For Immediate Release




Two world premieres, one by the “Lion King,” Tony Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan and the other by Fagan’s muse, rehearsal director and “Bessie Award” winner Norwood Pennewell, are among the highlights of Garth Fagan Dance’s 45th anniversary celebration that takes place at The Joyce Theater, November 3-8.

Fagan’s own incandescent spirit shines through his choreographic tribute to his friend, choreographer/actor/director/dancer/costume designer/painter Geoffrey Holder, who died this past year at 84. Originally titled “Dance for/With Geoffrey,” the dance has undergone a series of major revisions since its premiere at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in August. The music by Robert Greenidge and spoken text by Leo Holder, however, remains the same.

The new title, “Geoffrey Holder Life Fete…Bacchanal” recognizes the partying life spirit of the gregarious artist, with “Bacchanal” referring to the Trinidadian description of a great party. “How was it?” “Bacchanal.” And such was Holder’s life, according to Fagan, whose dance celebrates that and Holder’s 59 year marriage to Carmen de Lavallade. The brand new ending radiates the same unfiltered exuberance Holder gave to the dance world specifically, and to our lives in general.

A new dance, “So You See,” Norwood Pennewell’s fifth for the Fagan company, is described as a “loose narrative” by the choreographer, who has danced with Fagan for 36 years. Responding in a variety of different ways to the score comprised of music by Vijay Iyer and Marc Cary, Pennewell’s dance explores and celebrates a woman’s encounters, reflections and conclusions about a love affair gone wrong.

A 45th anniversary is also a time to dial back a bit and take stock. Hence, the season is studded with some of Fagan’s most beloved works that speak to the eclectic range of his musical and movement imagination. These include selections from “Oatka Trail” from 1979, now performed by women, the oldest on the programs; “Prelude (Discipline is Freedom)” premiered in 1981; excerpts from “Griot New York” premiered at BAM in 1991; “Two Pieces of One: Green” from 1998; “Passion Distanced” performed first in 1987; an excerpt from “Woza” from 1999 and “Thanks Forty (Five)” premiered in 2010 and revised in April, 2015. Most shows open with Fagan’s “Prelude (Discipline is Freedom)” which establishes his singular dance technique as it inspires a jaw-dropping response from the audience.




Garth Fagan, Artistic Director

Garth Fagan, a 1998 Tony Award-winner for his choreography for the Broadway hit “The Lion King,” began his career in dance by touring Latin America with Ivy Baxter and her Jamaican National Dance company. In addition to studying with Baxter, Fagan trained with Caribbean dance teachers Lavinia Williams and Pearl Primus, as well as with Martha Graham, Mary Hinkson, Alvin Ailey and José Limón.

In 2012, Garth Fagan was selected as an “Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by The Dance Heritage Coalition. An irreplaceable dance treasure has made a significant impact on dance as an art form, demonstrated artistic excellence, enriched the nation’s cultural heritage, demonstrated the potential to enhance the lives of future generations and shown itself worthy of national and international recognition.

A graduate of Wayne State University, the Jamaican-born choreographer served as director of Detroit’s All-City Dance Company and was a principal soloist and choreographer for the Dance Theatre of Detroit and the Detroit Contemporary Dance Company. In 1970, he moved to Rochester, NY, where he founded Garth Fagan Dance. The company has since appeared in many major venues and arts festivals throughout the United States, as well as internationally in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies.

Fagan has also produced commissions for a number of leading companies, including his first work en pointe, “Footprints Dressed in Red,” for Dance Theatre of Harlem; a solo for Judith Jamison, “Scene Seen,” for the debut of the Jamison Project; “Jukebox for Alvin” for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; “Never No Lament” for the José 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.

For his path-breaking choreography for Walt Disney’s “The Lion King,” Fagan was awarded the prestigious 2000 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Choreography. He also received the 1998 Tony Award, the 1998 Drama Desk Award, 1998 Outer Critics Circle Award, 1998 Astaire 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. In 2001, he received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award; that same year he was the recipient of the Golden Plate Award, inducted into the American Academy of Achievement, and presented with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander by the Jamaican government. Fagan also won the 2004 Helpmann Award. Throughout the history of the Garth Fagan Dance Company, five members have received New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessies”): Garth Fagan, Norwood Pennewell, Steve Humphrey, Natalie Rogers and Sharon Skepple.

Norwood Pennewell, Rehearsal Director and Assistant to Garth Fagan

Norwoord Pennewell joined Garth Fagan Dance in 1978 and has since become a quintessential Garth Fagan dancer and Fagan’s rehearsal director, assistant and muse. Pennewell currently teaches both company and master classes for Garth Fagan Dance. He is the recipient of the 1988 Bessie Award. Fagan has created several major works for Pennewell, including “Passion Distanced” in 1987, “Time After Before Place” in 1988, and “Moth Dreams” in 1992, among others. Pennewell’s dancing has been seen on “Great Performances,” “The Tonight Show,” and Duke Ellington’s “Queenie Pie.” In 1994, he was invited to perform at the 66th Annual Academy Awards broadcast. Pennewell assisted Fagan during his work on the award-winning Broadway show “The Lion King” and the New York City Ballet 50th Anniversary Ellington Project. Pennewell made his debut as a choreographer in 2010 with “Hylozoic”, and later with “Liminal Flux” in 2011, “Gin” in 2013, and “After Hours” in 2014. Pennewell’s “So You See” will have its world premiere at the Joyce Theater on November 3, 2015.


Photos by Darial SneedPhoto & Ken A. Huth