Critics have called Garth Fagan “a true original,” “a genuine leader,” and “one of the great reformers of modern dance.” Fagan is the founder and artistic director of the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance, now celebrating its 45th Anniversary season. A Tony and Olivier award winner, Fagan continually renews his own distinctive dance vocabulary, which draws on many sources: sense of weight in modern dance, torso-centered movement and energy of Afro-Caribbean, speed and precision of ballet, and the rule breaking experimentation of the post-moderns. “Originality has always been Mr. Fagan’s strong suit, not least in his transformation of recognizable idioms into a dance language that looks not only fresh but even idiosyncratic,” writes Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times.
For his path-breaking choreography for Walt Disney’s The Lion King, Fagan was awarded the prestigious 1998 Tony Award for Best Choreography. He also received the 1998 Drama Desk Award, 1998 Outer Critics Circle Award, 1998 Astaire Award, 2000 Laurence Olivier Award, 2001 Ovation Award, and the 2004 Helpmann Award for his work on the Broadway musical, which opened in fall 1997 to extraordinary critical praise. Fagan’s distinguished work in the theatre also includes the first fully staged production of the Duke Ellington street opera, Queenie Pie at the Kennedy Center in 1986 and the opening production of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare Marathon: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, (1988), set in Brazil and directed by A.J. Antoon.
In the world of concert dance, Fagan choreographs primarily for Garth Fagan Dance. His recent work, Mudan 175/39, was named by The New York Times as the third of the top six dance watching moments of 2009. Fagan has also produced commissions for a number of leading companies, including his first work en pointe, Footprints Dressed in Red, for the Dance Theatre of Harlem; a solo for Judith Jamison, Scene Seen for the debut of the Jamison Project; Jukebox for Alvin for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and Never No Lament for the Jose Limon Company; and Ellington Elation, part of a triad of pieces commissioned by New York City Ballet in honor of Duke Ellington’s centenary and New York City Ballet’s 50th anniversary. Fagan began his career when he toured Latin America with Ivy Baxter and her national dance company from Jamaica. Baxter, and two other famed dance teachers from the Caribbean, Pearl Primus and Lavinia Williams, were major influences on Fagan. In New York City, Fagan studied with Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Mary Hinkson, and Alvin Ailey, who were all central to his development. Fagan was director of Detroit’s All-City Dance Company, and principal soloist and choreographer for Detroit Contemporary Dance Company and Dance Theatre of Detroit.