from ~
Black Dance from 1619 to today
by Lynne Fauley Emery
with a foreword by Katherine Dunham

Chapter 9, Concert dance: 1950 - today
by Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild

Arthur Hall

Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1934, Arthur Hall lived in Washington, DC and came to Philadelphia at age 17 and enrolled at the Judimar school, where John Hines was his teacher. Later, he studied modern dance with Malvina Tase at the University of Pennsylvania and was also influenced by modern dancers Joe Nash and Joan Kerr.
In 1953, Hall met Saka Acquaye, a Ghanaian exchange student and artist, who introduced him to African cultural and performance traditions through the West African Cultural Society, a performance and educational group founded by Acquaye.

In 1955 Hall was inducted into the army. He spent two years in special services, traveling in Europe and performing and choreographing variety shows, with an integrated cast, for the military. He completed his tour of duty in 1957 and, on his return to Philadelphia, began teaching for Sydney King. In 1958 Hall recruited a group of dancers from the King studio, and they began performing as the Sydney King Dance Theater. This group subsequently became known as the Afro-American Dance Ensemble. Still later, Hall's name was added to the title.

From 1958 to 1969 Hall worked in a button factory and choreographed, rehearsed, and performed evenings and weekends. In 1966-67, he branched out on his own and held dance classes at the Lee Cultural Center. In 1969, Hall's Ile Ife Black Humanitarian Center was established at its present site in the North Philadelphia black community on Germantown Avenue. "Ile Ife" is a Yoruba term meaning "house of love." With generous funding from the Model Cities program, the school and center flourished from 1969 to 1975. Funding was abruptly discontinued when the federal government ceased to support such programs in the mid-1970s. As a result, the organization experienced financial disaster and was forced to cut back radically on its community offerings. The dance group is now funded by private, state and corporate sources.

Hall's dance troupe remains intact [as of 1988 -ed.]. Some of his best dancers have been with him for over a decade, and others have remained with Hall since he began. The group tours nationally while maintaining a strong community involvement through performing in schools.

From small beginnings in the 1930s, black concert dancers have developed through the Dunham era to the present, increasing in numbers, growing in technical skill, and exerting a powerful and vital influence on American dance. In spite of the many limiting factors on their growth and development, they persist as a creative force, bringing the styles and rhythms of their heritage to the American concert stage.
[end of chapter]

[from the preface, p.ix]

When dealing with contemporary black dancers (1930 to today), the focus of this book is on concert dance. It is in this area that the black dancer has met with the greatest resistance and prejudice. Yet it is also here that the Afro-American dancer has become an artist of the first magnitude. This new edition includes expanded coverage of the vernacular dance of this era, written by Dr. Brenda Dixon [Gottschild].
See also Dance and Theatre in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library


... [In the] second edition of Black Dance ... I also thought it would be fun to update the section on black concert dancers ... Time constraints prevented me from writing a new section on the vernacular dance, and I feel privileged that a scholar of the magnitude of Dr. Brenda Dixon [Gottschild] agreed to write this chapter. She also provided current information on Arthur Hall and other performers. ...
~ Lynne Fauley Emery

Arthur Hall resume
Arthur Hall subdirectory index
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