Donald McKayle, recipient of honors and awards in every aspect of his illustrious career, has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition “one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the first 100.” His choreographic masterworks, considered modern dance classics, Games, Rainbow Round My Shoulder, District Storyville, Songs of the Disinherited are performed around the world. He has choreographed over seventy works for dance companies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America. The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and the Lula Washington Dance Theatre serve as repositories for his works. He is Artistic Mentor for the Limon Dance Company.
He was honored May 1 – 4, 2003 by Ballet San Jose with the retrospective program, “A Tribute to Donald McKayle.” In 2001, he choreographed the monumental ten-hour production of Tantalus, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in collaboration with the Denver Center Theatre Company. Five Tony Nominations have honored his choreography for Broadway musical theater: Sophisticated Ladies, Doctor Jazz, A Time for Singing, and for Raisin, which garnered the Tony Award as Best Musical, and for which he received Tony nominations for both direction and choreography. For Sophisticated Ladies he was also honored with an Outer Critics Circle Award and the NAACP Image Award. His most recent choreography for Broadway was showcased in It Ain’t Nothing’ But the Blues which earned a Tony nomination for Best Musical. He received an Emmy nomination for the TV Special, Free To Be You and Me. His work for film includes Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Great White Hope, and The Jazz Singer. His other media awards include a Los Angeles Drama Logue Award for Evolution of the Blues and a Golden Eagle Award for On the Sound. In dance he has received the Capezio Award, the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award, the American Dance Guild Award, a Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival, the Heritage Award from the California Dance Educators Association, two Choreographer’s Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dance/USA Honors, and an Irvine Fellowship in Dance.
For his work in education, he has the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching, UCI’s Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award for Research, and he is a recipient of the UCI Medal, the highest honor given by the University of California, Irvine. At UCI he has been awarded the title of Claire Trevor Professor in Dance, an endowed chair, and inducted as a Bren Fellow. Mr. McKayle has served on the faculties of many prestigious institutions including the American Dance Festival, the Juilliard School, Bennington College, Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, and was Dean of the School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts. His real educational credentials, however, reside in the hundreds of students, many of whom are now in professional careers, who treasure his influence. His autobiography, Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life, has been published by Routledge Press and a PBS documentary on his life and work, Heartbeats of a Dancemaker, was aired in Hawaii February 5, 2003 and will be seen in November 2003 on PBS stations throughout the United States.