Legendary Choreographer, Donald McKayle Comes to Montclair State

Photo: Mike Peters

Donald McKayle

Montclair State University dance students were recently treated to an experience-of-a-lifetime as legendary choreographer, dancer, and educator Donald McKayle came to the campus to spend three days working with the students as they rehearsed his classic work, Games in preparation for its performance in Danceworks 2010 taking place in April.

The creator of masterpieces of choreography, considered by many to be modern dance classics, McKayle is one of the most influential choreographers of the postwar era. Currently a professor of dance at the University of California at Irvine, he has also taught at Bennington College and the Juilliard School. His extensive list of honors and awards include a Tony Award and multiple Tony nominations, an Outer Critics Circle Award, the NAACP Image Award, and recognition as a Master of African American Choreography, among others.

Since his professional debut in 1948, McKayle has choreographed more than seventy works for dance companies around the world including Games, Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder, and District Storyville, as well as Broadway productions such as Golden Boy, Raisin, Dr. Jazz, and Sophisticated Ladies. His work in cinema and television includes choreography for films such as The Great White Hope, Charlie and the Angel, and Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and for television shows ranging from The Oscar Presentations to the Ed Sullivan Show.

“To have an artist of the stature of Donald McKayle come to Montclair State and work with our students was just a fantastic opportunity for them,” said Professor Lori Katterhenry, coordinator of the University’s Dance Program. “They not only benefited from being coached by the creator of the very work they are rehearsing, but they were also able to learn from, interact with, and be inspired by a true legend in the arts.”

Thanks to the involvement of the Department of Broadcasting with support from the College of the Arts Office of Education and Community Outreach, and student filmmakers from the College of the Arts’ Filmmaking Program, the current group of dance students will not be the only ones to benefit from the choreographer’s visit. Between the Broadcasting and Filmmaking contingents, the entire three-day visit including a one-hour interview conducted by Professor Neil Baldwin was documented. The resulting high-definition footage will be available for future students to view and study, giving them the opportunity to also share in the experience.

In fact, plans are in place to make the footage available to even more people. “Our intent is to donate the interview and selected footage from the three days of rehearsals to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library where it will be accessible to future generations of dance aficionados and scholars,” said Baldwin. “So in essence, Montclair State is making a permanent contribution to our cultural patrimony by this definitive documentation of a 59-year-old classic of American dance theatre.”

See more photos from the event.
Read Neil Baldwin’s account of the experience at Notes from a Danceaturg.