Arthur Hall - The Legacy
Part two
By Dr. Barbara Wallace
Queen Mother of the Asona Aberade Shrine
The Post Ile Ife Era Beyond Philadelphia

In 1989, Arthur returned to his mother's final home back in Memphis, Tennessee. Several noteworthy productions were performed at the Blues City Cultural Arts Center there, marking 1989 as a particularly prolific creative period for him. Upon the passing of his mother in 1995, Arthur found a new home in Maine. Always fond of Maine since his childhood fantasizing on the banks of the Mississippi river, Arthur moved there permanently, being embraced by a community that knew him well from annual school residencies since 1977. In Maine, he taught at the Belfast Dance Studio.

Ile Ife Philadelphia Maine combined dancers from the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble of Philadelphia and Belfast's Celebration Dancers and Drummers for concerts across Maine in the towns of Madison, Lewiston, Bath, and Rockport. In this manner, he was again a pioneer in creating concerts in Maine that included members of his old Ensemble, his students in Belfast, along with professional dancers, city officials, and local children from the community. The death of Adam Smith provided inspiration for the production Requiem (1995) which was performed in Camden, Maine. Arthur maintained an active and joyous Artist-in-Residence schedule across the country though the spring semester 2000 - to within just a few weeks of the time of his passing.

The Lasting Legacy

Arthur sought to preserve his legacy so that it would last across time. He founded and served as artistic director of Ile Ife Films and the Arthur Hall Collection based in Searsport, Maine. Together with filmmaker Bruce B. Williams, Arthur proposed to make a feature length film about the thirty year history of the Afro-American Dance Ensemble, 1958 - 1988, a project now expanded to include the story of his life, 1934 - 2000. The materials gathered so far toward making this documentary form a rich archive. Other films currently available by special order from Ile Ife Films include Raymond Hartung's ILE-IFE - House of Love (1974), Snake Dance Teacher Dance (1978),, Orison Omi (The Well) (1982), Water Spirit Festival (1989), and Arthur Hall's Obatala (4th edition, 1999). These films reflect the mission of Ile Ife Films and the Arthur Hall Collection, which is dedicated to the arts and education in African and American culture as they reflect the life and teaching of Arthur Hall. Ile Ife Films and the Arthur Hall Collection is dedicated to this mission through producing, gathering, preserving, and making available all of Arthur's work, including his pioneering vision of community development through the arts, spiritual and cultural development through dance and music, and his artistic vision of international dance rooted in traditional African aesthetics.

In evaluating his legacy, one might ask, "What elements combined in making him a genius?" Perhaps his greatest gift was how he could engage anyone with a love for and dedication to dance. Individuals literally drawn into dance from off the streets of Philadelphia found an opportunity for renewal and dignity in being an African American. Diverse individuals found acceptance, a family, a spiritual sanctuary, a means of positive transformation, and new identity through dance and music with Arthur -- whether members of the Deaf Community, former gang members, or individuals with chemical dependency histories. And students, teachers, administrators, and city officials discovered their own humanity, their ability to engage their bodies in time with eternal rhythms with African roots, and the universality of dance, regardless of the corner of the nation or globe to which Arthur traveled.

This was possible because of the multiplicity of great gifts that made up Arthur's genius as Master Teacher, dancer, choreographer, spiritual creator of arts forms, and artistic director. Arthur's charismatic leadership, vision, and passion for dance allowed him to create spaces in which people developed their own love for dance and music. The spaces that Arthur created, whether through his Dance Ensemble, cultural arts center, tours, performances, workshops, and residencies all served as sacred sanctuaries in which lost African culture, identity, and consciousness were brought back to life. This healed the souls and invigorated the spirits of those damaged by slavery and its repercussions. For those Americans seeking dance education, Arthur created spaces that expanded their consciousness enriched their souls through exposure to eternal, universal rhythms to which they discovered their own bodies could also move. In those spaces that Arthur created as initiated Priest and King, African Spiritual Forces undoubtedly entered and healed those touched by eternal rhythms from the heart of Mother Africa.

These were truly universal beats to which all hearts could resonate--regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or any other difference such as body type or skin color. As confirmation of how this was sacred work, and a spiritual healing mission, Arthur was embraced and loved by spiritual leaders from diverse religious and spiritual orders.

Thus, it was for many reasons that Arthur was called upon to serve as a dance consultant, dance instructor, and choreographer for dance companies across the United States and around the world. Indeed, Arthur changed the world through quiet revolution as a pivotal leader of a national and international cultural renaissance, leaving behind a legacy sure to last into the new millennium.

In recognition of a lifetime of outstanding accomplishments, and confirmation of the richness of the legacy he leaves behind, Arthur received numerous awards for his genius, spanning his career: National Endowment for the Arts Choreographers Award (1971); Ballantine Scotch Award (1971); United Nations Award of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (1973); Chapel of the Four Chaplains Award (1973); Philadelphia Human Relations Award (1974); Seagrams's Award (1974); Public Relations of America Award (1974); City of Philadelphia Human Rights Award (1975); Mayor of New Orleans, Honorary Citizen Award (1977); Mayor of Memphis, Award for Artistic Achievement (1977); Pennsylvania governor's first Hazlett Award for Excellence in the Arts (1980); Mayor's Award of Portsmouth, NH for Ahimsa (1991); Arthur Hall Appreciation Day by Proclamation of the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1993); Award for Excellence in Arts Education from the Governor of New Hampshire (1997).

Arthur L. Hall transitioned July 6, 2000, in Camden, Maine. His ashes have been scattered over the Mississippi at his birth home in Memphis, Tennessee, while his noble spirit, as the Asonahene, King of the Asona Aberade Clan, is finally truly at home in Africa with the Ancestors. Arthur's life's legacy leaves behind a powerful message which he delivered as a national and international ambassador of dance: African Americans have an enduring African culture, identity, and art forms with which they were destined to reconnect and through which they would find healing and a means of spiritual transformation. And, through his message, Arthur taught a world about the dignity of man and the universality of dance, as the carrier of human harmony embodied in eternal rhythms resonating from the very heart of Africa.

Arthur L. Hall is survived by three aunts, Gracie Dawson, Katie Wade, and Annie Rose of Memphis, Tenessee, an uncle, Thomas Yancey of Stanton, Tennessee, and numerous cousins. However, there are several families left behind to honor his memory and preserve his legacy: alumni of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble; hundred and hundreds of students taught by Arthur in schools and communities in Arizona, New Hampshire, and Maine; the Asona Aberade Family in the United States and Ghana; the Yoruba of Nigeria and many adherents to this tradition in the United States; and the countless many in other places around the world initiated into spiritual transformation and a love for dance and music. Thus, a multitude of hearts will forever feel the imprint of having been touched by that great creative energy and genius emanating from the Divine Spirit of Arthur Hall.

Thank you, Arthur, for your life's work and lasting legacy, as you rest in harmony with the Ancestors who dance across the cosmos to the eternal rhythms resonating from the very heart of Africa!

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