Bangor Daily News
Thursday, 13 July 2000
Page C1

Hall spread love of dance to midcoast

By Tom Groening
Of the NEWS Staff

CAMDEN -- Because Arthur Hall decided to come to Maine more than 20 years ago, hundreds of women, men and children learned the joys of African and other styles of dance.

Arthur Hall

Hall, who died of cancer July 6 in Camden at the age of 66, is remembered in the midcoast area for his passion and energy for teaching, choreographing and encouraging people in movement.

A muscular, dark-skinned African-American who often dressed in the striking colors and patterns of Africa, Hall stood out when he walked the sidewalks of Belfast and Camden. His joy and enthusiasm for life and his art were equally striking, as was his personal charisma, leaving the many who knew him even casually impressed with his kindness and warmth.

[follows biographical materials available here]

In 1977, Hall began coming to Maine, teaching ... in the schools at first, then creating programs for adults and children. In 1981, he founded the People-to-People Dance Company in Camden, and then in the late 1980s, he worked extensively with Lisa Newcomb and the Belfast Dance Studio. He moved to Camden permanently five years ago after the death of his mother.

Michelle Cox, who was with the Camden company when it began and remains active in it, remembered Hall's gifts.

"He truly was an humanitarian," she said Wednesday. "He gathered everyone in the name of dance, but he did it in a way that was fair. It didn't matter what level you were on, he wanted to see you out there in movement."

Cox remembers the Camden troupe's first performance, "Rhapsody in Blue," and a piece for children called "Way to Start the Day," which used dances from around the world that greet the new day.

On a personal note, Cox credits Hall with "bringing my passion for dance back out again," after she had two children. His message was, "It's OK to come in at any level and do dance."

To Illustrate Hall's way with people, Cox tells of one rehearsal in which two musicians repeatedly misunderstood Hall's direction and played the wrong pattern, forcing the dancers to stop and repeat the dance over and over. Cox said the dozen dancers were becoming exasperated, but Hall admonished them, saying "It's OK, we'll work it out."

Cox said she saw Hall just before he began radiation treatments, and he told her of a workshop he had just taught. Though he couldn't demonstrate the moves anymore, he was able to lead the dancers, he told her. She said, "His face was still all lit up.

"He kind of lived every day through the movement and the music," she summed up.

A celebration of Hall's life and work is planned for the end of summer at the Camden Opera House ...

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