Donald Byrd

(b. 1949)

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(b New London, NC, 21 Jul. 1949)

US dancer, choreographer and teacher. He was educated at Yale University (1967–8), Tufts University (1968–73), Cambridge School of Ballet (1969–73), London School of Contemporary Dance (1972), and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (1976). He danced with Twyla Tharp, Karole Armitage, and Gus Solomons junior before forming his his own company, Donald Byrd/The Group, in 1978. Originally based in Los Angeles this moved to New York in 1983 and Byrd created more than 80 works for it including Prodigal (1991), The Minstrel Show (1991), Drastic Cuts (1992), Bristle (1993), Life Situations: Daydreams on Giselle (1995), The Beast (1996), Still (1996), and Jazz Train (1998). Many of his works deal with issues of racism, and in 1996 he choreographed The Harlem Nutcracker, set to David Berger's rearrangement (and expansion) of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's jazz version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. In 2002 he was forced to disband his company for financial reasons but in the same year was appointed choreographer and director for Spectrum Dance Theatre in Seattle for which he has since choreographed many works including Bhangra Fever (2007). He has also created works for many other companies including Alvin Ailey (Shards, 1988 and Fin de siècle, 1997), Pacific Northwest Ballet (Capricious Night, 1998 and In the Courtyard, 1999), and Ohio Ballet (Ellington Phantasia, 1999) while additionally choreographing for opera including John Adams's I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995); New York City Opera's Carmina Burana (1997); San Francisco Opera's Aida (1997), and Seattle Opera's Julius Caesar. In 2005 he choreographed the Broadway musical The Color Purple. Professor of Dance, California Institute for the Arts (1976–82).

Subjects: Dance.

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