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Gus Solomons jr

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

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

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

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

Accession Number

A2016.054

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/7/2016

Last Name

Solomons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Kennedy-Longfellow School

Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

First Name

Gus

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

SOL02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Wherever I Have Work

Favorite Quote

Dance Like No One's Watching.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/27/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

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

Employment

Donald McKayle and Company

The Joffrey School

Barbara Dona and Associates

Studio 9

Jacob's Pillow

Barbara Dorn Associates

Dance Circle

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Martha Graham Dance Company

Solomons Company Dance

Glimmerglass Playhouse and the Canadian Opera

PARADIGM Dance Company

Complexions

Favorite Color

Orange, Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

4$2

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