‘Lion King’ Choreographer Fagan Brings His Dance Company to Center for the Arts

Posted: April 6, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: April 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Photo by Greg Barrett

Acclaimed for his Tony Award-winning choreography for Broadway’s “The Lion King,” Garth Fagan remains one of the great reformers of American dance.

His dazzling company, Garth Fagan Dance, takes the stage at Mason’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Saturday, April 10, at 8 p.m., performing a mixture of classic pieces from Fagan’s repertoire, as well as contemporary favorites.

For more than 40 years, Fagan has honed his incomparable revelatory technique – a blend of ballet, modern and Afro-Caribbean movements – with dancers who are unmatched for their individuality, unmannered approach, athleticism and virtuosity.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Fagan began his career touring with Ivy Baxter and her national dance company from Jamaica while in his early 20s. Baxter and several other dance teachers from his home became a major influence on his work, as well as Martha Graham, José Limón, Mary Hinkson and Alvin Ailey, with whom Fagan studied after moving to New York.

He accepted a professorship at the State University of New York at Brockport in 1969 and taught dance at the SUNY-affiliated Educational Opportunity Center in Rochester. In the 1970s, Fagan launched his own dance company called “Bottom of the Bucket, But … Dance Theatre” consisting of inner-city youth and students lately come to dance.

As his dancers improved and the company began to receive recognition in the dance world, Fagan changed the name to The Bucket Dance Theater, and later, Garth Fagan Dance.

In addition to his Tony Award, Fagan has received numerous honors for his work, including a Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Laurence Olivier Award, Ovation Award, Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award, Dance Magazine Award, Guggenheim Fellowship and Choreography Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts.

He is a distinguished professor emeritus from SUNY Brockport, and has also received honorary doctorates from The Juilliard School, the University of Rochester, Nazareth College of Rochester, Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Wayne State University.

Now in its 39th season, Fagan’s Rochester, N.Y.-based company has received many accolades for its excellence and originality, including a New York Governor’s Arts Award and five New York Performance Awards (“Bessies”).

Garth Fagan Dance has performed at international venues and dance festivals, including France’s Maison de la Danse and Chateauvallon Festival, Turkey’s Istanbul Festival, the New Zealand International Arts Festival and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

In the United States, the company has performed at Jacob’s Pillow, Spoleto USA, Dance/Aspen, the first National Black Arts Festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, City Center and the Joyce Theater.

The company has been featured on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and PBS’s “Great Performances – Dance in America,” as well as the 66th Annual Academy Awards.

Garth Fagan Dance has also performed at the openings for the American Center in Paris after its renovation, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

A discussion, free to ticket holders, will begin 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III. Pre-performance discussions are sponsored by the Friends of the Center for the Arts.

Tickets are $44, $36 and, $22. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit cfa.gmu.edu.

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