Louis Johnson’s ballet, Forces of Rhythm choreographed in 1971, became a signature piece for the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Company. Johnson blended ballet, jazz, modern and West African dance creating a unique movement collage, which distinguished the company’s versatility. Forces of Rhythm took place alongside the works of George Balanchine, Arthur Mitchell, Geoffrey Holder, and other choreographers for the fledging ballet company. Continue reading
By Walter Rutledge
Louis Johnson’s passing marks the end of an era in Black dance. Johnson was the last of the of his generation of 20th century American choreographers of African descent and International renowned. His contemporaries, Alvin Ailey, Talley Beatty, Geoffrey Holder, Donald McKayle, and Arthur Mitchell, all forged through the restrictive Jim Crow era of hatred and segregation; that unfortunately included the arts- and dance. Continue reading
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.
Apollo, one of George Balanchine‘s early masterpieces, filmed in Montreal in 1968 the cast included a very young Suzanne Farrell, Peter Martins, Marnee Morris, and Karin Von Aroldingen. Continue reading
New York City Ballet principals Heather Watts and Mel Tomlinson perform George Balanchine’s Agon pas de deux. Continue reading
It’s school winter break and the kids are home! Don’t worry! There are things for everyone. We have dance from Lincoln Center to Chinatown. Art on Museum Mile; and music from Harlem to Brooklyn. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading
Serenade, a beautifully filmed and danced performance of one of Balanchine’s most beautiful works. The leads are Darci Kistler, Kyra Nichols, Maria Calegari, Adam Luders, and Leonid Koslov. Continue reading
This 1958 CBS broadcast put The Nutcracker firmly on the map in the USA and made it a Christmas staple. Balanchine’s masterful storytelling and genius choreography has made his version the gold standard the world over. Continue reading
Darci Kistler and Damian Woetze in the Grand Pas De Deux from George Balanchine’s Nutcracker (1993).
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