By Walter Rutledge
Dudley Williams was a performing artist, and teacher and a friend. I often referred to him as the “Lyric Prince of Modern Dance” a moniker that he enjoyed. In reality Dudley was a fighter. And the bantamweight dancer was in a battle with time, he simply refused to let it stop him from dancing.
When Dance of the Village Elders was preparing for their 2015 spring fundraiser I contacted Dudley and asked him would he perform with us. He had recently returned from an extended stay in the hospital and was still very weak. “I don’t think I can do jumps”, he stated slowly. “We’ll keep it upper body and gestural”, I reassured him.
We rehearsed with a talented group of five aspiring dancers from the Ailey school and over thirty senior performers from Dance of the Village Elders. Dudley was portraying the senior minister who introduced Martin Luther King Jr. to the congregation. Ironically Williams had played King in the 1976 Ailey/Ellington production of Three Black Kings.
During the rehearsals a frail Dudley seemed to stumble through the process. He had to rest often and had problems remembering movement, creating concern among the cast; but his eyes clearly expressed, “I can do this”. At the dress rehearsal Dudley’s inner light began to glow. His musicality, and nuanced movement revealed itself- Dudley Williams, performing artist was back!
Dance of the Village Elders dedicates its 2017 fundraiser entitled God Answers Prayer to Dudley. His spirit is still with us and he is dancing in the memory of all who experienced his artistry.
Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars
God Answers Prayer will be performed on Saturday, June 24, 3pm at St. Philips Episcopal Church 204 West 134th Street. For more information contact Walter Rutledge at (917) 744 2601.