Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Donald McKayle

The biography provided in this posting about David McKayle comes from here

From Broadway to television to Broadway again, Donald McKayle has pretty much done it all. A dancer in the original production of "West Side Story" (1957), McKayle has choreographed numerous works for stage and screen; directed the popular television program "Good Times"; and won critical laurels for several major Broadway productions.

From Sept. 5-15, McKayle will serve as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Washington University in St. Louis, where he will conduct master classes and work with students to set his work "Rainbow Etude" for the upcoming Washington University Dance Theatre concert. (The annual showcase, scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 2, presents professionally choreographed works performed by students from the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences' Dance Program.)

During his visit, McKayle will discuss his legendary oeuvre in a pair of talks. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, he will present an informal lecture-demonstration in the Olin Dance Studio, located in the Ann W. Olin Women's Building, just north of Olin Library. The event will feature McKayle and students performing sections of "Rainbow Etudes."

At 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, McKayle will present a lecture/video screening titled "A Life in Dance" for the Assembly Series. The event takes place in the university's Edison Theatre, located in Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Both events are free and open to the public; for more information, call (314) 935-5858.

Named one of "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures" by the Library of Congress and the Dance Heritage Coalition, McKayle made his professional debut in 1948 with New York's New -over- Dance Company and later performed in the companies of Sophie Maslow, Jean Erdman, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Anna Sokolow. In addition to "West Side Story," McKayle appeared in Broadway productions of "Bless You All" (1950), "House of Flowers" (1954) and "Copper and Brass" (1957).

McKayle has choreographed more than 50 works for companies in the United States, Europe, Israel and South America. Early pieces include the classic "Games" (1950), which examines the dangers faced by urban schoolchildren, as well as the popular "Rainbow ÔRound My Shoulder" (1959) and "District Storyville" (1962), which remain in the repertory of the Alvin Ailey Company. Following a stint as artistic director for the Inner City Repertory Dance Company of Los Angeles, McKayle returned to Broadway, directing "Raisin" (1974), "Dr. Jazz" (1975) and "Sophisticated Ladies" (1981), the latter based on the life of Duke Ellington. Other theatrical works include "N'Orleans" (1981), a musical play co-written with Toni Morrison and Dorothea Freitag, "Emperor Jones" (1984) and "Stardust" (1990). Beginning in the mid-1960s, McKayle began to choreograph dance sequences for film and television. Credits include "The Bill Cosby Special" (CBS, 1967), "The Motown Special" (NBC, 1968), "The Great White Hope" (1969), "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" (1970), "The 49th Annual Academy Awards" (ABC, 1977) and "The Jazz Singer" (1980), among others. He directed the first few episodes of "Good Times" in 1974.

McKayle's numerous honors include five Tony Award nominations; the NAACP Image Award (for "Sophisticated Ladies"); an Emmy Award nomination; the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award; the Capezio Award; the Heritage Award; the Living Legend Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award.

McKayle currently serves as professor of dance at the University of California, Irvine, and maintains relationships with several distinguished troupes. The Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program was instituted in 1998 as part of an effort to increase the representation of minority scholars on campus. The program honors individuals who have distinguished themselves as leaders or potential leaders in their fields, whether the arts, academia, business or other disciplines. During their stay, scholars participate in the intellectual life of the campus by teaching seminars, giving lectures and interacting with faculty and students, particularly undergraduates.


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