3/31/20 O&A NYC IN MEMORIUM: Dancer, Choreographer Louis Johnson Died at 90

By Walter Rutledge

Dancer, choreographer and director Louis Johnson passed away he was 90 years old. Born March 19, 1930 in Statesville, North Carolina Johnson’s parents moved to Washington D.C. and he became a standout in the D.C. school system for his artistic and gymnastic abilities. While in high school Johnson enrolled and trained at the Jones Haywood School of Dance, where he blossomed under the tutelage of Doris Jones and Clair Haywood.

Johnson moved to New York City and continued his dance training at the famed New York City School of American Ballet, where he was mentored by Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. Johnson performed on Broadway in Four Saint in Three Acts, House of Flowers (George Balanchine choreographer) Damn Yankees (Bob Fosse) and Hallelujah Baby. The success of one of his early choreographic works Lament for the New York City Ballet Club led to offers to choreograph the Broadway production of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity. This lead to additional theatrical productions including Lost In The Stars, Treemonisha and Purlie, which garnered Johnson a Tony Award nomination.

Johnson choregraphed La Giaconda (starring Martina La Rowe) and Aida (starring Leontyne Price) for the New York Metropolitan Opera. Johnson also choreographed two motion pictures the 1970 Cotton Come To Harlem and The Wiz starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Johnson never lost his love for concert dance choreographing for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Philadanco and the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theater. In 1980 Johnson started the dance department at the Henry Street Settlement (New York City), where he remained until 2003. He also taught the first Black theater course at Yale University and stated dance department at Howard University (D.C.). His directorial credits include Porgy and Bess, Miss Truth and Jazzbo Brown.

2/7/20 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY- BLACK HISTORY MONTH EDITION: Excerpt of Banda with Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder (1957)

Shall We Dance

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Geoffrey Holder’s Banda dance debuted in the 1954 Truman Capote/Harold Arlen musical House Of Flowers. Holder the Baron of The Cemetery (based on the Haitian Loa of Death Baron Samedi) received both a performer and choreographer credit in the program. The Broadway musical takes place somewhere in the West Indies during Mardi Gras weekend. Continue reading

4/12/19 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Alicia Graf and Donald Willams Perform Return (Dance Theatre of Harlem)

Dance Theatre of Harlem former principal dancers Alicia Graf and Donald Williams perform Robert Garland’s Return Continue reading

4/9/19 O&A NYC DANCE: Christopher Charles McDaniel- A True “DTH Baby”

By Walter Rutledge

Christopher Charles McDaniel is a true “DTH Baby”. When the East Harlem native attended a Dance Theatre of Harlem lecture demonstration at his school the outgoing eight year old was instantly smitten. He was so enamored by the company and its charismatic director Arthur Mitchell that McDaniel decided he wanted to dance, and he wanted to dance at Dance Theatre of Harlem.   Continue reading

4/7/19 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: April 7 through April 14, 2019

Its beginning to feel a lot like springtime, and New Yorkers are out and about!  And this week we have a new film about the Queen of Soul and a Fosse muse on Broadway. America’s mother of modern dance turns 93 in Chelsea and Arthur Mitchell’s dream turns 50. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

2/8/19 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Arthur Mitchell’s Barrier Breaking Creole Giselle

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Arthur Mitchell’s Creole Giselle performed by the Dance Theatre Of Harlem (DTH), and set the traditional story of Giselle in 1841 Louisiana broke barriers with this all African American adaptation.  Continue reading

1/23/19 O&A NYC DANCE/THEATRE REVIEW: 5 Plus Ensemble Debut Performance

By Walter Rutledge

5 Plus Ensemble presented their premiere salon performance on Friday, December 14th, 2018 at Dance Theatre of Harlem’s studio 2. With a stellar core group consisting of Hope Clark, Carmen de Lavallade, Shelia Rohan, Darryl Reuben Hall and Michael Leon Thomas; this performing arts collective offered five works encompassing pure dance, theatre/musical theatre and prose. The well attended debut reinforced the notion that somethings do get better with time. Continue reading

9/25/18 O&A NYC INSPIRATIONAL TUESDAY: Arthur Mitchell Inspires Students at SAB (May 2018)

By Walter Rutledge

Back in 2014 I received a phone call from Arthur Mitchell. He knew my association with the Romare Bearden Foundation, and that Romare’s archives were housed at Columbia University.  He needed information about the process so he could do the same with his own legacy. “Hold on Sir”, I put him on hold and called Deidre Kelly the co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation. Diedre gave me the contact information he requested. Continue reading

9/21/18 O&A NYC SATURDAY MORNING CONCERT: Beloved-Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem in Lester Horton‘s 1949 masterwork The Beloved the duet (based on a true story) performed by Cassandra Phifer and Hagues Magen. Continue reading

9/19/18 O&A NYC MILESTONES: Arthur Mitchell Dance Trailblazer Died at 84

By Walter Rutledge

Arthur Mitchell, dancer, teacher, choreographer, social activist and founding director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem passed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at age 84 from complications of heart failure. Mitchell’s career can only be described as trailblazing. In 1956 he crossed what E.B. Debois referred to as the “color line” to become the first ballet dancer of African decent to join the international renowned New York City Ballet.

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