“What are you thinking about when you are dancing 'On My Way'? Do you know the word arduous? It's an arduous journey, so you have to work harder and harder." The man speaking with a soft voice and resting his long hands on his knees is Donald McKayle, the modern dance choreographer, teacher and writer known for breaking the color barrier in the '50s and '60s.
McKayle made socially conscious works—most famously Rainbow Round My Shoulder (1959) about a chain gang in the American South, which has been performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Batsheva Dance Company and others. He also performed and choreographed for Broadway musicals, television and film. A retired member of the dance faculty at University of California, Irvine, and now in a wheelchair, the 86-year-old teacher is critiquing a rehearsal at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA).
Renee Robinson and Troy Powell in Donald McKayle's Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder
It’s Paul Taylor month! Not only is he featured in our March issue’s history column, but the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance’s Lincoln Center season begins on March 15. What better way to get into the Taylor spirit than to learn repertory that will be included in the company’s 2016 season?
Next Sunday, March 13, PTAMD and the American Dance Legacy Initiative will conduct a workshop on Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow Etude,” at the Taylor Studios in NYC. “Rainbow Etude” is a distilled version of McKayle’s larger work Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, which will be performed at Lincoln Center on March 22, 24, and 26 by guest artists Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. The workshop includes class, a lecture demonstration and a screening of excerpts from a documentary about the piece.
Donald McKayle (DT, December 2003) is a choreographer and former member of the New Dance Group. His 1959 work Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder, about a prison chain gang, is regarded by many as his masterpiece.
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder
Photos from top: by Roy Volkmann, courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; by Andy Snow, courtesy of Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance