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Marla Blakey

Dancer, choreographer, and theatrical producer Marla D. Blakey was born on April 26, 1949, in Washington, D.C. Blakey grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where, as a teen, she created stage shows with neighborhood children at St. Mark’s Social Center, part of the church program ministered by her legendary grandfather, Reverend Samuel L. Laviscount, pastor of St. Mark’s Congregational Church.

At the age of sixteen following her graduation from Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston, Massachusetts, Blakey went, with her mother’s permission, directly to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she performed as a dancer at Club Harlem. There, Blakey performed with Sammy Davis, Jr., Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, and the bands of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, among many others. Blakey was still under twenty years of age when she danced in Las Vegas, Miami and Chicago; after performing around the United States, she went to Europe, dancing in Amsterdam, London, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. While in Europe, Blakey put together her own dance group and produced and booked shows at U.S. Army bases. After a few years in Europe, Blakey returned to Boston where she opened her own dance studio, and formed the Marla Blakey Dancers.

In 1975, Blakey moved to Los Angeles to advance her career; it was there that she choreographed and staged shows for artists such as Donna Summer, Anne Murray, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, David Bowie, Sting, and several Motown artists. During this time period, Blakey choreographed and staged her first television special Motown Returns to the Apollo for NBC. Blakey’s career on stage, as a producer, and her affinity for jazz music was forged through the influence of her father, Ruble Blakey, who sang with Lionel Hampton’s band; she first met her father at the age of twelve in Paris, France, where he was working as a booking agent for some jazz greats.

During Blakey’s thirty years of travel, performing, and producing shows, her heart was never far away from her childhood years on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, where her mother owned a summer home. In 1988, Blakey moved to Martha’s Vineyard to become a year round resident. On Martha’s Vineyard, Blakey continues to be a prolific and significant producer, director, and choreographer; each summer she brings productions to the island’s performing arts centers and playhouses.

Accession Number

A2005.191

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/9/2005

Last Name

Blakey

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

William Lloyd Garrison Elementary School

Jeremiah E. Burke High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Marla

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BLA09

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Teens, Adults, Seniors, Special Interest

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: $1000-2500
Availability Specifics: Evenings Preferred
Preferred Audience: Teens, Adults, Seniors, Special Interest

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Greece

Favorite Quote

Live Your Life Like Your Ass Is On Fire.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

4/26/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Martha's Vineyard

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Olives

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Marla Blakey (1949 - ) staged shows for many important jazz, Motown, and pop performers.

Employment

Smart Affairs

Marla Blakey Dancers

Marla Blakey Dance Studio

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:10684,259:16242,342:17022,356:17646,367:20090,373:27620,432:31364,520:32138,531:32568,537:41806,676:44162,751:46594,817:65295,1056:65680,1062:65988,1067:69915,1162:79758,1320:82950,1343:86490,1402:88914,1429:90172,1450:96831,1563:97286,1569:100500,1608:111012,1734:111540,1742:111892,1747:119196,1910:127822,2039:128134,2045:128446,2050:130240,2095:130786,2104:136470,2209:137720,2214$0,0:2640,32:5720,81:6600,90:9979,104:16626,203:19146,255:20406,303:29562,479:31326,513:31830,524:37668,563:39226,593:40374,609:42998,663:45458,751:46770,772:47426,781:48328,795:53215,815:63414,953:64030,961:64822,976:65350,983:67686,998:68358,1035:68862,1042:69954,1064:73296,1081:91665,1357:96094,1444:99493,1476:99905,1481:101965,1507:107830,1522:109108,1542:110741,1574:111451,1587:111806,1593:112516,1605:113297,1619:114220,1636:117557,1755:118196,1768:123678,1818:124138,1824:129970,1852:156066,2271:156456,2277:157002,2286:163565,2326:166113,2420:169480,2468:172564,2484:174373,2527:176580,2558:194750,2819:197270,2876:201850,2912
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marla Blakey's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Marla Blakey's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey describes her maternal family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey describes her maternal family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey remembers the Roxbury community in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey describes her likeness to her mother and maternal aunts

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey remembers meeting her father in Paris, France at age twelve

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marla Blakey remembers the year of her father's passing

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey talks about her father's life as a booking agent in Paris, France

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey remembers her maternal grandfather, Reverend Samuel Laviscount

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey remembers her elementary school years in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey talks about HistoryMaker Elma Lewis

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey remembers her experiences at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey recalls entering show business with help from dance teacher Stanley Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey remembers her early show business experiences in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey recalls being jailed overnight while performing in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1969

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey remembers performing in Larry Steele's 'Smart Affairs' at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel in Miami, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey describes her experience as a showgirl at Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey remembers her career after 'Smart Affairs'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey recalls her return to Boston, Massachusetts to found the Marla Blakey Dancers

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey talks about the Chickering Piano Factory artist lofts in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey recalls going to Hollywood in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey recalls her career as a choreographer

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey remembers highlights from her career as a choreographer

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey recalls family gatherings in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marla Blakey remembers her maternal grandparents

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey reflects upon her career in show business

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey tells a story from Sidney Poitier's birthday party

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey remembers big acts she choreographed

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey recalls working with The Temptations

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey remembers ending her Hollywood career to move to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts in 1988

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey recalls directing her first theatrical production on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey remembers her production of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf"

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey talks about plays she directed at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey remembers producing and directing 'The Dancers'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey reflects upon her approach to show business

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey talks about producing jazz shows on Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey recalls jazz musicians from her recent productions

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey explains her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey talks about the lifestyle on Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey remembers African American women she has helped get into show business

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey talks about her dream of opening a jazz club in Italy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey describes her day jobs

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Marla Blakey describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey talks about the play she co-wrote

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey gives advice to young people interested in performance careers

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$7

DATitle
Marla Blakey remembers her early show business experiences in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Marla Blakey recalls her career as a choreographer
Transcript
Atlantic City [New Jersey], let's--you're there. Tell us about those opening weeks and months there (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Wow, you know, I just, maybe from my grandfather [Reverend Samuel Laviscount] I learned early on, just, "What you don't know, just keep your mouth shut and don't say anything," and I just was thrown into this situation. I grew up so fast, where I was with major stars, big revues, Johnny Lynch, an eighteen piece band. We were in a night club [Club Harlem, Atlantic City, New Jersey], literally, three shows a night. We finished at four in the morning. Sunday mornings, we had to do what we called a breakfast show, which anyone who knows that life, knows about it. That's the big show at six a.m., where all the other entertainers in Atlantic City would be able to come and see your show. They didn't used to clap in those days. They had knockers. They would hit the tables with these knockers. I was literally--one of our first shows was with Sammy Davis, [Jr.]. He was the headliner. We--he used to put us in these high heels, the producer Larry Steele. He was very, very hard on us. Because we were an all-black show we had to do everything better than anybody else--everything. He would take money out of our paychecks if our--the seam in our fishnet stockings wasn't straight, if we didn't have red lipstick on, if our nails weren't painted, if our costumes weren't hung up. Everything had to be precise and better than anyone else, and this is what we went through during that period. This is what I walked right into at sixteen and a half years old. Walking around the stage for two or three hours a day learning how to walk in high heels. My first show as a showgirl, I had what we call pasties. These little rhinestone things for your boobs and a little g-string and the feathers. I said, "Oh my God, what am I doing?" But I'm in show business. This is what I wanted to do. My mom [Merle Laviscount Jones] was, "No problem," and I stayed in that show ['Smart Affairs'] for many, many years. We worked the Eden Roc [Miami Beach] Hotel in Miami [Florida]. We did Chicago [Illinois]. We went through New York [New York]. We traveled with the show.$So, you choreographed for Donna Summers [sic. Donna Summer]?$$Yeah, and wow, for thirteen years, I--one thing lead to another. I didn't have enough sense to get an agent; you know, I didn't have enough business sense to get an agent. I did some dancing around a little bit here and there and a few TV shows, 'What's Happening!!' I had a little guest spot on 'What's Happening!!' and a big TV show with Cleavon Little, a movie, 'Comedy Tonight' [ph.]. I did a few things like that, but I still preferred to be behind the scenes. I had--I was really good with people, very diplomatic and I just had, as an early age, you know, just able to organize groups and just God, I have to believe this came from my grandfather [Reverend Samuel Laviscount], just a huge sense of treating people in the right way and being respectful and diplomatic and treating people the way you want to be treated, and I've done that my entire life. I tried to do it and be totally aware of it my entire life. So, but L.A. [Los Angeles, California] was a really interesting scene. I just, from Donna Summer, someone else saw me, saw her show, I met someone else. I was on the cutting edge of the video scene. Somebody got my name, Randy Newman's brother [sic. cousin], Tim Newman, got my name from somebody. "She's a good choreographer, she can do it," and I did a slew of music videos, starting with ZZ Top, which are very, very famous music videos now. Did three of those videos and moved from that to Linda Ronstadt to Fleetwood Mac, just tons of video; music videos for Motown. I was there at the music video scene where all the record companies said, "This is what we have to do, 'cause this is gonna make our act, and we're gonna make a lot of money." So, I was right there, right smack in the middle of the beginning of the music videos. And I did that for many, for quite a while and then Suzanne de Passe--who, you know, her family obviously is Oak Bluffs [Massachusetts], they knew people--knew of me, I knew her family, I knew her mom and everything and she, you know, she got me some work at Motown doing some acts, and then I got to meet [HistoryMaker] Berry Gordy, and I really understood what he was doing, 'cause he was like Larry Steele, you know, "We're gonna make these acts the best that they can be," you know, and I have to say a lot of it was because we were black, we had to do everything better. So, I was hired by Berry Gordy to clean up those acts, to polish them, to choreograph, and to teach the girls how to walk, to teach them how to sit down, to just, you know, and this is what I did for a really, really long time, you know, at Motown. A lot, a lot of choreographing of the acts, and then Suzanne gave me a big, big shot. I was the choreographer for 'Motown Returns to the Apollo,' which was a huge shot for me. And then I moved into a whole, whole, whole 'nother bracket at that point.

Louis Johnson

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

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

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

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

Accession Number

A2005.134

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/9/2005

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson

Garrison Elementary School

Armstrong Technical School

School of American Ballet

Dunham School of Dance and Theater

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Louis

Birth City, State, Country

Statesville

HM ID

JOH21

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Harlem, New York

Favorite Quote

Holding on.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/19/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Potatoes (White)

Short Description

Ballet dancer, dance professor, and choreographer Louis Johnson (1930 - ) has choreographed for the stage in, "Damn Yankees," and, "Hallelujah Baby," and for screen in, "The Wiz," and, "Cotton Comes to Harlem." In 1980, he started Henry Street Settlement’s Dance Department in New York City. He also taught the first black theater course at Yale University, and started Howard University’s dance department in Washington, D.C.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Louis Johnson interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson talks about his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson remembers his grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson discusses his elementary school years

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson describes his early involvement in dance

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson talks about his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson recalls influential dance teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson remembers classmates in dance school

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Louis Johnson remembers his first dance job

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson discusses an early appearance on Broadway

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson talks about the cast of 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson remembers his involvement in 'Damn Yankees'

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson recalls close friends from his early days on Broadway

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson comments on young dancers of today

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson recalls experiences in the motion picture 'Damn Yankees'

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson details his transition into choreography

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson talks about various choreography work

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson mentions students from Howard University' dance program

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Louis Johnson remembers choreographing 'Purlie'

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Louis Johnson mentions various successes from his choreography career

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson describes his approach to new projects

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson talks about facing discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson discusses different types of entertainers he's worked with

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson explains applying his style to various projects

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson details various performers he's worked with over the years

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson remembers working in Atlanta and Harlem

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson explains his involvement with the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson recalls his career with Henry Street Settlement

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson talks about projects of which he's most proud

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson talks about Howard University's dance department

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson describes the career of Debbie Allen

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson remembers choreographing 'Treemonisha' to Broadway

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson discusses various productions he's choreographed

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson details his involvement with 'The Wiz'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson recalls various awards he's received

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson talks about his directorial credits

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Louis Johnson talks about 'The Ebony Game'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Louis Johnson discusses his involvement in 'MissTruth'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Louis Johnson shares his thoughts on 'Jazzbo Brown'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Louis Johnson remembers the production 'Time and the Wind'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Louis Johnson further discusses 'Miss Truth'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Louis Johnson tells of giving exposure to lesser-known performers

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Louis Johnson comments on various performers he's worked with

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Louis Johnson talks about dealing with racism during his early years

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Louis Johnson reflects on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Louis Johnson tells of the importance of black history

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Louis Johnson considers his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

6$7

DATitle
Louis Johnson describes his early involvement in dance
Louis Johnson details his transition into choreography
Transcript
You started developing your movement abilities in elementary school. Tell us about being in the second and third--well, as much you remember--?$$Well, I used to tap dance.$$--and the acrobatics?$$I tap danced around with my acrobatics, and there was a gentleman named Derwood Brent (ph.) and Melvin Hope (ph.) that tap danced. And Derwood Brent was in charge of the New Faces Guild [NOT FOUND]. There was a thing in Washington [D.C.] called The New Faces Guild that Ralph Matthews started. He gave a show like once a year at the Lincoln Theatre, which was the only theater that black people could go to. And he would give a production every year, a fantastic production, tap dancing, comedians and beautiful show girls and all that kind of thing. So I--and Melvin Hope was another young man and Miles Conte (ph.), and they would tap dance in the shows. I was too young to, but they would let me tap with them around on the street. So I would tap on the street with them and some time I got older enough to be in some of those shows. And that's how I began to dance around. And I always did acrobatics with Nipsey Russell, Nipsey had a great tumbling team. You could never say enough about this man. You didn't know what he was doing then, but he was a great, great acrobat, like you see in the circus. And he taught the young kids to do that.$$Now, was he teaching you at that YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]?$$At the YMCA and the streets. And that's how I got involved with dance. The YMCA was being renovated, so the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Assocation] let us use their place. And Jones and Haywood, the ladies who found in me as a dancer, who introduced me to dancing professionally was teaching there. And they saw us rehearsing at the YWCA, and they saw me stretching around and doing that stuff. And they were very impressed, so they offered me a scholarship in formal dancing at the Y, you know, and I, I said, I'd love to. And that's how it all started with me dancing.$$Now, tell us about the dance team that began teaching you? Just give us some more details and some--?$$Doris [W.] Jones and Claire [Helen] Haywood?$$Yes.$$They were two wonderful ladies that taught ballet. And they thought I would be able to do that well, seeing me stretch and carry on. So they invited me to take some classes at their school and gave me a scholarship and cleaning up their house like once a week. And I'd come and take dance classes there, and I did. And it introduced me to ballet and formal dancing properly. And I fell in love with it, but I kept my tumbling going on, and that's how I got involved with dance; came to New York [New York]. They sent me to New York City to the School of American Ballet. That's George Balanchine's school at the time; the finest training in ballet you could get anywhere in the world. And I went on, carried on.$Let's, let's go on to 'Hallelujah Baby' [1967], that followed your ascent there?$$'Hallelujah Baby' I wasn't dancing. No, I hadn't danced in a little while. And I was asked to come into that cause I--they knew who, they knew of my--the young man that choreographed it, Kevin Carlisle, I did the first 'Modern Jazz Quartet' thing, I had used him as a dancer because he even became a cari--choreographer. And he'd become a choreographer for the 'Garry Moore Show' [television program], and he had choreographed 'Damn Yankees', and he was replacing somebody. Well, he needed a standby, and one name leads to another. And a lot of people knew of my name, and they recommended me highly. And I became the standby in that.$$Okay.$$That means if somebody's out, you go in their place. And I stood in for Alan Weeks and another young man, I'm--Winston [DeWitt] Helmsley. They were called 'Tip and Tap', and they had a specialty number in there. And I was on all the time. I said, Oh, Lord, at least I'll get a chance to rest. Every time you look around, they say, Louis, get ready, get in your costume cause you're on tonight. So that--.$$So that way, you were quickly moving from being a dancer to being a choreographer? And your first ballet was 'Lament'?$$Yeah.$$And how did that come about?$$Well, that was at the YMCA, YM-YWHA [Young Men's-Young Women's Hebrew Association]. I had done a solo that was, that--called 'Harlequin', which I used my acrobatics and dancing in it. And it was outstanding. And I forget the man's name. How can I forget this man--he was a great producer of, of artists. And he recommended that I would be on a show that they did on Broadway. They used to do a show on Broadway where they used a lot of very fine talent to show them, to ex--to show their talent. And he insisted that they did solo 'Harlequin' of mine. And I forget this man's name. I'll think of it. He was a great, great, great impresario at that time. He--and that's how it started.$$Okay.$$My 'Lament' [1965], you're talking about 'Lament'?$$Right.$$Yeah.$$Right.$$Well, also during that, the man who--I said made me do 'Harlequin' also was named Mr. Koreff. I remember him. He was Nora Kaye's father. Nora Kaye was a great big ballerina at that time. And he gave this thing called 'New York City Ballet Club' every year. And he insisted I do a piece. So I, I did a piece called 'Lament' that I had heard the music of Bachiana Brasileira of Villa-Lobos. So I did that, and it was a big success at the Y. Then I began to do ballets. They, they, they liked it, the audiences did, and people did and talked--it was the talk--.

Julian Marvin Swain

Dancer, choreographer, and entertainer Julian Marvin Swain was born on December 18, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois. Raised by his mother, Sarah Elizabeth Davis Swain, he attended Stephen A. Douglas Elementary School and Wendell Phillips High School. At Chicago’s Southside Community Arts Center, Swain met artists like Margaret Goss Burroughs and Gordon Parks and took lessons with dancers Lester Goodman, Lucille Ellis, Wilbert Bradley, Sammy Dyer, Tommy Gomez and Jimmy Payne. Swain performed with Carmencita Romero in the Annual Artists Ball at the Savoy. In 1940, Swain traveled with Romero and danced in Toronto before learning about African dance in New York from Senegal’s Assadata Dafora.

Returning to Chicago, Swain worked as one of choreographer Lon Fontaine’s “Beige Beaus” at the Beige Room. Swain then became choreographer and lead dancer at Chicago’s Club DeLisa, but gained his greatest notoriety as a member of the Co-Op Trio with Peter Green and Ann Henry. The Co-Ops performed with top acts like Count Basie and in venues like Larry Steele’s Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Arthur Bragg’s Idlewild Review in Michigan. In the 1960s, Swain continued to perform ballet and modern and ethnic dance and in 1971, he formed the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre at Malcolm X College.

As a singer and actor Swain has performed in various musical reviews and revivals including Okoro Harold Johnson’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Randall Johnson’s Le Stardust Revue, A Tribute to Duke Ellington, Chuck Hoenes’ Best of the Hit Paraders and Sugar. Featured in the The Blues Brothers, Swain also performed in Carlos Santana and Michelle Branch’s “The Game of Love” video. A dance panelist for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Swain also participates in Dance Africa. A recipient of the Black Theatre Alliance Award, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley honored Swain with the 2004 Chicago Senior Citizen Award.

Accession Number

A2005.075

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/23/2005

Last Name

Swain

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Marvin

Occupation
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

John J. Pershing West Middle School

Douglas Elementary School

Malcolm X College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Julian

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

SWA01

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/8/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

4/19/2011

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Julian Marvin Swain (1924 - 2011 ) formed the Co-Op Trio, which performed with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Swain was also the founder of the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre and Julian Swain and Friends, and was a dance panelist for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Employment

Barat College

Roosevelt University

Truman College

Malcom X College

Columbia College Chicago

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:492,9:5822,98:7544,135:9676,176:16318,307:16728,313:22052,327:25580,362:72850,744:75457,807:84025,890:86490,921:91724,954:93350,963:108816,1116:110944,1152:111704,1170:121268,1285:123626,1295:123954,1300:130384,1353:130848,1359:148550,1565:149740,1591:150505,1602:151015,1609:167453,1736:168229,1745:170630,1753:171038,1758:172058,1770:175502,1797:175912,1803:179908,1860:187900,1941:188332,1946:189628,1959:193330,1967:193953,1980:204678,2081:205161,2090:206080,2103$0,0:7361,86:7806,93:9930,117:10266,122:12282,148:26858,290:34749,364:40206,396:40926,402:48183,437:49693,452:50297,457:51656,467:62305,539:64384,565:65176,575:71812,637:73034,654:75171,663:80140,722:87050,759:87446,764:88535,776:89030,782:95290,842:97587,859:106412,913:107546,925:111174,964:113320,979:115330,988:122574,1050:122966,1055:127696,1086:133176,1108:135096,1127:135576,1133:136632,1142:143078,1183:144931,1207:145476,1213:146348,1222:146893,1229:149100,1237:150950,1245:151664,1253:152786,1266:153296,1272:156334,1302:157280,1312:158226,1326:164720,1401:167211,1419:169810,1443:174536,1492:174912,1497:176698,1521:177450,1531:177920,1537:178954,1555:185926,1605:188440,1611:188856,1616:190624,1634:191768,1649:192496,1657:194914,1666:195442,1673:195970,1681:198122,1691:200037,1705:200800,1712:205705,1762:209629,1846:212757,1896:219374,1976:226830,2059:230073,2069:234587,2082:243330,2154:243850,2160:246470,2166:248494,2179:249734,2195:250230,2200:250974,2208:262966,2291:267090,2305:267382,2310:267747,2316:268500,2323
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Julian Marvin Swain's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Julian Marvin Swain lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers his mother's professions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Julian Marvin Swain describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Julian Marvin Swain describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers babysitting Melvin King

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls his early artistic influences

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls his early formal dance training at the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham and her dancers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about his early dance performances

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers performing under Sammy Dyer

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers Carmencita Romero

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls his and neighbor Melvin King's early artistic inclinations

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers being a sideshow performer as his first gig outside Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Julian Marvin Swain describes the obstacles faced by African American performers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about HistoryMaker Jackie Taylor's career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Julian Marvin Swain gives advice to African Americans who aspire to be artists

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls his experience as a carnival performer in Canada

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers being stranded in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls his introduction to African dance

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about Babatunde Olatunji

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers returning to Chicago, Illinois after being stranded in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls meeting HistoryMaker Najwa I

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Julian Marvin Swain compares Larry Steele's 'Smart Affairs' and Arthur Braggs' 'Idlewild Revue'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls performing in Larry Steele's 'Smart Affairs' and Arthur Braggs' 'Idlewild Revue'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers becoming the Beige Beaus' choreographer

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls the Co-Op Trio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers his choreography career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls performing alongside Josephine Baker as part of the Co-Op Trio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers Josephine Baker

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Julian Marvin Swain describes highlights of his performance career

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about his dancing development

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about his ballet training

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Julian Marvin Swain recalls his decision to start a dance company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Julian Marvin Swain remembers establishing the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre at Malcolm X College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about performing at FESTAC '77 in Lagos, Nigeria

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Julian Marvin Swain talks about the transition of the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre into NAJWA Dance Corps

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Julian Marvin Swain describes his return to singing

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Julian Marvin Swain describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Julian Marvin Swain reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Julian Marvin Swain reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Julian Marvin Swain describes his mother's reaction to his artistic pursuits

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Julian Marvin Swain describes how he would like to be remembered and concludes his interview

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Julian Marvin Swain narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

8$6

DATitle
Julian Marvin Swain remembers being a sideshow performer as his first gig outside Chicago, Illinois
Julian Marvin Swain remembers establishing the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre at Malcolm X College in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
Now, how long did you stay in Chicago [Illinois], you know, dancing, before you actually you know left the city? 'Cause you--there' a story I know you have about going to New York [New York] with Carmencita [Romero], I think?$$I went--Carmencita, the first gig that we ever had--when I say gig, I mean the first major booking that we had outside of Chicago--we went to Montreal--Toronto, Canada to be in a carnival, and the carnival was a sideshow, and they used Carmencita's group, about three or four of her dancers as the wild men from Borneo, and we were in a sideshow--you know, where they have the fire eaters, and the sword eaters, and?$$And freaks, too?$$And freaks right, the man with the snakeskin, and the woman with the beard, and that kind of stuff, well.$$So everything that's supposed to be exotic, or is supposed to be some--?$$Well, it wasn't, it wasn't--they didn't have that, an exotic in this tent. This was all different, strange, freakish presentations.$$Okay so you all had to pretend to be from Borneo?$$We were supposedly the wild men from Borneo. They booked Carmencita's group, and she took us up there to be the wild men from Borneo.$$So, what did you--how did you feel about that at the time, you know, going up to be a wild man from Borneo?$$Well, you know, you must remember the time, and the time was when blacks were very, very ostracized, and you did whatever you could do, by any means necessary. You'd be a Stepin Fetchit [Lincoln Perry] if necessary, because that's what made Stepin Fetchit, Stepin Fetchit. By the way, he used to live catty-corner across the street from me and Butterbeans and Susie's [Jodie Edwards and Susie Edwards] house, but he is someone who is a comedic pioneer in the business that is very much looked down on--but people do not think about the times, and how hard it was for black people at that time. They even kind of look at Bill Robinson, Bill Bojangles Robinson, in that kind of way, because that was the only kind of work they could get, his Uncle Tom roles, and you did what you had to do in order to do what you wanted to do.$I approached Arnell [Pugh], or [HistoryMaker] Najwa [I] as you call her, and told her what I envisioned, and she was very helpful and supportive in helping me to develop what my dream was at that time, and it was to develop a company, and so we really started kind of started from scratch, because we started over at Malcolm X College [Chicago, Illinois]. It was young teenagers, undisciplined; young teenagers with no sense of worth. That, it was a very difficult process to inspire them to even want to dance and, in approaching them, especially the males, you could not approach them balletically [ph.], 'cause no black dancers was interested in no ballet. They definitely wasn't putting on no tights, so you had to approach them with, first, something that highlighted their blackness and their maleness, and the only way you could do that was through some form of ethnic or African-oriented dance, and so that was my approach to the black male, because he would not have accepted anything classical that I would have offered him, and soon as they became and showed some kind of proficiency, it had a great influence on their personal development as far as self-evaluation is concerned and as far as their personal worth, because when we started dancing with these teenagers, it was like on the corner of alleys in the summer with [HistoryMaker] Phil Cohran on summer programs out of Malcolm X College, and they finally got good enough where they could get on the grass and dance, and then they finally progressed enough to where they could get on portable stages, and it took a long time before I could take them to a concert situation, and between that and taking them to Africa to represent the United States was a long period of development.$$Now you started the group [Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre] what about 1970, you said before, was it '70 [1970]?$$Well I started to, my mother [Sarah Davis Swain] died in '70 [1970], and I must've started at Malcolm around '71 [1971], and I must've been there '72 [1972], '73 [1973], somewhere like that, and that was the nucleus that provided me with the environment in which I could begin to think about developing a company, and it also gave me access to youth and provided me with the kind of seed money or subsistence where I could nourish this young talent.

Joel Hall

Joseph “Joel” Hall was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 20, 1949. Hall began his dancing career in 1968 under the tutelage of Ed Parrish, and the following year, he moved to New York City, where he studied under Denise Jefferson. Returning to Chicago, he earned his B.A. degree in sociology from Northeastern Illinois University in 1972.

In 1974, Hall and Joseph Ehrenberg co-founded the Chicago City Theatre Company, which later became the Joel Hall Dance Center. Hall now serves as the artistic director and principal choreographer for the Joel Hall Dancers, and director and chief instructor of the training studio. Over the years, the Joel Hall Dancers have gained an international reputation and Hall has been widely acclaimed as a choreographer. His company has performed three seasons at the prestigious Joyce Theater in New York, and he has led the company on nine international tours, beginning with the Glasgow May Fest in 1985. Hall has created ballets for the Chicago City Ballet, the Zenon Dance Company in Minneapolis and Ballet Tennessee in Chattanooga, as well as choreographing the opera The Pearl Fishers at the Chicago Opera Theatre and Goldie Hawn’s film, Wildcats. In 1991, Hall choreographed the 50th Anniversary presentation of Duke Ellington’s musical Jump for Joy. In addition to these productions, he has created more than forty ballets for his own company.

Hall has also gained attention as an instructor of jazz dance. He has taught at Wayne State University, New York State University, Northern Illinois University, and Western Michigan University. He has also taught internationally, conducting classes in Liverpool, Glasgow, Inverness, Kirkcaldy, Belfast, and the United Kingdom. At the time of the interview, the Joel Hall Dance Center in Chicago offeredA2004.170 more than 150 classes a week to students ranging from age three to adults.

Accession Number

A2004.238

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/24/2004

Last Name

Hall

Maker Category
Middle Name

Lewis

Organizations
Schools

Edward Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts

St. Dominic's Elementary School

Austin O. Sexton Elementary School

Walter L. Newberry Math & Science Academy Elementary School

Cooley Vocational High School and Upper Grade Center

Lincoln Park High School

Northeastern Illinois University

Near North Career Magnet High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Joel

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

HAL09

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Live life fully, richly, honestly and love every single second of it.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

4/20/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken Salad

Short Description

Choreographer and dance instructor Joel Hall (1949 - ) co-founded the Chicago City Theatre Company, which later became the Joel Hall Dance Center. He has created over forty ballets, and has taught at several universities. His company has performed three seasons at the prestigious Joyce Theater in New York, and he has led the company on nine international tours, beginning with the Glasgow May Fest in 1985.

Employment

Chicago City Theatre Company

Favorite Color

Teal

Timing Pairs
0,0:1160,10:1930,20:2480,26:4910,39:5435,47:5960,55:6560,64:6935,70:8510,95:8885,101:9860,120:11360,137:20399,286:20944,292:21489,298:27588,370:27980,375:28862,385:32292,426:32684,431:33566,442:33958,447:40736,529:41120,534:43320,547:43728,552:44340,559:54100,641:56580,655:58428,685:74916,919:79128,961:79713,967:104350,1185:119202,1295:119578,1300:121082,1334:121646,1341:123338,1366:124654,1388:127870,1395:129053,1415:143019,1639:144545,1706:150462,1731:167244,1858:170970,1918:174512,2028:182544,2114:193360,2272:194320,2287:195120,2301:200425,2387:200899,2394:201294,2400:208514,2498:213151,2534:217890,2581:231096,2709:232033,2721$0,0:6760,72:9668,129:10276,143:11796,186:14000,252:14608,261:15976,283:16812,301:18256,316:18940,326:23102,350:23572,356:25598,365:26907,379:30020,385:30783,394:32527,421:33617,432:34816,449:41045,488:41521,493:41997,498:48660,550:51986,568:54410,593:54814,598:55521,617:56329,626:58570,645:62257,664:67756,692:70626,749:71282,760:72020,770:74480,785:77983,811:78667,817:79351,823:81968,839:82675,849:93690,935:94226,940:96809,962:101444,1045:113328,1127:113872,1132:114552,1138:115096,1143:118560,1175:121412,1226:122792,1249:123988,1270:126860,1277:127448,1287:127938,1293:144840,1482:147400,1497:148174,1512:149206,1581:153248,1621:161211,1723:165385,1785:166065,1802:166405,1807:168530,1834:174110,1901:174770,1924:182936,1997:188310,2071:188780,2077:190440,2083:190998,2091:192774,2101:196425,2149:197281,2157:201080,2202:210700,2310:213380,2323:221672,2358:221982,2364:223830,2395:224122,2435:224414,2446:229816,2581:233247,2636:239290,2659:239718,2664:240574,2674:241109,2680:241858,2689:243784,2739:245282,2765:245924,2772:246352,2777:247101,2785:251096,2805:254140,2832:256700,2848:264670,2933:264890,2950:265220,2958:265440,2963:265715,2969:266100,2978:278455,3166:282410,3181:283012,3189:284904,3232:287200,3243:293710,3344:294126,3349:295270,3358:297710,3369:299540,3379:303464,3419:307394,3471:311314,3504:311902,3515:312574,3530:313414,3542:313750,3550:318032,3577:318340,3582:319572,3609:321015,3621
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Joel Hall Slating

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joel Hall Favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joel Hall shares the story of his mother's institutionalization

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joel Hall discusses his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joel Hall remembers his stepmother, Annie Laura Young

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joel Hall discusses his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joel Hall details his family's migration from the South

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joel Hall shares some early childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joel Hall recalls the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joel Hall shares some childhood anecdotes and influences

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joel Hall details his elementary school education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joel Hall recalls family financial difficulties affecting his education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joel Hall describes favorite subjects and teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joel Hall reminisces about his neighborhood, Cabrini Green

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joel Hall leaves home at age 13 and ends up in juvenile hall

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joel Hall describes life in the Illinois Youth Commission, a delinquent boys facility

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joel Hall reflects on his lack of formal education while incarcerated

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joel Hall attends the Central YMCA Community College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joel Hall recalls the rising Black Arts Movement and political events

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Joel Hall begins to think about dance

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Joel Hall moves to New York City to study dance

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joel Hall discusses his move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joel Hall describes his life in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joel Hall returns to Chicago to start his dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joel Hall discusses the Chicago City Theater Company and his integrated dance troupe

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joel Hall charts the early successes of his dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joel Hall recalls his mentor, choreographer Talley Beatty

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joel Hall examines the influence of black dancers on modern dance

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joel Hall recalls his dance company contemporaries

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joel Hall shares his experiences with the Joel Hall Dance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joel Hall offers highlights from the Joel Hall Dance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joel Hall remembers dancers from the Joel Hall Dance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joel Hall highlights local up and coming dance talent

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joel Hall praises notable dance troupes

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joel Hall shares his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joel Hall notes his family's thoughts on his success

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joel Hall wouldn't change a thing if he did it all over again

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joel Hall discusses how AIDS decimated the arts community and his battle with prostate cancer

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joel Hall wants to leave a legacy as a teacher and mentor

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joel Hall hopes his interivew benefits others

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joel Hall wants to be remembered as a man with a larger vision

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Publicity photo of Joel Hall in 'My Love', a dance performance he choreographed, ca. 1967-1968

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Publicity photo of Joel Hall with other dancers in the performance of 'Chain of Fools'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Publicity photo of Joel Hall the dance performance of 'My Love'

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Publicity photo of Joel Hall with Ana Cha Yuen in a performance of 'Holy Holy'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Joel Hall portrait, ca. 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Joel Hall performs 'Night Walker', Chicago, Illinois, 1974-1975

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Joel Hall with Gus Giordano and Ann Barzel, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 2000-2004

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Joel Hall with Gerald Arpino, Ann Barzel and Frank Chavez, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 2000-2004

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Joel Hall's maternal grandmother, Emma Hanzinbraugh, ca. late 1800s

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Joel Hall with Joel Hall Dance Company members Merrick Mitchell and Vanessa Truvillion

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Lewis and Emma Lee Hall, ca. 1940s

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - Joel Hall's family celebrating his father's marriage to his stepmother, ca. 1950s

Tape: 5 Story: 20 - Photo - Award given to Joel Hall by Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, Illinois, September 13, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 21 - Photo - Poster from the Joel Hall Dancers' European tour, London, England, ca. 1980s

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

10$4

DATitle
Joel Hall begins to think about dance
Joel Hall discusses how AIDS decimated the arts community and his battle with prostate cancer
Transcript
Now, now, this is a tough situation to imagine someone thinking about being a dancer. Did you think about dance or the arts in, in this facility or did you have any idea-- (simultaneously)?$$Not really. What I thought about in that facility was getting out of there. I was trying to think about what was gonna happen with the rest of my life. Dance happened with me very naturally after that because once I was out, there were friends of mine that I had known, actually prior to all--any of this, that I had known when I was much younger, who were taking classes on the North side, okay. And I happened to go along with them and, well, just to watch what that was all about. And that's how I got into a ballet class. I ended up in a ballet class.$$Now, whose class was it that you--?$$There was--his name is [Eldon Day] Ed Parish. And he was, he had a studio actually up on Kedzie [Avenue] at that time.$$So is this 1967 or '68 [1968]?$$This was, yeah, about sixty, '68 [1968], maybe '67 [1967], '68 [1968]. And through Ed's class, I started taking class at, with a woman by the name of Frances, down on Van Buren [Street] and Wabash [Avenue]. She had a corner studio there, Frances Alice was her name. And that was a modern class. So I kind of found my way to dance through friends that were taking dance. And there was always something. I was one of those kids that could always move well. I could always dance well. I could always--in terms of neighborhood dance, I out dance anybody in the neighborhood. So for me it was a natural, kind of a natural progression to move in that direction, artistically, to the, to the artistic end of dance.$$What were some of the dances that were out when you were a teenager that you could do? I mean--?$$Oh, my goodness, well, one of the big dances was the twist, of course, the slide, the jerk, and just freestyle, freestyle was pretty, pretty big when I was much younger.$$Now, they hadn't started to [pop and] lock and that sort of thing yet, right?$$No, they hadn't started [popping and] locking yet. That came, that came a little later.$$Okay, I was wondering if--did you have, did you--were you aware of the dance world, really, as a profession, you know, when you were that age or did you--(unclear)?$$Not really, I mean that was all, that was all very alien to me. It was all very alien to me. And actually, I did not really learn about the dance world until I had started taking classes, as I said, with these other people. And found out that there was this whole area of the arts that was called 'dance'. And that's how I got, became involved in it. I ended up, actually, leaving Chicago [Illinois] and moving to New York [New York] to study dance.$Okay, and when you were, then the dance company was at, was at its, was growing to its height, I guess during the, when the, the time when the AIDS epidemic came in.$$Yes.$$And a lot of people in the arts were really affected by that. Do you have any comments about that?$$Well, I, certainly, it has devastated our community completely. There is a whole layer of people my age level that are missing, who were artists, completely wiped off of the face of the earth. Boom, gone. And I feel very privileged to even be on the planet, number one, in spite of any, any medical issues. I am at this point dealing with prostate cancer in my life, which is a new and interesting challenge. And fortunately, I caught it at a time that I was able to be able to do something about the fact that it has occurred, but many, many, many men do not have that opportunity. And I see, through this treatment that I'm going through presently that they just don't ever go to check. And that's the reason that they don't know. And by the time they do go to check, they're laying on a slab. And it's a little bit too late. So it's, this, this issue with cancer that I mentioned, it had always been a word that was outside of my world in terms of per--anything personal. I mean my father died from liver cancer, and my mother died from natural causes, my real mother. But I didn't somehow associate that with, with my ever having cancer. And all of a sudden, boom, one day you have cancer. Well, and then what do you do about that? How will you approach that? How you--how will you deal with that and how does that affect your work? How does that affect your art? It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next several years and how that has affected me. But I feel stronger as a result of having this experience. I feel that I have had it, and I'm glad that I had it when I did because I would rather have had it now than had it later when they could not have done anything about it. So my advice to you, my brother, is to go get a PSA [prostate specific antigen] every year, just to know, for your own information where you stand because in African American men particularly, we never go. The reason we never go is because--well, there are many reasons. The primary reason is because of the Tuskegee experiments, really. But we are--.$$And that's among those who should know better. They know about--they've read enough to know about that, so they don't go, but--.$$Right.$$--but those who don't know any better never go anyway.$$But they do know better as a result of that. I mean see, they don't know any better because, because that happened, even though we don't know why African Amer--American men do not go to doctors. That would be the reason, handed down through generations without even mentioning it, by the behavior of our fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts. They never went, so why should we go? So even though, and even if they don't know the story, there's a reason for everything, you see. So as I said, I was fortunate enough to be able to catch it at a time that they feel that they're able to do something about it. So I'm, right now in a holding period before I go in for something called implant in which they implant radiated pellets into the prostate and kill the rest of the cancer. But I've had five weeks or radiation, external, which has been a very different kind of experience for a person to go through.$$Okay.$$But, again, I'm better--I'm better, I feel, as a result of that experience, just to know that it exists and to know that I can make it through this period.

Darlene Blackburn

Dancer and dance instructor Darlene Blackburn was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 12, 1942. Her mother, Cora, was a homemaker and her stepfather, Richard, worked for the Ford Motor Company. The oldest of four children, Blackburn attended the Chicago Public Schools, earning her high school diploma in 1960. She later returned to school, earning her B.A. degree from Northeastern Illinois University in 1984 and her M.S. from Chicago State University in 1987.

Blackburn began dancing at an early age, and was heavily influenced by some of her teachers, including Jimmy Payne, Tommy Sutton, Lucille Evans and Tommy Gomez. In 1963, she first started becoming aware of her blackness through Phil Cohran, her life mentor, and that same year she founded the Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe. Influenced by Margaret Burroughs to study ethnic dance, Blackburn traveled to Jamaica in 1967, studying with the Jamaica National Dance Company. She continued to study foreign dance techniques, spending time in Ghana and Nigeria in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Returning to the United States, Blackburn became the Artist-in-Residence at Purdue University in 1974, and she remained there until 1976. The following year, she, along with ten members of her dance troupe, were invited to Lagos, Nigeria, to participate in the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. Following the enthusiastic response to their performance, Blackburn was invited to become the Artist-in-Residence at the University of Calabar in Nigeria, where she remained for the next three years. In 1983, Blackburn and her dancers began working with Urban Gateways – an arts education agency - in Chicago, and over the next few years they sent her throughout the Caribbean to study dance.

Blackburn has worked as a dance instructor at a number of institutions, including the Calumet Career Preparatory Academy, the Chicago Boys and Girls Club, the Goodman Theatre and Mostly Music, Inc. She has also served as choreographer for a number of productions, including “Benito Cereno” at the Goodman Theatre and “The Lion and the Jewel” at the University of Chicago. She has also been honored numerous times, including receiving the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award from Ladies of Distinction and the Alyo Award from the Muntu Theatre of Chicago.

Accession Number

A2004.120

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/9/2004

Last Name

Blackburn

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Organizations
Schools

Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School

Northeastern Illinois University

Chicago State University

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Darlene

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BLA07

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Caribbean

Favorite Quote

If You Work Hard, You Can Achieve Whatever You Want.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/12/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mangoes

Short Description

Choreographer, dancer, and dance instructor Darlene Blackburn (1942 - ) founded the Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe, incorporating ethnic dancing that she studied while traveling in Jamaica and West Africa. She has worked as a dance instructor at numerous institutions and served as a choreographer for a number of productions.

Employment

Darlene Blackburn Dance Troup

Jamaica National Dance Company

Purdue University

University of Calabar

Urban Gateways

Calumet Career Preparatory Academy

Chicago Boys and Girls Club

Goodman Theater

Mostly Music, Inc.

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:139210,1983$0,0:11542,72:21710,192:25790,258:55590,552:67669,701:78664,848:88784,1019:93131,1036:95640,1052:98190,1105:98490,1110:98790,1115:101115,1154:102465,1181:120156,1422:124817,1503:136034,1708:169453,2139:169745,2144:170183,2151:202130,2528
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Darlene Blackburn's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn describes her stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn describes her parents' dancing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn describes her earliest memories of singing and dancing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Chicago, Illinois' Morgan Park neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Darlene Blackburn describes growing up in the Morgan Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Darlene Blackburn describes her early childhood interest in art in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about joining the Girls Scouts

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn describes transitioning from living in Morgan Park to Englewood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn talks about being the new girl in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn describes attending Copernicus Elementary School in Englewood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn describes traveling alone around Chicago, Illinois as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn describes trying to hide bad conduct grades from her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn describes attending Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn describes the atmosphere in Chicago, Illinois' Englewood community while she was in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching her first dance classes

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn describes her studies in Chicago Teachers College's physical education department

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching dance classes and deciding to become a dancer

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn describes the dance scene in Chicago, Illinois and her mother's reservations about her becoming a dancer

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about dancing in clubs on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn describes meeting percussionist Master Henry Gibson

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about HistoryMaker Philip "Phil" Cohran

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn talks about On the Beach

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn talks about artists she knew in the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about On the Beach and the beginnings of the Afro-Arts Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn talks about Amiri Baraka's visit to the Afro-Arts Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about political and racial tensions surrounding the Afro-Arts Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn talks about efforts to keep the Afro-Arts Theater operational

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the Black Arts community in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about performances at the Afro-Arts Theater and the expected lifestyle of its artists

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn describes her family's reactions to her lifestyle

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on black pride

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on creative experimentation

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn talks about yoga instructor Asar Hapi

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the decline of the Afro-Arts Theater

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her first trip to Ghana in 1969

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about losing her identity as a dancer while performing with HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about deciding to return to Chicago, Illinois after studying under HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the Black Panthers and the Afro-Arts Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on the atmosphere of the Afro-Arts Theater crowd

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her 1971 trip to Nigeria

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn talks about the origins of the Muntu Dance Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn talks about auditioning for HistoryMaker Ossie Davis' musical, 'Purlie'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about touring with the musical 'Purlie'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn talks about taking dance classes in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her style of dancing

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn talks about dance technique and avoiding injury

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn talks about attending Festac 77 in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Darlene Blackburn talks about attending Festac 77 in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Darlene Blackburn talks about living in Nigeria for two years

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching dance after returning to the U.S. after living in Nigeria

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Darlene Blackburn reflects on the arts and transitioning to focusing on choreographing

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her dance philosophy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Darlene Blackburn reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Darlene Blackburn talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Darlene Blackburn reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Darlene Blackburn talks about how her parents feel about her career

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Darlene Blackburn reflects upon how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Darlene Blackburn narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Darlene Blackburn narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

11$9

DATitle
Darlene Blackburn talks about teaching dance classes and deciding to become a dancer
Darlene Blackburn talks about her style of dancing
Transcript
During this time did you, did you--now, who was teaching the class, teaching at Dunbar [High School, Chicago, Illinois]? Were you still taking classes at Dunbar?$$No, I was teaching at the Ys [YMCAs]. I started at Ashland Y [Chicago, Illinois], Woodlawn Y [Chicago, Illinois] picked me up. They wanted me to teach classes there. I was teaching dance classes out of my basement, because I, everybody wanted me to teach them what I was learning. And here we go back to again, I was telling you how I was in Morgan Park I started on the church steps promoting the little girls and stuff, teaching classes. I was so physical, remember I told you I was a gym leader at Lindblom [Technical High School, now Lindblom Math & Science Academy, Chicago, Illinois]. I was getting up the whole block of kids by that time in the summertime because we had to work on our physical fitness at six a.m. in the morning. I'm tapping on people's windows and stuff, talking about come on lets's go, let's go, we got to get fit. Let's run around the block. We got to get fit. Parents are having fits, waking up the whole block.$$That sounds--$$I guess what I'm saying and I didn't know none of that was gonna lead to any other thing. I'm just having big fun 'cause I'm really physically fit, you know, and I wanted everybody else to get fit like me. Parents were angry, like, would you tell your daughter not to knock on my window at no six o'clock in the morning.$$Okay. So you've got classes going so when you drop out of school you got classes going and stuff, so that's basically what you're doing for a living or--$$Right, I did that for a second because, of course, there wasn't any money, so I got a job finally at Illinois Bell [Telephone Company], information operator, and then I started taking professional classes 'cause I decided, I told my mom [Cora Blackburn] I decided, that's what I want to do.$$Okay, so this is 1962, '63 [1963].$$Uh hum. I decided I wanted to be a dancer.$(Unclear) is it, I know African dance is more popular now probably than it's ever been. I guess they had more troupes and had more people involved in African dancing. In those days it wasn't that easy to get people involved in it.$$Exactly. When I started with Urban Gateways and I went around in the schools with no shoes on, the kids was laughing, like ooh, she ain't got no shoes on. And Afro, oh please, all of that was, I used to go on stage I had to take a deep breath. I had to take a deep breath because here I was going home with my nappy head and no shoes on and I had, I mean, that made me a good dancer because I did flips, I stood on my head, I incorporated gymnastics in it. And, I mean, I did some things I haven't seen, and that was like, ha, can you handle this. I mean I would present it to the audience. I was always like that. Can you beat this, you know? The floor is hot, step on up here. I challenged 'em to come on up there with me. So I kinda and I taught my dancers that you demand respect by being good, you know, because they were all, all the other modern dancers, they were looking at me as oh she hasn't had any training, you know, not no real training, she just haven't had any ballet. And I'd go into an attitude which I didn't know was an attitude at that time. I put my leg up and I keep moving around on one, you know, one leg just spinning around without stopping, and be doing hand work at the same time, and just hold it because I had taken yoga. My concentration was superb.$$This is, were you the first dancer with Phil Cohran's [HM Philip Cohran's] ensemble?$$Uh hum, yes.$$So, so you basically set the tone for some of the dance, I mean for those who have seen Sun Ra and the sisters that danced with him, it's a lot of spinning, a lot of yoga inspired movement.$$Exactly.$$Had a lot of improvisation movement.$$Improvisation, right. Right.$$It's made up like jazz on the spur of the moment.$$Exactly.$$What you feel.$$Whatever you feel, and to have, I mean, the best you know and you had the best musicians and I worked with the Chicago Art Ensemble [Chicago, Illinois] I mean to have people like that Moye and Joseph Jarman and all of them to say, you know, we want you to perform my music. I mean those, I mean you couldn't have gotten, to me any better than that. They made me comfortable, so I didn't care about the dance world, that's my point, telling me that I had no real training because I was, I'm dancing with the people, the Chicago Art Ensemble? Please.

Dianne McIntyre

Choreographer, dancer, and director Dianne McIntyre was born in 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio to Dorothy Layne McIntyre and Francis Benjamin McIntyre. She attended Cleveland Public Schools and graduated from John Adams High School in 1964. As a child, she studied ballet with Elaine Gibbs and modern dance with Virginia Dryansky and earned a BFA degree in dance from The Ohio State University.

Following her move to New York City in 1970, McIntyre founded her own company, Sounds in Motion, in 1972. McIntyre and her company toured and performed in concert with Olu Dara, Lester Bowie, Cecil Taylor, Max Roach, Butch Morris, David Murray, Hamiet Bluiett, Ahmed Abdullah, Don Pullen, Anthony Davis, Abbey Lincoln, Sweet Honey in the rock, Hannibal, Oliver Lake, and countless others musicians until 1988, when she closed it to have more time to explore new areas of creative expression. From her studio, McIntyre mentored many dance artists and continues to do so.

McIntyre’s special interest in history and culture as it relates to dance has led to many projects for her in the areas of concert dance, theatre, film and television, including (in dance) Union (after her research in Haiti) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (from Zora Neale Hurston’s novel). Other signature concert dance and dance theatre works are Take Off from a Forced Landing (her mother’s aviator stories), Mississippi Talks, Ohio Walks, I Could Stop on a Dime and Get Ten Cents Change (her father’s stories of Cleveland), and Open the Door, Virginia! (school civil rights events). In addition to completing works for her own companies, she has choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Dallas Black Dance, as well as college dance groups.

McIntyre’s work in theatre has been for Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional productions and London, England. Her theatre choreography credits of more than thirty plays include Mule Bone, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Spell #7, Crowns and Scott Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha. For film, McIntyre’s work appears in Beloved and for television, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper and Miss Evers’ Boys, for which she received an Emmy nomination.

Other awards include a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2009 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from State University of New York Purchase College, three Bessies (NY Dance), two AUDELCOs (NY Black Theatre), a Helen Hayes Award (DC Theatre) and the Cleveland Arts Prize.

Grant support for McIntyre’s work includes awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pew Charitable Trust and the New York State Council on the Arts. She has served on the board of directors of the Stage Directors and Choreographers’ Society. McIntyre is also a member of the Dramatists Guild and ASCAP.

Accession Number

A2004.085

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/18/2004

Last Name

McIntyre

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

John Adams High School

Andrew J. Rickoff Elementary School

Alexander Hamilton Junior High School

The Ohio State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Dianne

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

MCI03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Chincoteague, Virginia

Favorite Quote

Carry On.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

7/18/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mango Lassi

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Dianne McIntyre (1946 - ) founded her own dance company, Sounds in Motion, which was active during the 1970s and 1980s. McIntyre's special interest in history and culture as it relates to dance had led to many projects for her in the areas of concert dance, theatre, film and television.

Employment

Sounds in Motion

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Ailey II

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

Dallas Black Dance

University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee

Favorite Color

Light Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:5747,104:9412,141:12846,177:13214,182:13582,187:16742,208:17147,214:17633,221:18038,227:19253,250:19658,256:20063,262:20387,267:20954,276:26682,345:30454,398:33816,433:34144,478:34472,483:45924,579:46356,586:46716,592:47004,597:52360,642:53567,683:53993,691:54419,698:54845,705:56549,752:61848,786:62112,791:63168,816:63894,833:64554,846:64884,852:68880,901:69336,908:70172,921:70552,926:70856,953:71388,961:73136,994:75264,1032:75568,1037:80146,1070:81334,1097:91590,1262:95776,1284:96202,1303:96841,1313:97196,1320:97906,1336:98332,1343:98616,1348:99184,1358:99681,1366:100249,1377:100533,1382:100817,1387:101314,1396:108740,1499:115730,1567:116010,1572:117690,1603:121592,1635:121924,1640:124849,1675:125234,1681:126928,1705:127390,1713:128160,1724:128776,1737:129546,1750:130316,1763:130701,1769:131394,1786:136908,1833:137172,1838:137436,1843:137832,1855:139152,1871:139944,1885:141198,1907:141462,1912:141726,1917:145435,1962:153940,2051:154260,2056:154580,2061:158580,2103:161540,2185:166907,2217:167577,2228:170257,2265:170726,2274:171798,2298:173540,2332:177359,2409:178632,2434:179101,2443:179503,2450:181111,2475:187364,2510:188012,2517:193020,2573:193510,2581:195330,2616:195610,2621:201110,2672:202326,2695:202646,2700:206080,2734$0,0:1254,53:1848,72:3102,98:3432,104:4224,119:5676,148:7524,189:8514,209:8910,217:10230,241:10560,247:11088,258:12342,285:27800,427:29240,446:29720,454:30120,460:30840,472:31160,477:31640,484:37962,531:38372,537:43476,597:49416,732:49680,737:50406,750:51066,766:51858,781:52452,792:55280,797:55695,803:57189,831:58019,844:58600,852:58932,857:59513,865:61270,871:61972,883:64936,956:69070,1037:69694,1046:70474,1057:70786,1062:71566,1073:73438,1102:77764,1124:80377,1180:80980,1190:84382,1207:84914,1216:85294,1222:86358,1235:87574,1255:88714,1278:92514,1345:92818,1350:93122,1355:93502,1361:93958,1368:94566,1377:94870,1382:97930,1387:101538,1447:101978,1453:107346,1520:107786,1526:113888,1619:114228,1625:116948,1687:117560,1698:122028,1745:122556,1754:123084,1764:123348,1769:123876,1776:124404,1786:124668,1791:126450,1825:126714,1830:127176,1845:127440,1850:127770,1856:129882,1888:130542,1899:138084,1936:139748,1967:140476,1975:144012,2018:144532,2024:148796,2069:153020,2078:157161,2091:162271,2129:162636,2136:162928,2141:163658,2158:164169,2165:164534,2171:166724,2242:178080,2323
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dianne McIntyre's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre describes her mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre describes her father's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her father's, paternal grandfather's and sister's careers

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dianne McIntyre talks about the stage works she created about her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dianne McIntyre describes her mother's childhood home and her decision to go to West Virginia State College in Institute, West Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dianne McIntyre describes the racial discrimination her mother experienced as a pilot in the 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre talks about the aircraft mechanics class that her mother taught during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her parents' decision to settle in Cleveland, Ohio and the changing demographics of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre describes her earliest childhood memories in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dianne McIntyre describes growing in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio and family vacations

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dianne McIntyre describes her extracurricular activities and an encouraging teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her early dance lessons and influential dance teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her childhood dance classes in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre talks about the history of Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre describes her experience attending St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Ohio as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre describes race relations in school during the 1950s and 1960s in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dianne McIntyre shares a story about trying out for the cheerleading team at John Adams High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her childhood aspirations and the encouragement she felt as a child from her community

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dianne McIntyre reflects upon the impact of the Civil Right Movement in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dianne McIntyre describes the reputation of John Adams High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dianne McIntyre describes changing her major at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and the political atmosphere in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre describes teaching dance at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during student protests, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre describes teaching dance at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during student protests, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her participation in the Black Arts Movement and moving to New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dianne McIntyre recalls studying under dance masters in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dianne McIntyre talks about African and African American dancers who inspired her

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dianne McIntyre describes her work and activities upon arriving in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dianne McIntyre describes the growth of the dance company she founded, Sounds in Motion

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dianne McIntyre describes the dance style of her company, Sounds in Motion

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dianne McIntyre talks about Willi Smith designing clothes for her dancers and the concept of beauty in her choreography

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre describes a piece she choreographed entitled, 'The Voyage'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre talks about performers of different sizes

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre talks about Alvin Ailey's dance work, 'Revelations'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dianne McIntyre describes working with choreographer Alvin Ailey

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dianne McIntyre talks about African American male choreographers of the 1970s and the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dianne McIntyre reflects upon the historical period and legacy of the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dianne McIntyre describes creating her work based on 'Their Eyes Were Watching God,' by Zora Neale Hurston

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dianne McIntyre describes working with Ntozake Shange, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre describes working with Ntozake Shange, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre talks about different productions she has choreographed, including 'Treemonisha'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre describes her decision to end her dance company, Sounds in Motion

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dianne McIntyre talks about Nanette Bearden and working on a piece entitled, 'How Long Brethren?'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dianne McIntyre describes creating her piece, 'In Living Color' and working on the film, 'Miss Evers' Boys'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dianne McIntyre talks about working on the film, 'Beloved'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dianne McIntyre describes a moving scene in 'Beloved' which features Beah Richards

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dianne McIntyre talks about her signature pieces and her work in 2004

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dianne McIntyre gives advice to aspiring choreographers

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Dianne McIntyre narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Dianne McIntyre describes a piece she choreographed entitled, 'The Voyage'
Dianne McIntyre describes working with Ntozake Shange, pt. 2
Transcript
For instance, we [McIntyre's dance company, Sounds in Motion] did a piece once called 'The Voyage.' In this piece it was about--it was five people who were getting ready to be sold into slavery. They had a chain around their ankles and there was a point where they would be walking, step close, step close, step close and they were facing the audience to the front and they could see the horizon past them, they were in a new land that they didn't know and there was no music when they did the step close, step close so you heard that chain dragging along the floor. Then one person would step forward almost on the auction block and from that time, then he would have a dream of what he wished things could be and in that dream there's a beautiful spiritual that would be sung. In this time we were looking for what the clothes would be for those people and I couldn't find them till I went to a rental place in New York City [New York, New York], costume rental and I brought the clothes back that I felt looked actually like they were from slave times, they were from probably some theater production and I throw them all out on the floor. Some of them were burlap very heavy weave--heavy clothes and I threw them out on the floor and the dancers picked them out and they put them on and it was something like a ritual. It was almost like they knew exactly what to do with each piece of clothing. They wrapped their heads, they put the clothes on, the skirts some of them they tie up in a partial tuck in the apron it was very moving and when they finished they were their ancestors--they had become their ancestors. It was very moving and when they did the piece after that it was like walked back in time. I'm telling this story to say that they in their hearts and their souls were beautiful as were their ancestors. What they wore on the outside was not beautiful but because the statement they were making there was a beauty beyond the surface beauty. And the funny thing about it, the clothes were so perfect that I didn't want to take them back to the costume place, they were only rented. So I'm like what am I going to do? So I had a person who was helping me with costumes and she went to a secondhand store and she found a piece--you see when you sign the things out the person who signs them out makes a description. You have one red striped apron, one long skirt but it was very general. So we bought a bunch of things that fit the description that we had on the little slip and that's what I returned (laughter) 'cause we didn't feel it was illegal 'cause we felt that those costumes were actually ours in order to tell that story. So the black is beautiful can take different shapes, different forms.$And 'Zake [Ntozake Shange] was in it ['Spell #7'] at first, she used to always put herself in the first version of the production. So we worked on that and it was a fascinating experience because it wasn't a play at first, in rehearsal she would bring in a series of poems. She had a concept for the beginning of it and it started with a dance, a mammy dance. It was something about whether actors--performers are performing like a minstrel as they do their work or are they really being who they are? Are they really being the black person they are or are they putting on a show like somebody would do in black face in the old days? These were the questions that came up so it started with the mammy dance. That dance was set then something in between but the concept of the dances was very clear from her. Then these poems that she had written over several years came to the table and then [HistoryMaker] Oz [Scoot] and 'Zake would figure out what person was going to say the poem and how it interfaced with movement and how the people's characters were developing related to the poems. So it wasn't a play when we started rehearsal, it developed into a play through the rehearsal process. It was amazing, quite amazing just quite all brilliant people. Some of whom I have kept up associations with over time and then 'Zake and I have done some other pieces together over time that have been maybe smaller, you know, not as known to the wider public and the last thing I did with her was in 2003, last spring, she's been teaching at the University of Florida [Gainesville, Florida] and I came and worked on a piece with her down there. The two of us were in it too, 'Zake and myself and some of her students. So yeah she's one of my favorite people to work with. She's had some challenges in her life and at the same time no matter what those challenges are she's always the consummate artist. She's clear, direct and the ideas are just flowing and her writing just flows. I think she's also one of the finer writers of the America present--presently in American literature. Well, let me take this back, it's not like I read everything, it's just I would like to say to her the way her flow really inspire me, the way she can really get across an idea and the flow of her music is--her poetry is like music.

Cleo Parker Robinson

Denver native Cleo Parker Robinson was born on July 17, 1948. She almost died at age ten when her kidneys shut down and a segregated Dallas hospital did not admit her quickly enough to prevent heart failure. A doctor told her she would remain bedridden her entire life, but Robinson refused to believe that. She threw herself into dancing in order to overcome the pain of her body and the racism she faced. Today, she is the executive artistic director and choreographer of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.

Robinson began teaching dance at the University of Colorado at the age of fifteen. She graduated from the Colorado Women's College (now Denver University), having focused on dance, education and psychology. She studied with legendary dancer and humanitarian Katherine Dunham and then founded her own company in 1970. The mission of this ensemble is to foster appreciation, access and the development of new audiences for dance. Robinson attempts to educate audiences about the rich heritage and ancestral gifts on which this predominately African American ensemble draws through a year-round dance school, an international summer dance institute and national and international performances. Robinson also seeks to ensure the arts are carried on by future generations. A program called Project Self-Discovery (PSD) demonstrates her commitment to youth outreach. PSD provides the arts to at-risk Denver youth as an alternative to gang activity, substance abuse and other tragic possibilities. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has performed in prisons, and some inmates have worked for the company after release. Robinson firmly believes in the healing power of art and that dance is a universal language.

Robinson has collaborated with many people on diverse projects, from operas such as Aida and Carmen to commissions with mentor Maya Angelou. She has worked with Marin Alsop, conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, on such pieces as Porgy and Bess and Stravinsky's The Firebird. She has been granted choreography fellowships from the Colorado Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lila Wallace Foundation, among others. Robinson was featured in the Gordon Parks film, Run Sister Run. She serves as first vice president of the International Association of Blacks in Dance and as a Denver Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees member.

Accession Number

A2002.121

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

6/21/2002 |and| 11/4/2008

Last Name

Robinson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Parker

Organizations
Schools

St. Anthony Academy

George Washington High School

Colorado Women's College

Hill Campus of Arts & Sciences

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Cleo

Birth City, State, Country

Denver

HM ID

ROB03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Colorado

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

That's Really Deep.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Colorado

Birth Date

7/17/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Denver

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cheesecake

Short Description

Artistic director, choreographer, and dancer Cleo Parker Robinson (1948 - ) served as the founder and creative executive director of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.

Employment

University of Colorado

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Favorite Color

Orange, Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Photo - Portrait of Cleo Parker Robinson, Denver, Colorado, 2001

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Photo - Dancer Marceline Freeman performing 'Ebony Magazine: To a Village' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Photo - Dancer Terrell Davis performing 'The Coming of the Dawn' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Photo - Dancers Ryan Leveille and Terrell Davis, performing 'Three Too Blue' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2001

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Photo - Dancers Patrick Peel and Sheila Mackow performing 'Temple in Motion' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2000

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Photo - Cleo Parker Robinson with her dance ensemble on the cover of 'Dance Teacher' magazine, September, 2000

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Photo - Members of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble performing 'Thinking Heart', 2000

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Photo - Dancers Terrell Davis and Lisa Thomas performing 'Ebony Magazine: To a Village' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Photo - Dancer Rachael Ashley performing 'Salome's Daughters' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, ca. 1998

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Slating of Cleo Parker Robinson interview

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Cleo Parker Robinson's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares stories about her ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her parents' musical aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the racial experience in Denver in the 1950s

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains her father's initial interest in theater

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her experiences as a child in both Denver and Dallas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects on the Denver neighborhood of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares a story about the difficulties her parents experienced while trying to get married

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks fondly of her father as her role model

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her father's acting roles and his theater company in Denver

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the plays performed by her father's theater company

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her feelings about suddenly being separated from her father

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her father's return and her racial awareness

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson details the black and white communities in Texas discriminating against her

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls almost dying as a child and her family's dealings with a segregated hospital

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains how her brush with death affected her spirituality

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes attending an all-white high school in Denver

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her high school ambition to be a dancer

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson tells a story about the discovery of her half siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the power and importance of the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the origins of her love for teaching dance

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her multicultural philosophy in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her experience at Colorado Women's College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson tells of her father's hiring as the director of Colorado Women's College's dance theater

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of Cleo Parker Robinson's interview, session 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her start as a dance instructor

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her social life in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her early athletic involvement

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her work with the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Brighton, Colorado

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her early career aspirations

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her start at Colorado Women's College in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her early dance instruction at Colorado Women's College

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her early mentors

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her experiences as a dance student in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls marrying Tom Robinson

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers joining the Model Cities Cultural Center in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her career at the Model Cities Cultural Center

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the start of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance company

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her early choreography

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the dance piece, 'Rain Dance'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her early dance studios

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the gang culture of Denver, Colorado, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the gang culture of Denver, Colorado, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the legacy of Katherine Dunham, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the legacy of Katherine Dunham, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her work with Talley Beatty

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her philosophy of dance instruction

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers Curtis Fraser

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her co-founder, Schyleen Qualls

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the development of her choreography

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the piece, 'Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares her advice to African American youth

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Cleo Parker Robinson shares a story about the difficulties her parents experienced while trying to get married
Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the origins of her love for teaching dance
Transcript
Did you ever feel stigmatized for having a--a--a white mother [Martha Mae Parker] and black father [Jonathon Parker], or did any, anybody, you know--?$$Well, I, I, I think, it was confusing after I went to Dallas [Texas]. It wasn't confusing up to then because, it--it was rather natural. It was interesting, I mean, all four of us would be in the, in the car. Yeah--I remember one of the--what did we have? Like a Studebaker [brand of car], and then, we'd have, like the Chevys [Chevrolet, brand of car]--Daddy [Jonathon Parker] wasn't a Ford [brand of car] man, he was a Chevy man. So, the old Chevys with the four doors, and then the--you know, the runways, where you put your foot on it, before you get in the car. And, we'd open up the back seat, and he could get all four of us in the back seat. Well, sometimes, when we'd see a black man with a white woman, we would look back--be like, "What is that?" Because that's what people would do to our parents. They were always looking like, "That's strange!" So, if we saw it, we were looking too. I--I don't know why but that's what--you know, it was like it was a rare thing. So, even though, I think, Denver [Colorado] was rather--there was probably more tolerance for mixed marriages. They had to go to four different states to get married. They could not get married in Denver. And--and they had to go to Wyoming--couldn't get married there. They went to--I don't know the next state--Utah. And then they ended up in Mexico. And even after they married there, they had to sleep in two separate rooms married. And, I remember Mama [Martha Mae Parker] talking about--you know, I mean, Daddy was always connected to Hispanic people, but, he spoke a little Spanish and he heard them talking about coming into Mama's room and raping her. So, she--you know, Daddy had to--on the night of their wedding in Mexico, get a man who was coming through the--you know, how they have the openings in the--the doors, where they have the opening at the top?$$The transom [window]--the--?$$Right, right. He had to get this man, and, and wear him out.$Now, when you graduated from high school [George Washington High School, Denver, Colorado], you wanted--you were thinking of going into medicine? And, how did you end up in--in dance?$$Well, I actually--as soon as I got back, my--my parents--because, my father [Jonathon Parker] worked at the [Helen] Bonfils Theatre [Denver, Colorado] and then, became an actor, and then became you know very, very involved in creating theater on his own. I, then, met two wonderful women there, who ran the Colorado Ballet, and, I saw one of the most magical pieces on that stage: 'Carmina Burana' and that blew my mind. I went, "I wanna do that--that extraordinary music by Carl Orff." I wanted to do that and I wanted to create it. But I also had met another woman who was married to a doctor. And she wanted me to be introduced to the dance. And--and through this circle, Daddy said, "Well this kid needs a job. She's sixteen, or fourteen, or fourteen, I think. She needs to work!" And so, they gave me a little summer job. And then she said, "I want you to take my classes in the summer." And she says, "Now, I'm leaving for about a few weeks, or--and I'm--I want you to take over my classes." And I said, "Like take over the classes?" So I ended up teaching her classes. And she--when she came back, she didn't take over her classes. I continued to teach them. So that was wild! Then I had a little car, and I would teach everywhere. I found out teaching was thrilling for me, because I could bring people together in the most fascinating way and the most extraordinary way and the most physical way. I mean, I love being physical. I was an athlete so I love being physical. So I loved to jump, and turn, and--and fly, and do anything. And doing all that, I loved it, but to be able to find this sense of harmony in dance with others--and it didn't matter how big or small, or if they were rich or not, 'cause you couldn't tell. You didn't know if somebody was rich or not rich, or whether they had--what kind of history they had. They were all--everybody was--there was a common ground, there. This was an extraordinary thing. So I started teaching and never stopped. And then I started my own school once I got into college [Colorado Women's College, later the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado]. I--I started--because I found another kindred spirit, who, very much like me, was not in the mainstream, Chris Kusuma. And she--she didn't have the body of dancer. She was Japanese, and didn't have the body of a ballet dancer. But we studied then, classical Japanese and African dance and Spanish dance, and we--we brought it into our school. It was really a magic time. We had a good time.

Katherine Dunham

Legendary dancer, choreographer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham was born June 22, 1909, to an African American father and French-Canadian mother who died when she was young. At an early age, Dunham became interested in dance. However, she did not seriously pursue a career in the profession until she was a student at the University of Chicago.

During her studies, Dunham attended a lecture on anthropology, where she was introduced to the concept of dance as a cultural symbol. Intrigued by this theory, Dunham began to study African roots of dance and, in 1935, she traveled to the Caribbean for field research. Dunham was exposed to sacred ritual dances performed by people on the islands of Haiti and Jamaica. She returned to the United States in 1936 informed by new methods of movement and expression, which she incorporated into techniques that transformed the world of dance.

In 1940, she formed the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, which became the premier facility for training dancers. Alumnae include Eartha Kitt, Marlon Brando and Julie Belafonte. Dunham is credited with introducing international audiences to African aesthetics and establishing African dance as a true art form. Called the “Matriarch of Black Dance,” her groundbreaking repertoire combined innovative interpretations of Caribbean dances, traditional ballet, African rituals and African American rhythms to create the Dunham Technique, which she performed with her dance troupe in venues around the world. Her many original works include L’ag’ya, Shango and Bal Negre. She also choreographed and appeared in Broadway musicals, operas and the film Cabin in the Sky.

The Dunham troupe toured for two decades, stirring audiences around the globe with their dynamic and highly theatrical performances. These experiences provided ample material for the numerous books, articles and short stories Dunham authored.

Dunham accepted a position at Southern Illinois University in East St. Louis in the 1960s. During her tenure, she secured funding for the Performing Arts Training Center, where she introduced a program designed to channel the energy of the community’s youth away from gangs and into dance. Dunham was always a formidable advocate for racial equality, boycotting segregated venues in the United States and using her performances to highlight discrimination. She made national headlines by staging a hunger strike to protest the U.S. government’s repatriation policy for Haitian immigrants.

Throughout her distinguished career, Dunham earned numerous honorary doctorates, awards and honors. She was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honors Award, the Plaque d'Honneur Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce Award, and a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Dunham passed away on Sunday, May 21, 2006 at the age of 96.

Accession Number

A2000.020

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

12/17/2000 |and| 2/11/2001

Last Name

Dunham

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Katherine

Birth City, State, Country

Glen Ellyn

HM ID

DUN01

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

McCormick Tribune Foundation

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Haiti

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/22/1909

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sole

Death Date

5/21/2006

Short Description

Choreographer, dancer, and dance instructor Katherine Dunham (1909 - 2006 ) is credited with introducing international audiences to African aesthetics and establishing African dance as a true art form. Called the “Matriarch of Black Dance,” her groundbreaking repertoire combined innovative interpretations of Caribbean dances, traditional ballet, African rituals and African American rhythms to create the Dunham Technique, which she performed with her dance troupe in venues around the world.

Employment

Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre

Southern Illinois University

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Platinum

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Katherine Dunham interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Katherine Dunham's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Katherine Dunham moves to Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Katherine Dunham remembers her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Katherine Dunham discusses her parents' age difference

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Katherine Dunham describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Katherine Dunham discusses her parents' interracial marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Katherine Dunham describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Katherine Dunham describes her brother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Katherine Dunham describes her personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Katherine Dunham discusses her brother's influence on her

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Katherine Dunham discusses her interest in dance

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Katherine Dunham describes her brother's education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Katherine Dunham works as a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Katherine Dunham discusses her interest in anthropology

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Katherine Dunham mentions influential anthropologists

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Katherine Dunham discusses her Caribbean travels

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Katherine Dunham tells why she formed her own dance company

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Katherine Dunham moves to New York

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Katherine Dunham mentions her first marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Katherine Dunham descibes why she accepts the voodoo religion

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Katherine Dunham develops her own dance technique

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Katherine Dunham discusses 'Tropics and Le Jazz Hot'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Katherine Dunham mentions students of her dance school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Katherine Dunham describes the Dunham Technique

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Katherine Dunham's dance company travels Europe

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Katherine Dunham describes her involvement in her dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Katherine Dunham discusses memorable life experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Katherine Dunham capitalizes on her sex appeal

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Katherine Dunham discusses her mentor

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Katherine Dunham mentions her favorite works

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Katherine Dunham remarries and adopts daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Katherine Dunham discusses her second husband

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Katherine Dunham discusses the importance of dance

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Katherine Dunham discusses her work in Haiti

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Katherine Dunham discusses her hopes for Haiti

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Katherine Dunham moves to East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Katherine Dunham discusses East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Katherine Dunham discusses her life's cause

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Katherine Dunham discusses her future goals

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Katherine Dunham shares her hopes for African Americans

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Katherine Dunham describes the value of art

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Katherine Dunham discusses her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham at Age Seventeen (circa 1926)

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Brother, Albert Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham Dances with Partner in 'Barrelhouse' in Paris (circa 1949)

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham with Husband, John Pratt, and Daughter, Marie-Christine in Paris (1951)

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Husband, John Pratt, at Hollywood Opening (1953)

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Husband, John Pratt (1938)

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Husband, John Pratt

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham Performs 'Guitar Blues' with Partner, Vanoye Aikens (circa 1944)

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham with Senegalese Percussionist, Mor Thiam, and His Wife, Kine at Katherine Dunham Museum (1972)

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham with Composer, Eubie Blake, After a Performance of 'Treemonisha' (1972)

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham Greets Visitors at the Katherine Dunham Museum (1979)

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham Receives the Albert Schweitzer Award (1979)

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham with President Ronald Reagan During Kennedy Center Awards Gala (1986)

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham with Participants in the Divine Drumbeats Ritual at Habitation LeClerc, Haiti (1980)

Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Company in 'Lady With a Cigar'

Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham Receives the Commander of the Legion of Honor of Haiti (1961)

Tape: 4 Story: 23 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Adlai Stevenson Greet Childen at White House Conference on Children (1970)

Tape: 4 Story: 24 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham and Company Disembark Plane in Nice (1949)

Tape: 4 Story: 25 - Photo -- Young Katherine Dunham Rides in a Goat Cart

Tape: 4 Story: 26 - Photo -- Katherine Dunham with President of Senegal, Leopold Senghor

Ruth Beckford

Ruth Beckford was born on December 7, 1925, in Oakland, California, to Cora and Felix Beckford. She began dancing at age three with Florelle Batsford, who taught Beckford ballet, flamenco, hula, baton, toe-tap and acrobatics over the next 15 years. In 1943, Beckford toured with the legendary Katherine Dunham.

After graduating from Oakland Technical High School in 1944, Beckford began studying with Anna Halprin and Welland Lathrop. She was the first African American member of their companies. In 1947, Beckford became the first black member of the Orchesis Modern Dance Honor Society at the University of California, Berkeley and she founded the first recreational modern dance department in the United States at the Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation that same year. In 1950, she helped found the Oakland Dance Association.

In 1953, Beckford taught at the Katherine Dunham School in New York and opened the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company. She helped found the Black Dance Association in 1965, and in 1970 she played a similar role for the Cultural Ethnic Affairs Guild. She also served as a dance panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. Beckford closed her dance studio in 1975, but still continued to perform. She began acting with the Oakland Ensemble Theatre, where she co-wrote, produced and starred in "'Tis the Morning of My Life," an off-Broadway success. She played major roles in television shows and film, including Angels in the Outfield, The Principal, and Midnight Caller.

Beckford turned her attention toward serving the less fortunate members of society in 1990. She counseled homeless people at the Berkeley office of the Department of Social Services until 1997, when she became a life skills counselor at the Oakland Private Industry Council. In 2000, she became the president of the African American Museum Library Coalition.

Ruth Beckford was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 31, 2002.

Accession Number

A2002.031

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/31/2002

Last Name

Beckford

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Oakland Technical High School

Longfellow Elementary School

Herbert Hoover Junior High School

University of California, Berkeley

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Ruth

Birth City, State, Country

Oakland

HM ID

BEC01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Only if travel is required - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Also has videos to accompany presentation.

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Let Go And Let God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/7/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/Oakland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chinese Food

Death Date

5/8/2019

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Ruth Beckford (1925 - 2019) toured with the legendary Katherine Dunham for fifteen years, founded the first recreational modern dance department in the United States, and also helped found the Oakland Dance Association and the Black Dance Association.

Employment

San Francisco Dancers' Workshop

Katherine Dunham School of Dance

Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company

National Endowment for the Arts

Oakland Ensemble Theatre

Oakland Private Industry Council

Berkeley Office of Social Services

Favorite Color

All Colors

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ruth Beckford interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford's favorite things

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford remembers her father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford describes her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford cannot recall how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford recalls early memories of dance and music

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford recalls growing up in north Oakland

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford describes race relations in her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford describes her first formal dance training

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ruth Beckford describes the different styles of dance she studied as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ruth Beckford talks about her elementary school experience

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Ruth Beckford talks about her early success as a dancer

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Ruth Beckford further describes her childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford talks about feeling free from societal pressures

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford briefly discusses the positive environment in her neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford recalls a notable solo dance recital from her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford recalls the effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes dancing in USO shows during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford discusses the changing racial makeup of her neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford describes her high school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford recalls briefly fulfilling her ambition to be a singer

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford describes a variety of her dance performances

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford talks about meeting and auditioning for Katherine Dunham

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford discusses her experience in Katherine Dunham's dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford explains what she learned from being in Katherine Dunham's dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford discusses her success studying Modern dance with Anna Halprin and Welland Lathrop

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford describes how her versatility helped her excel in Modern dance

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford talks about her first job

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford describes teaching a recreational dance class for inner-city children

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford explains why she chose not to finish her degree at the University of California at Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford describes how she mentored the students in her dance classes

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford believes some dancers are not true to their art

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford discusses the prevalance of interracial marriage in the African American dance world

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford briefly recalls how her parents felt about her work

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford explains why she doesn't regret not having her own children

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford talks about instilling discipline in her dance students

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford briefly mentions when she started her own dance company

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford explains how her experience in Haiti helped make her dances authentic

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford describes a favorite of the dances she created

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford details her creative process for choreography

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford talks about incorporating Haitian influences into her dance classes

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford explains why she taught separate classes for separate dance styles

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford describes her various volunteer playwrighting projects

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford discusses the similarities between Haiti and Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ruth Beckford explains why she is satisfied with her retirement from dancing and teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ruth Beckford talks about her artistic relationship with dancer Alvin Ailey

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Ruth Beckford explains how she became involved in theater after retiring from dance

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Ruth Beckford talks about her foray into film acting

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Ruth Beckford describes putting on her first play

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford details the plot and production of her trilogy of plays, 'Tis the Morning of My Life'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford discusses her various film projects

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford discusses her duties as president of the African American Museum Library Coalition

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford compares the black artistic communities in Oakland and San Francisco

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford discusses the declining Oakland theater scene and her attempts to revive it

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford talks about writing Katherine Dunham's biography

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford details the writing and publishing of her book 'Still Groovin': Affirmations for Women in the Second Half of Life'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her unpublished book

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ruth Beckford talks about her friendship with Maya Angelou

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ruth Beckford briefly defines what makes a true artist

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ruth Beckford discusses the black artist's role in American art

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ruth Beckford discusses the importance of hip-hop dance

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ruth Beckford believes dance has become too concerned with technical prowess

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ruth Beckford briefly describes her interest in arts and crafts

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ruth Beckford voices her concerns for young African Americans, particularly young women

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ruth Beckford discusses her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ruth Beckford on the power of women's friendships

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's father, Felix Beckford, Sr., Oakland, California

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Ruth Beckford as a small child, Oakland, California, ca. 1930

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Studio photo of Ruth Beckford, ca. 1934-1935

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Studio photo of Ruth Beckford performing an acrobatic dance move, ca. 1939

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Ruth Beckford presented flowers at the Ruth Beckford Awards ceremony

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Photos of Ruth Beckford, Alfre Woodard and others at the premier of 'Funny Valentines', Hollywood, California, 1999

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Ruth Beckford celebrating the publication of her cookbook, California, ca. 1983

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Ruth Beckford performing 'Bamboche' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Ruth Beckford doing the splits, ca. 1935

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's parents, Cora and Felix Beckford, Sr., at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California, 1915

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's sister, Roselyn Beckford Perry

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Ruth Beckford's father, Felix Beckford, Sr., and twin brothers, Fowler and Felix Beckford

Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Reproduction of Ruth Beckford's high school graduation photo from Oakland Technical High School, Oakland, California, 1943

Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - Reproduction of photo showing Ruth Beckford with Katherine Dunham at the University of California, Berkeley, 1976

Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Photo - Reproduction of photo showing Ruth Beckford teaching a dance class at DeFremery Recreation Center, Oakland, California

Tape: 6 Story: 24 - Photo - Ruth Beckford with Robert Taylor performing 'Banda' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company, Berkeley, California

Tape: 6 Story: 25 - Photo - Dancers performing a zombie dance as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company

Tape: 6 Story: 26 - Photo - Dancers performing 'Combite' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company

Tape: 6 Story: 27 - Photo - Ruth Beckford and her dance partner performing with a live chicken as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - Ruth Beckford performing 'Loa Erzilee' as part of the Ruth Beckford African-Haitian Dance Company

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - Program from Ruth Beckford's induction into the Oakland Parks and Recreation Hall of Fame, Oakland, California, June 10, 1980

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Publicity photo of Ruth Beckford and Billy Hutton from her stage play 'Tis the Morning of My Life'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Photo - Commendation certificate to Ruth Beckford from the Berkeley Oakland Support Services, Berkeley, California, ca. 1990s

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Photo - Cover of Ruth Beckford's book, 'Still Groovin': Affirmations for Women in the Second Half of Life', 1999

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Photo - Cover of Ruth Beckford's book, 'Katherine Dunham: A Biography', 1979