University's School of Dance Honors Dance and Choreography Legend Louis Johnson

Performances, documentary screenings, community outreach highlight week-long program honoring master choreographer

February 22, 2010

The School of Dance at the University of the Arts will showcase Tony Award-nominated choreographer Louis Johnson (right) and his 1972 ballet "Forces of Rhythm" with a host of events that include student performances of the legendary piece, community outreach and screenings of a Johnson documentary.

A long-time Broadway fixture, Johnson choreographed "Black Nativity," "Lost in the Stars," "Treemonisha" and "Purlie," for which he received a Tony Award nomination. Johnson has received acclaim for choreographing for the New York Metropolitan Opera, and in major motion pictures. His "Forces of Rhythm" has been deemed an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts. Johnson has been honored by such organizations as the International Association of Blacks in Dance and the California Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The week-long showcase at the University's Arts Bank Theater (401 S. Broad St., Philadelphia) includes the screening of a documentary about Johnson's life and legacy, community outreach with students from Northeast Philadelphia's Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, a University of the Arts School of Dance performance of "Forces" under Johnson's direction, and an open forum with Johnson and other legendary artists, including stage, screen and television veteran Maurice Hines; Dr. Glory Van Scott, principal dancer with the Katherine Dunham, Agnes DeMille and Talley Beatty companies; Delores Brown; Tony Award winner George Faison; and Arthur Mitchell, founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem. This showcase has been made possible by the National Endowment of the Arts as part of its American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius program.

Conceived in 1972 for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, "Forces of Rhythm" explores many technical styles, dynamics and rhythms and showcases dancers' diversity, skill and training. His choreographic style combines a continuum of movement styles, including social dances to popular music, classical ballet technique, Katherine Dunham-inspired modern dance, spiritual dancing and acrobatics. Subtitled "a fusion of classical ballet, ethnic and modern dance styles" and set to music from Tchaikovsky to rhythm and blues, "Forces" used white skirts, leotards, loin cloths and bowler hats and exhibits a wide range of mood. This highly structured yet striking juxtaposition of styles and cultures became Johnson's hallmark. "Forces" became a signature work for the Dance Theater of Harlem and was re-set by the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) in 1982.

February 24 and 25
"Forces of Rhythm": 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Documentary screening: 12:20 – 12:50 p.m.

February 24
Open forum with Johnson, Van Scott, Browne, Faison, Mitchell and Hines: 1 – 3 p.m.
Reception honoring Louis Johnson: 3:15 – 5 p.m.

All events are free and open to the public.

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