3 Legendary Bay Area Choreographers You Should Know
by Shari Baldie
Global majority choreographers have made significant contributions to the art form. These artists are architects for future generations pushing boundaries through movement and expression. We strive to educate, inspire, and connect with our audiences and fellow dancers as we showcase our traditions, journeys, and culture. Those who came before us such as Alonzo King, Joanna Haigood, and The Black Resurgents serve as guides. As we continue to move the art form forward, we look back at these three Bay Area choreographers who paved the way.
Alonzo King has been a prominent figure in the world of dance. In 1982 he founded Alonzo King LINES Ballet, a contemporary dance company based in San Francisco. King’s unique choreography, or “thought structures,” combines traditional ballet with modern dance. His work is a manifestation of his fascination with spirituality and his belief in the interconnectedness of all things.
King has collaborated with artists, composers, and musicians from around the world. He has received numerous prestigious awards including a Master of African American Choreography from the Kennedy Center for the Arts and, most recently, induction into the California Hall of Fame. King’s innovative and experimental approach to choreography has made a lasting impact in the world of contemporary dance.
Joanna Haigood is a renowned artist in the dance world. In 1980 she co-founded Zaccho Dance Theatre in San Francisco where she still serves as Artistic Director. Haigood is known for her aerial work and site-based performances. A variety of experiences early in her life serve as the foundation for her aerial aesthetic. Working for an architect during high school changed the way she thought about space and volume. While studying at a conservatory in London, she went to a circus and was in awe of the aerial performers. She realized dance didn’t have to solely be on the floor. Haigon was also interested in telling powerful stories through dance. Her pieces often center around the African American experience in the United States. A variety of spaces like military forts, a clock tower, and grain terminals have served as stages to bring her dynamic and theatrical visions to life.
Haigood’s work has been internationally recognized. Prestigious institutions such as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Walker Arts Center, and San Francisco’s Exploratorium have commissioned pieces. Haigood’s remarkable talent has earned her many accolades, including the New York Bessie Award, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and the Cal/Alpert Award in Dance. She has cemented her reputation as an innovative figure in the world of dance for over 40 years.
The Black Resurgents
Hailing from East Oakland, The Black Resurgents are a legendary Oakland Boogaloo group. Current members include William “Mr. Penguin” Randolph III, Ricky “Rick the Robot” Wilson-Gantt, Larry Robertson, Greg Gaineslanstet, and William A.P. Randolph. Members of The Black Resurgents first saw boogaloo in the 1960s, predating the birth of hip hop. Inspired by bass-heavy funk music from the likes of Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown, the core movement of boogaloo involves moving the body to music in a flow state like a puppeteer and hitting a pose. The group performed in talent shows and contests across the Bay Area and at Black Panther rallies. Performances were a form of self expression and survival as The Black Resurgents incorporated social and political themes in their movement.
In 2000, The Black Resurgents helped form the Original Boogaloo Movement (OBM), an intergenerational group of boogaloo dancers from the Bay Area. Their annual Oakland Boogaloo Reunion BBQ brings together the pioneers of the style and the new generation immersed in styles like turfing, an offshoot of boogaloo. The Black Resurgents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2021. Their legacy continues to inspire young dancers and artists.
At PUSH Dance Company we hold immense admiration and respect for each of these artists. They remain a symbol of creativity, resilience, and cultural pride, especially in the Bay Area dance community. Their contributions have not only paved the way for us, but have continued to inspire future generations while nurturing the culture of dance. We aim to pay it forward by empowering our dancers and through our work within the BIPOC Bay Area community.
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