more pasta and coffee. But, that--$$So, you knew, that you were gonna be a dancer?$$I did (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Some- in one way or another.$$I knew I wanted to do some kind of performing. And, I remember actually going to one of my professors, Richard Phillapolski [ph.], and saying, "You know, I really, I'm not sure I wanna finish that extra sixth year because I really wanna be a dancer." And, he said, "Oh, no, you will be a credit to your race if you become an architect." He--those were his words (laughter). And, I thought, okay, whatever. And, then when I graduated, I graduated in May--oh, and they gave me an award at MIT, a (unclear) or something, in recognition of my service as a performer in the 'Tech' shows, because I did 'Tech Show' every year when I was there.$Moving forward in time, what's another highlight?$$Another highlight, let's see. There were, I think the collaborations stand out for me with Toby Twining doing the music and Scott De Vere doing the installation in that company, especially--and, that was starting in '88 [1988] 'til '93 [1993] and culminating in a big site specific piece ['Red Squalls,' Gus Solomons jr] at Lincoln Center [Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, New York] in '93 [1993] on the North Plaza where the pool is. And, we took up that whole space with six dancers and twelve (pause) dancers, prop movers, chorus. An installation was a 150 foot long fabric wall that had, you know, posts each twelve feet. And, that could isolate the dancers or it could have its own dancers, become a solid if you zigzagged it from a cube. Or, it could become a streamer or it could be, if you twisted the opposite, via every other post it became a, like a bowtie arrangement. And, then the dancers would move around the plaza in relationship to this wall. That was the first time. The second time, we did it again in 1997 ['Red Squalls II,' Gus Solomons jr]. And, that time I collaborated with Walter Thompson whom I begun working with who did instrumental music. But, with a kind of a language that he had devised of directing improvisation by musicians. And, the musicians then were part of the spectacle because they marched around and they moved and they were in separate locations and so forth and he could conduct them all. And, this time also, there was a fabric designer [Stephanie Siepmann] who made the costumes. And, the costumes were three dimensional fabrics that she had invented essentially. So, the dancers were in these wonderful constructions in addition to moving.$$So, when you did these pieces on the plaza, did you also film them?$$Yes. Not, very comprehensively. But, there are bits and pieces of film that exist in the New York Public Library performing arts collection [New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York, New York].

Arthur Mitchell

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Arthur Mitchell was born on March 27, 1934 in Harlem, New York to Arthur Mitchell, Sr. and Willie Hearns Mitchell. He attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. In addition to academics, Mitchell was a member of the New Dance Group, the Choreographers Workshop, Donald McKayle and Company, and High School of Performing Arts’ Repertory Dance Company. After graduating from high school in 1952, Mitchell received scholarships to attend the Dunham School and the School of American Ballet.

In 1954, Mitchell danced on Broadway in House of Flowers with Geoffrey Holder, Louis Johnson, Donald McKayle, Alvin Ailey and Pearl Bailey. He joined John Butler’s dance company in Europe before Lincoln Kirstein, general director of the New York City Ballet (NYCB), invited him to join NYCB’s corps de ballet. Mitchell became the first African American permanent member of a major American ballet company in 1955, when he performed with Tanaquil Le Clercq in Western Symphony. Then, in 1957, famed ballet choreographer George Balanchine choreographed Agon pas de deux, considered to be the first interracial duet in American ballet, for Mitchell and Diana Adams. Balanchine choreographed the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Mitchell, as Mitchell performed in a succession of NYCB productions, including Bugaku and Arcade, throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966, Mitchell organized the American Negro Dance Company, which represented the U.S. at the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. Mitchell then founded the National Ballet Company of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. Mitchell, with mentor and friend Karel Shook, co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, the first black classical ballet company, which debuted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1971. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Dance Theatre of Harlem produced ballets, including Dougla, Troy Game, The Firebird and Creole Giselle. When the Dance Theatre of Harlem performed in South Africa in 1992, it launched its international outreach program, Dancing Through Barriers, designed to educate children in dance through master classes and open rehearsals.

Mitchell received numerous awards. In 1993, he was recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors, and was named a MacArthur Genius Fellow in 1994. President Bill Clinton presented Mitchell with a U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1995. Then, in 1999, Mitchell was inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, the only U.S. museum dedicated exclusively to dance. He received the Heinz Award in Art and Humanities in 2001, and was featured in a PBS American Masters documentary, Balanchine in 2004. Between 2009 and 2010, the exhibit “Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts” premiered in New York City and Los Angeles. Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired Mitchell’s archives, its first major dance collection, in 2015.

Mitchell passed away on September 19, 2018.

Arthur Mitchell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 6, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.034

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/5/2016

Last Name

Mitchell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Organizations
Schools

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

Junior High School 43

P.S. 86

School of American Ballet

First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

Harlem

HM ID

MIT14

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

The Arts Ignite The Mind. They Give You The Possibility To Dream And Hope.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/27/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Collard Greens

Death Date

9/19/2018

Short Description

Dancer, choreographer, and artistic director Arthur Mitchell (1934 - 2018 ) was a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet for fifteen years. In 1969, he co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the first African American classical ballet company and school.

Employment

Dance Theater of Harlem

New York City Ballet

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:270,7:630,12:1080,18:2700,40:3060,45:14895,215:15350,221:16078,231:16624,238:16988,243:20719,298:21265,305:22903,328:35459,484:35970,492:36335,498:37211,510:37503,515:37941,522:38233,527:40715,581:41445,593:48763,606:51181,636:53734,667:54404,699:54806,709:55476,722:56079,733:56414,739:57553,763:58826,794:61880,808:76402,936:82802,1013:88536,1082:89215,1091:92222,1134:92901,1144:103490,1226:104525,1243:105008,1252:105629,1263:105974,1269:106250,1274:106733,1285:107492,1303:107975,1312:109631,1358:114648,1397:115216,1406:116770,1421:121620,1468:123540,1502:124340,1515:125060,1525:126420,1544:127540,1573:128340,1582:129620,1598:133446,1616:149900,1833:150860,1844:151260,1850:151580,1855:155161,1867:161096,1949:161744,1958:167896,2014:171784,2082:172720,2100:183280,2238:186320,2280:187440,2296:189200,2316:189680,2327:206145,2438:206740,2447:211415,2512:212265,2529:214815,2558:220694,2585:221664,2647:225156,2710:226805,2730:230685,2819:232722,2850:233110,2855:237832,2867:239350,2900:239614,2905:240010,2913:241790,2928$0,0:1552,16:9838,151:14220,195:15494,216:17754,227:18124,236:18494,242:19530,280:20566,298:21750,324:22046,329:23082,348:27550,396:27960,402:28370,408:28944,417:29272,422:33454,507:56467,756:57463,772:57795,777:79786,1043:80482,1050:83625,1084:87075,1150:91876,1204:92320,1211:92616,1216:92986,1222:94170,1247:95724,1293:96242,1301:96760,1309:97056,1314:97500,1321:97796,1326:98980,1344:99868,1357:100386,1369:100682,1374:105196,1491:114721,1631:115135,1638:115411,1643:116032,1653:116998,1672:117274,1677:117895,1687:140197,2015:140602,2021:140926,2026:141331,2032:141817,2047:142141,2052:143194,2073:143518,2078:148670,2099:149300,2106:149720,2111:150140,2130:162340,2232:165525,2311:167800,2360:170530,2441:170985,2449:186800,2609:188396,2636:189488,2655:190580,2673:193604,2711:193940,2716:194444,2723:203459,2837:204824,2861:214484,2964:214952,2971:215264,2976:230148,3171:233592,3234:234330,3244:238594,3387:239414,3400:240234,3413:240562,3418:264624,3769:266500,3787
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell lists his favorites

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

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his siblings and their children

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes his father's incarceration

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his early activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his audition for the High School of Performing Arts in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell remembers the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his experiences of racial discrimination in dance companies

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his role in 'Four Saints in Three Acts'

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers his decision to study with Katherine Dunham

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his early interest in dance and theater

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his work on 'Shinbone Alley'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell remembers performing with Eartha Kitt

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his dance scholarships

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes how he decided to study ballet

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the professional dancers with whom he worked in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes his decision to leave Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his involvement with New York City dance schools and productions

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his body type and dance technique

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell describes his experiences of racial discrimination in ballet

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes the production of 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his roles with June Taylor and Donald McKayle

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing in European productions

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his perspective on religion

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes his performance in George Balanchine's 'Western Symphony'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the African American dance community of the 1940s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the School of American Ballet and 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon being the first African American dancer in the New York City Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes how he became a member of the New York City Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers learning ballet techniques

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the differences between dance companies

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls Tanaquil Le Clercq's polio diagnosis

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes George Balanchine's interest in Josephine Baker

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his relationship with George Balanchine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell remembers George Balanchine creating 'Agon'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the production of 'Agon'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes George Balanchine's creative process

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his experiences at the New York City Ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers traveling to Russia with the New York City Ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing for George Balanchine

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls dancing in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes Tanaquil Le Clercq's role at the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell remembers George Balanchine's reputation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell recalls working with Doris Jones and Claire Haywood

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the National Ballet Company of Brazil

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his ballet, 'Rhythmetron'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers his Broadway roles

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell remembers 'House of Flowers' and Lincoln Kirstein

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell remembers choreographing 'The Cotton Club'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his teaching style

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's repertoire

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem's debut performance

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing in Spoleto, Italy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the state of the arts in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers Geoffrey Holder, Katherine Dunham and George Balanchine

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's international tours

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his trips to Russia, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his trips to Russia, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the funding for the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the faculty of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his work with the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell recalls an instance of vandalism at the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers purchasing a studio for the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his ballet, 'Creole Giselle'

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem's principal dancers

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes the television broadcast of 'Creole Giselle'

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the success of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the Dance Theatre of Harlem's funding, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the Dance Theatre of Harlem' funding, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem strike

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon men and women's patronage of the arts

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the Harlem Homecoming program

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his awards and honors

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's international appeal

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes his departure from the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the future of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes his international travels

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his impact on the black dance community, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his impact in the black dance community, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 13 - Arthur Mitchell describes his plans for the future

Tape: 9 Story: 14 - Arthur Mitchell describes his choreographic process

Tape: 9 Story: 15 - Arthur Mitchell remembers working with Marian Anderson and Aretha Franklin

Tape: 9 Story: 16 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 17 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his archive

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

10$8

DATitle
Arthur Mitchell describes his performance in George Balanchine's 'Western Symphony'
Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City
Transcript
Can we talk about your time at New York City Ballet?$$Yeah (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And working with Balanchine, because [George Balanchine]--$$Well the (laughter)--$$What?$$When you join a company, the, the small roles and things like that went to the latest dancer and Todd Bolender did a ballet called 'Souvenirs' and they wanted me to be the elevator operator and close the door. I said, "Now let's get, I, no, no, no, no, no, I will get in and close the door, but I'm not wearing white gloves." I, I've always been like, "No, no, no," and I've always fought for what I thought was right. And I started by da- I did 'Western Symphony' [George Balanchine]. Jacques [Jacques d'Amboise] was doing the movie 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' and he was in Hollywood doing the movie so I made my debut doing the fourth movement of 'Western Symphony' with Balanchine's wife at that time, Tanaquil Le Clercq. And it was historic. I mean, and I said to Mr. Ba- I said, "Now Mr. B," or Mr. Bal- not Mr. B, "Mr. Balanchine, I don't want any publicity, take me in the company and I will get everything I got due to my talent and hard work, not that I was gonna be black." So he said, "Oh, black man," I said, "Not a black guy breaks the bonds going to ballet and stuff like that," and that's one of the things I said to Mr. Balanchine, "If you put me in the company, just let me get it on my hard work not because of the black da-da-da-da-da." And I said, "Don't tell anybody that I'm in the company," there was no publicity that, Negro breaks barriers or like that. And I remember dancing opening night and there's this bald-headed guy sitting and when I came out he just shot up in his seat, he said, "Oh my God they got a nigger in the company." And I, and I always danced, when I star- for my mother [Willie Hearns Mitchell], my people and stuff like that. And I said, "Okay. I'm gonna be the best I can," and by the end of the evening, I got a standing ovation. And To- what's his name, John, no, John Martin from The New York Times he said oh, the--there's a terrible article that he wrote, he said the--there was something that, the way he phrased it, the novelty of the we- the novelty of the company, they've got a black guy. He said, "But ballet is not--is alien to the physiology, the psychological thing that, it's just not part of their makeup." I said, "Well I'll prove him wrong." And--and I would do little gigs, I mean I would do little thin- anybody that needed a dancer, I would go dance with them, but it was mostly modern dance. And the company, I had been at the school [School of American Ballet, New York, New York], I was eighteen, now this I was around twenty-one now. See there's so much pressed in all this, it's not like it was ten years at--$$Right, right. That's right.$$--that I was the first to do it. I said fine, I like that, but I want to be a ballet dancer and I want them to treat me right.$Let's go to the beginning of Dance Theatre of Harlem [New York, New York]. So, who, how does this--do you go to--how, how do you co--$$How did it come about?$$Yes.$$I never wanted to start it, I just wanted to get a school and give the young kids in Harlem [New York, New York] a chance to get the classical training. And I knew there was a lot of talent there, but I said now, okay. So I got my first grant from the Ford Foundation [New York, New York] and we had to match the money with earned income and contributions. So out of that, I had to make a company that could sta- a group of dancers, we would go around to the schools, we've got--and get earned income. And we went everywhere. And Tania Leon, our musical director, she came from Cuba and she came one day to play class, and I said, "Oh I'm gonna hire you (unclear)." She said, "Oh." "I want you to conduct." She said, "I don't know." I said, "Just move your hand big, keep the rhythm and da-da-da-da." So she became our conductor. The animosity and, well you can say hatred was, people said that, "[HistoryMaker] Arthur Mitchell's crazy. He's starting a ballet company in Harlem. Black people can't do ballet. They got." And so I said well that's what we're going to do. And I asked Balanchine [George Balanchine] to give me his ballets because it's always said that if you dance Balanchine's ballets you will automatically get better. So we did 'Concerto Barocco' [George Balanchine], we did 'Agon' [George Balanchine], 'Four Temperaments' [George Balanchine], 'Allegro Brillante' [George Balanchine] and I have to honestly say a lot of those ballets we danced them better than everybody else. And it was a very beautiful company. And Balanchine says, "You know my dear, you know my dear, ten years he will have the most beautiful company in the world." And it was.$$It was. So it was almost his dream though too, right, he had. This was the sixteen black--black females (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. And he, he (laughter) he, he was, and we would talk about food, we would talk about clothing, we'd talk about the psyche and things like that, and he liked that 'cause no one I--we became like friends rather than my boss and his student. And he, and he knew that Lincoln [Lincoln Kirstein] liked me. I said, "Mr. Balanchine, I don't get involved with all that foolishness, that, that's silly." I said, "These people think they're gonna sleep their way to the top, it doesn't happen." And so they used to call me the man with the iron drawers. They said, "Nobody's gonna (laughter)." Because they say, "You know, Mitchell," and all the young designers, and such, they all wanted to work with me. And they made my clothes and then I would have things made for Mr. Balanchine. We'd do a ballet, he says, "No, no, no, no, costumes not right." Let me--I'd go home and bring clothes and those became the costumes for New York City Ballet. I mean I was enterprising, you know what I mean. And the Modern Jazz Quartet, Balanchine wanted to do a jazz ballet.$$So, so he blessed you starting the school (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well yes, in a sense, I, how can I say it. He was carrying over all the attraction that he had with [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham or Josephine Baker and he had worked with the Nicholas brothers [HistoryMaker Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas], you know, they can romp, and I can't do that, but he always liked that fact. Like he said, "You know my dear, I do 'Slaughter on Tenth Av- Tenth Avenue' ['Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,' George Balanchine] who can tap." I'd say, "I can tap." "Not that kind of--." And he brought Ray Bolger in to coach me. And Ray Bolger said, "No, you know, it's just (gesture), it's no steps it's just an attitude." I said, "Okay fine." So that's what I did.

Judith Jamison

Dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison was born on May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Tessie Brown Jamison and John Jamison, Sr. While encouraged by her parents to study the piano and violin, Jamison gravitated towards ballet. At the age of six, Jamison began taking lessons at the Judimar School of Dance in Philadelphia. She went on to study the techniques of African American dance pioneer Katherine Dunham. Jamison graduated from Germantown High School in Philadelphia, and enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. However, she left Fisk to study dance and kinesiology at the Philadelphia Dance Academy, now part of New York City’s University of the Arts.

In 1964, Jamison earned critical acclaim for her work with choreographer Agnes de Mille and the American Ballet Theatre in New York. A year later, Alvin Ailey invited Jamison to join the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where she was featured in numerous productions, toured with the company to Africa and Europe and earned international acclaim for her signature performance of Cry, a fifteen minute solo piece written by Ailey for Jamison. Jamison went on to appear as a guest performer with the San Francisco Ballet, the Swedish Royal Ballet, the Cullberg Ballet, and the Vienna State Ballet. In 1980, Jamison performed on Broadway in Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies with Gregory Hines. That same year, Jamison began her own work as a choreographer. She premiered her first ballet, Divining, with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1984. In 1988, Jamison founded The Jamison Project Dance Company.

Jamison returned to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989, assuming the role of artistic director following the death of founder Alvin Ailey. In 1993, Jamison choreographed Hymn, a tribute to Ailey, and published her autobiography, Dancing Spirit. Under her leadership, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater joined forces with Fordham University to establish a joint bachelor of fine arts program with a multicultural dance curriculum. Jamison also spearheaded the construction of the company’s first permanent home, the Joan Weill Center for Dance. Although Jamison stepped down as artistic director in 2011, she remained associated with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as artistic director emerita.

Judith Jamison was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/30/2016

Last Name

Jamison

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Schools

Charles W. Henry School

Germantown High School

Fisk University

University of the Arts

First Name

Judith

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

JAM07

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Toubab Dialao, Senegal

Favorite Quote

Pray, Prepare And Proceed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/10/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salad

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison (1943 - ) gained international acclaim as a dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, before taking over as the company's artistic director in 1989 following the death of founder Alvin Ailey.

Employment

American Ballet Theatre

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Harkness Ballet

Jacob's Pillow

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Judith Jamison's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Judith Jamison lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Judith Jamison describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Judith Jamison describes her religious upbringing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Judith Jamison describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Judith Jamison recalls her family's support during her early years in dance

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Judith Jamison describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Judith Jamison describes her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Judith Jamison describes her early dance training with Marion Cuyjet

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Judith Jamison remembers her childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Judith Jamison describes her schools in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Judith Jamison remembers her decision to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Judith Jamison describes her experiences at Fisk University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Judith Jamison recalls her introduction to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Judith Jamison describes the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater style

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Judith Jamison recalls auditioning for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Judith Jamison reflects upon her dance training

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

9$7

DATitle
Judith Jamison describes her early dance training with Marion Cuyjet
Judith Jamison recalls auditioning for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Transcript
So, but Marion Cuyjet, what, can you talk about her role?$$Yeah.$$Because she also was an interesting person (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, Marion, Marion, oh my goodness; Ms. Marion, we called her--$$Ms. Marion.$$--Ms. Marion, we never called her Marion. I didn't even call her Marion when she came to see me dance and I was an adult. I was like, "Hi Ms. Marion," and became this little kid again, you know. She was an amazing black woman who looked white. She had red hair, white skin and green eyes and she was as black as you and me and she was proud of that and she started a school [Judimar School of Dance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] for the little black kids who study ballet because you couldn't study back then. To this day people still have trouble getting in schools to study classical ballet; so she made that possible, I mean that's her, she made, she opened a world to us that was not just about classical ballet, but about [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham 'cause she was studying--she was teaching Dunham's technique, tap. I'm so glad I had tap because I ended up on Broadway starring in 'Sophisticated Ladies' with Gregory Hines, the greatest, oh my goodness, what a dancer he was and there I was on the stage with him. Thank God I had--Ann Bernardino [Veda Ann Bernardino] was my tap teacher back then. We had the, in--I said Dunham classes, we had acrobatics, that's when I found out there was no way I was going to be a gymnast, no way, this back does not do what gymnasts' backs do, didn't enjoy that, but learned something, had to try it, right. So she gave us the--and she gave tea dances. On Saturday afternoons and she would have guys, the guys in the school and the girls in the school and we'd have gloves on and little skirts and it would be tea on the side and she would actually have dances where you know, you had to stay that far apart and the guy was like this (gesture) and you danced you know, it was, it was very formal and very enriching, I mean you learned so much about how, how to be social even though I wasn't, but you learned how to be, you know, and to engage other people in conversation other than dance. This was one thing I loved about Alvin [Alvin Ailey], Mr. Ailey, he taught us how to do, how to, how to live outside of the box of dance and engage everyone because everyone's your audience.$$Well I was surprised also with how many people she, you know, what, how much you were exposed to--$$Oh yeah.$$--from a dance perspective, through, through, through Ms. Marion (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right. And she was, and she also farmed me out so-to- speak, farmed me out. Was--and she--I don't know if everybody was getting the same attention I was getting and I'm not, I can't remember that everyone got a chance to study with Antony Tudor when you, they were ten years old, you know, or that--I started taking private lessons with a, oh, what was his name, Yuri Gottschalk, he was a marvelous--I think he was a Latvian, please be Latvian. When I, when I was a kid, I was ten, eleven, twelve and I would take class at his home holding on--there's a thing called the barre; you start class with the barre, you're at the barre, you hold on to the barre and you do--I use to hold on to his stove and he use to put oil on the floor and if anybody knows anything about maintaining these positions that we have in, in ballet, first position, second position, it's based on rotation of the hips, so you were turned out, very unnatural way to stand, but you rotated and turned out, your, your feet are turned out this way (gesture) and in order to hold that properly you really have to use muscles that you don't think you have, you've got to find them and if somebody puts oil under, you better find those muscles otherwise your feet just slide back and, so here I was learning these little tricks of the trade that really would help me later on because Marion passed me on as I was studying her to all these different teachers, excellent teachers.$So you, you tell the story of how you were at the audition and you know he [Alvin Ailey] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, it was a disaster.$$--sees you, what does he see, that's what I'm saying--he called--$$I have no idea.$$You've never, you've (unclear)--$$I did not. I was terrible at that audition. All I know is I've always had an upward trajectory in my head that I had God's ear and that I was just going this way (gesture) up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up; okay, so in that can you imagine my emotions after not having danced for three months; because I was working the World's Fair [1964 New York World's Fair, New York, New York], you know (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) (Unclear)--$$--from '64 [1964], '65 [1965] after Ballet Theatre [American Ballet Theatre]. There're no black people in Ballet Theatre, hello, now, what do we have, one, two, three something, but you know, every step, what can I say, but there was no gigs, so I was there at the log flume ride Texas Pavilion, that's when Martha Johnson comes in, the pianist I was telling you about at Ballet Theatre, she tells me to go to an audition. I haven't danced for three months. I'm at an audition with people who have been dancing for their lives and back then in 1965, black women were wearing wigs like crazy, lashes like this (gesture), heels, stiletto heels. You went to an audition for a television show. You didn't show up in pink ballet shoes and tights, which is what I did and, and then I couldn't learn a step because it was a wonderful woman named Paula Kelly, who was an extraordinary dancer, who was demonstrating Mr. McKayle's, [HistoryMaker] Donald McKayle's steps and I had never seen steps like that before and I was so stunned by the steps and by her executing them and I was like (gesture), I couldn't learn a thing. I was too stunned. I was just (gesture) so that he calls me three days later after I failed this audition miserably and I didn't even see him at the audition. I didn't know he was there. I just passed by somebody that was sitting on the steps. I didn't know it was him because I was like this (gesture). I was totally in a state of shock, calling my mother [Tessie Brown Jamison] on the phone saying, "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I want to stay in New York [New York], but I don't know, you know," I'm boohooing. And that's the three days later then he calls me and said, "Would you like--this is Alvin Ailey, would you like to join my company [Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater]?" And of course I go, "Yeah, fabulous," and I'm excited and all that, but it's like a blur. It's like a blur. I didn't, I didn't go like, "What did he see in me that he would--?" I didn't then, that, and then I walk into the, the, rehearsal, my first rehearsal and all those people that I saw on stage, not all of them, but some of them are in that, and the first partner I had is the person that I--you know, I mean that, that, you just kind of--and you walk in, I walked in like, like this (gesture), you know like, "Oh, Mr. Truitte [James Truitte]." And then he says, "Girl get over there and learn those steps," you know, I mean--it was just shut down right away, that come on, this is terra firma, you've got a gig now. We're going out in, in four weeks, in three weeks, you got two weeks, you've got to learn eight ballets, go learn them, boom, boom. I went to work right away, there was no like awe and you know, like, like people on pedestals or anything like that, you had your chance when you saw him on stage, then you put him on a pedestal, now you're working with him, guess what, no time for that other stuff. So it wasn't until much later that I figured he saw--and he would tell me that I was probably the most musical dancer he had ever had. I was totally musical, innately musical, that there were things that, how did he call it, revatto [ph.]. There were things that I understood about continuing movement and stopping movement and just a, in, just a natural talent, not a technique talent, you, you've got to learn technique. A lot of people, black people, get into that all the time where it takes no thought, you can dance, you've always been able to dance, not like that, I had to go to school to learn how to do this, period, you know. But yes, he saw that musicality in me and he would, he would--that's why when we were working together that he didn't have to turn around and tell me a whole bunch of stuff. He didn't have to explain a lot of things to me. He would do the movement and I would do the movement copying him and there's no way I could look like him doing the movement, but what, when he would turn around he would be pleased.$$With what he saw--$$Yeah, most of the time (laughter), most of the time. So, yeah, that, he, he, he saw something--I always, when I see dancers that are really special to me it's like they're, they're not from this planet. They are from someplace else you know, they've, they've just arrived, they're here for a little bit then they go on back to where they, where they came from in the first place. They, they're creatures. They're creatures. They, they're human when they step off the stage and do whatever they're doing there, but they are, they are creatures that have, that are full of, of this loving humanity that they only want to share with you for that two and a half hours on stage, isn't that a wonderful thing you know, and when that, when that hits you know it, the audience knows it, you know it and you go away with an experience that you'll never forget. That's what I saw when I saw the company the first time, you know.

André De Shields

Stage actor, director, and choreographer André De Shields was born on January 12, 1946 in Dundalk, Maryland to Mary Gunther and John De Shields. He was raised in Baltimore, Maryland as the ninth of eleven children. De Shields obtained his high school diploma at Baltimore City College in 1964, and earned his B.A. degree in English literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970. In 1991, De Shields received his M.A. degree in African American studies from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

De Shields began his career in 1969 at Chicago’s Shubert Theatre in Tom O’Horgan’s production of Hair, The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical. In 1971, De Shields joined the Organic Theater Company and began performing in Wrap! in Chicago. In 1973, De Shields left the Organic Theater Company and became an associate choreographer for Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue the following year. In the late 1970s, De Shields began choreographing for Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street. He then went on to perform in many televised productions, including Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1982), Alice in Wonderland (1983), and Duke Ellington, The Music Lives On (1984). De Shields continued his work while holding professorships at New York University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Michigan. In 2009, in honor of President Barack Obama’s election, Mr. De Shields created his solo performance, Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.

De Shields received numerous awards, including three Chicago Joseph Jefferson Awards and nine AUDELCO Awards. In 1982, De Shields won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance for the NBC TV Special based on Ain’t Misbehavin’. In 2004, he received honorary doctorate of fine arts degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and from SUNY-Buffalo State. De Shields received a Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance in 2007, and in 2009, he won the National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award. De Shields received a Distinguished Achievement Award from Fox Foundation Fellowship in 2012, a Making Waves Award from Florida Atlantic University in 2014, an Award for Excellence in The Arts from the theatre school at DePaul University in 2015, and a Pioneer of the Arts Award from Riant Theatre in 2016.

André De Shields was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.020

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/19/2016 |and| 9/22/2016

Last Name

De Shields

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Robin

Schools

New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study

John Hurst Elementary School No. 120

Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts

Baltimore City College

Wilmington College

University of Wisconsin-Madison

First Name

André

Birth City, State, Country

Dundalk

HM ID

DES04

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Port Antonio, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

The Top Of One Mountain Is The Bottom Of The Next, So Keep Climbing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/12/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lima Beans

Short Description

Stage actor, director, and choreographer André De Shields (1946 - ) starred on Broadway in The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On!, The Full Monty, and Impressionism in addition to serving as director of numerous off-Broadway productions.

Employment

The Full Monty

Ain't Misbehavin

The Wiz

SUNY-Buffalo State College

CUNY- Hunter College

Gallatin School of Individualized Study

New York University School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions

Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts

Southern Methodist University

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Morehouse College

Favorite Color

Red

Mercedes Ellington

Dancer and choreographer Mercedes Ellington was born on February 9, 1939 in New York City to Ruth Silas Batts and trumpet player and conductor Mercer Ellington, son of renowned composer and bandleader Duke Ellington. Ellington was raised by her maternal grandparents Louise Petgrave Silas and Alfred Silas, who enrolled her in dance and ballet classes at an early age. Ellington received a scholarship to attend The Metropolitan Opera School of Ballet, but decided to enroll at The Julliard School at her father’s insistence. She graduated with her B.A. degree in classical and modern dance in 1960.

Ellington’s first professional role was in a production of West Side Story in Australia. She also appeared in productions of On the Town and Pal Joey at the New York City Center. In 1963, Ellington became the first African American member of the June Taylor Dancers, the featured performers on The Jackie Gleason Show. She danced with the June Taylor Dancers for seven years, until she moved on to perform in Broadway shows like No, No Nannette, The Night That Made America Famous, The Grand Tour, and Happy New Year. In 1981, Ellington starred in Sophisticated Ladies alongside her father, who conducted the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In 1983, she co-founded BalleTap, later named DancEllington, with Maurice Hines. Ellington produced award-winning choreography in musicals such as Blues in the Night, Juba, Satchmo and Tuxedo Junction. The organization dissolved in 1992, and Ellington went on to direct the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Tribute to the Spirit of Harlem in 2001. In 2004, Ellington founded Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to scholarship, education, and performance connected to the legacy of Duke Ellington.

Ellington’s choreography and commitment to her grandfather’s legacy earned her numerous honors and awards, including the Actor’s Equity Association’s Paul Robeson Award and the FloBert Lifetime Achievement Award. She also served as a judge for the Capezio Dance Awards, and as a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild and the American Tap Dance Foundation. In addition, Ellington served on the local and national boards of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In 2016, she also co-authored a book entitled Duke Ellington: An American Composer and Icon with Stephen Brower.

Mercedes Ellington was interviewed by The History Makers on August 12, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.010

Sex

Female

Interview Date

08/12/2016

Last Name

Ellington

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

The Juilliard School

St. Walburga's Academy

Our Lady of Lourdes School

First Name

Mercedes

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

ELL05

Favorite Season

Fall, Winter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Don't Piss In My Vest Pocket And Tell Me It's Raining.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/9/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lamb Chops

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Mercedes Ellington (1939 - ), the granddaughter of Duke Ellington, was the first African American member of the June Taylor Dancers on The Jackie Gleason Show. She also opened The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts.

Employment

DancEllington

The Jackie Gleason Show

BalleTap USA

'West Side Story'

'On The Town'

'Pal Joey'

'No No Nanette'

'Sophisticated Ladies'

'Blues in the Night'

'Juba'

'Tuxedo Junction'

Favorite Color

Cerise

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mercedes Ellington's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her maternal family's ballroom dances

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington remembers her maternal grandparents' home

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her early dance lessons and recitals

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington describes the sights of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington remembers New York City's Sugar Hill neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mercedes Ellington describes Our Lady of Lourdes School in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Mercedes Ellington recalls being raised by her grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington talks about living with her maternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her paternal grandparents' marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes her relationship with her paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Duke Ellington's mistresses, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington talks about Duke Ellington's world tours

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Duke Ellington's affairs

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington shares her hope to bring Duke Ellington's music to Cuba

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her relationship with her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Mercedes Ellington describes her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's musical talents

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her early dance influences

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Mercedes Ellington recalls enduring discrimination in dance school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington remembers the limited opportunities for dancers of color

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her family's advice about her career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington talks about The Juilliard School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes the Martha Graham modern dance technique

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington recalls living at The Juilliard School's International House

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington recalls living with her father

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington remembers her first professional role

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her grandfather's influence

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's second marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's death and his will

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington lists her performances in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington recalls auditioning for 'The Jackie Gleason Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington remembers being selected as a June Taylor Dancer

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington describes her experience as a June Taylor Dancer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her salary on 'The Jackie Gleason Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes Jackie Gleason's big band show

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington recalls joining the cast of 'No, No Nanette'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington talks about the filming of 'The Jackie Gleason Show'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her first Broadway performance in 'No, No, Nanette'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington describes her union memberships

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington talks about female empowerment on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her paternal grandfather seeing her performance

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Duke Ellington's death

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes the production behind 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington describes her additional sources of income

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington lists her volunteer activities

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington recalls competing in ballroom dancing competitions

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington recalls the cast of 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington describes the hectic performances of 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Gregory Hines's termination from the production of 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington talks about the success of 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's role in 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington describes the creation of BalleTap USA

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington recalls touring with BalleTap USA in Japan

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington talks about choreographing 'Blues in the Night'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington recalls choreographing 'Juba'

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington talks about the inspiration behind 'Juba'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington recalls choreographing 'Tuxedo Junction'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her philosophy for performances

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington describes her hopes for Duke Ellington's legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes her brother's management of the Duke Ellington estate

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her engagement

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington shares her views on marriage

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her father's role in the Ellington family legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington describes her siblings

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Mercedes Ellington describes 'Duke Ellington: An American Composer and Icon'

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Mercedes Ellington reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Mercedes Ellington shares her advice for aspiring dancers

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Mercedes Ellington recalls her early dance lessons and recitals
Mercedes Ellington remembers being selected as a June Taylor Dancer
Transcript
But you also learned to read at a very early age, correct (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yes, yeah I learned to read and learned to dance at an early age too, because they had a recital, they had a dance and exercise school or it--it was really a dance school. But I ne- I remember my first shoes, again with the shoes, was rhythm shoes and these were like suede shoes with el- elastic across the top. And I wanted ballet shoes because I was a ballet fiend, fan from the very beginning. I used to cut out pictures in the newspapers and anybody had an old magazine I was really crazy about ballet pictures and I'd paste them in the book. And so I would--these rhythm shoes we--we used them to, to have our recitals. And it was a big deal because these were things that people in the neighborhood [Sugar Hill, New York, New York] really had to stretch their budget to afford to buy because it wasn't a necessary thing, it was, you know, a luxury to be able to afford dance shoes and sometimes at the recitals to pay for the dance costumes. And my first costume that I remember was as a snowflake in 'The Nutcracker,' and this white puffy tutu. And later on though, I--there some people in the neighborhood that were ballet teachers and my [maternal] grandmother [Louise Petgrave Silas] found out about them. There was--there were two people, the Facey twins, Marjorie [Marjorie Facey] and Marion Facey and they taught dance. And they--their claim to fame was that they were taught by Aubrey Hitchens who was a partner of Pavlova [Anna Pavlova]. So that--with that reputation, you know, everybody was wanting to take from these people, because it was as if they, themselves, were you know, had taken from Pavlova, which of course it's the same type of dance, it's the same style. But of course nobody ever saw Pavlova in our--our neighborhood. But there was also another guy who taught dance and his name was Sheldon Hoskins, yeah, Sheldon Hoskins.$$And this was all when you were a little girl?$$Yeah.$$So dance became important starting from nursery school?$$Yes.$I looked at--down the line and there was like maybe eighteen people left and I figured that maybe she [June Taylor] had forgotten about me, but then Gleason [Jackie Gleason] came in the room and he was--he had the producer, Jack Philbin and the director and a lot of reporters came in. And they sat there and she put her head together with Gleason and they were talking for a moment amongst themselves and then she stood up and said--made the announcement, "Ladies you are the new June Taylor Dancers." And there were two swings at that point because June Taylor Dancers are only sixteen people, and I--I remember like--I--I said well maybe I didn't hear her correctly or maybe again, maybe she just forgot about me. But I was in the lineup and I was very--I don't know I kind of in a fog, I--I--I can't even think of how I felt. I--I said well if this is true, that means I will have money to do this and do this, and I kept--I just started calculating in my head, I can pay my rent, I can do this, I can buy these--these shoes. But then, she came and talked to me afterwards and she said, "If you're not--if you don't live up to this job, I'm go--I'm going to fire you--I'll fi-," because she--she had a habit of firing somebody every week anyway if they didn't live up to the job. Because the thing was it was live TV, they never stopped for anybody, you could fall down and they wouldn't stop. So what--it just had to be, you know, you just kept going and she said, "Well, this is it, you--you've, you know, you've become, but if I was you, I would maybe hone up on my tap dancing a little bit." So what I would do after every rehearsal I would go around the corner, across the street and take an hour of tap da--tap lessons, and this was like practically every day.$$And how long were the rehearsals?$$All day, they were at ea- eight hours. Usually eight hours.$$So you are cast, now you're the first and only African American in--in her group, correct?$$Yes.$$What does that mean? Can you place this in context, 'cause it's television, it's live television, Jackie Gleason was a huge celebrity back then, was he not?$$Yes, very big, very big. Now we're talking about JFK [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] is president. And during my first year tenure is when he was assa- assassinated. And it was--I mean a lot of things were happening, politically and in the entertainment business with all of these people and the change of--of in the arts in general, not only in television but the concert stage, the opera stage, the ballet stage, where things were getting to be a little bit more equalized. And--and here we had this guy--this wonderful guy in the office as the president who was actually concerned and interested in the arts and concerned with arts. It was almost like you were living in a, you know, utopia for a moment. And course after the assassination and everything else, you know, after that was.