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Dianne McIntyre at Spelman

Distinguished Visiting Scholar Dianne McIntyre

Biographical Sketch

An artistic pioneer, Dianne McIntyre has a career spanning over four decades of choreography for dance, theater, television and film. Her individualistic movement style is shaped by her affinity for cultural histories, personal narratives, bold music and poetic text.

Since 1972, she has choreographed scores of concert dances, four Broadway shows, 30 regional theater productions, a London West End musical, three feature films, three television productions, stage movement for recording artists and five original full-length dance dramas.  World-renowned dance companies, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco!, Cleo Park Robinson Dance, GroundWorks Dance Theater, Dancing Wheels, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, as well as more than forty university ensembles and major dance festivals have commissioned her choreography and teaching residencies.

The Recipient of Many Notable Awards

Dianne McIntyreMcIntyre is one of 20 artists nationally to be named a 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award recipient. Other honors include the John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the National Dance Residency Award, National Endowment for the Arts Three-Year Choreography Fellowship, Creative Workforce Fellowship, National Dance Project Fellowship, and many other grants, commissions and fellowships from NEA and New York State Council for the Arts.

McIntyre has also received three Bessies/New York Dance and Performance Award (1989, 1997, 2006), two AUDELCO's (NY Black Theatre), one Helen Hayes award (D.C. Theatre), four Helen Hayes nominations, one Emmy nomination, Master of African American Choreography Medal from the Kennedy Center, American Dance Festival Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beineke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching, Distinguished Alumni Award from The Ohio State University, Ohio Dance Pioneer Award, Cleveland Arts Prize, International Association of Blacks in Dance Legendary Artist Award and Thelma Hill and Woodie Lifetime Achievement Awards. She has also received Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from SUNY Purchase and Cleveland State University. 

A Past Marked by Artistic Brilliance

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, McIntyre studied dance with Elaine Gibbs and Virginia Dryansky and received her B.F.A. in dance from Ohio State University under the tutelage of Helen Alkire, Vera Blaine, James Payton, and Lucy Venable.

Upon moving to New York City in 1970, McIntyre performed with the Gus Solomon Jr. Dance Company for two years. She also became a mentee of Louise Roberts, who was the director of the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, and young McIntyre was given free space to rehearse her early dances. Roberts also produced McIntyre's first dance performance in New York and helped her launch her vision to establish her own dance company.

In 1972, McIntyre founded Sounds in Motion in Harlem and soon after the Sounds in Motion School. The ensemble of dancers, musicians and McIntyre’s subsequent companies have performed extensively in New York and throughout the country in venues such as The Joyce Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Kennedy Center, Walker Arts Center, Jacobs Pillow and American Dance Festival. Her ensembles have toured Europe as well.

Some of McIntyre's signature works include: Life's Force, Take-Off from a Forced Landing, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Love Poems to God. In the 70’s and 80’s, the Sounds in Motion studio in Harlem was a space not just for dancers and musicians, but it also became a center for what McIntyre calls, “the culture crowd.” Many artists, scholars and activists would gather at the studio to forward the movement of Black consciousness.  There, McIntyre became a mentor to many promising artists, some of whom are now prominent dancers, choreographers, educators and founders of their own companies.

A Future Fueled by Creative Genius

After 16 years, McIntyre closed her company to embark on an independent choreography career and has since choreographed and directed countless works for the dance and theater. In 1991, after extensive research, she recreated dance pioneer Helen Tamiris’ epic 1937 work, “How Long, Brethren?” In 2009, she choreographed Lincoln Center Theater/Broadway's “Joe Turner's Come and Gone” by August Wilson, to critical acclaim. 

Inspired to create work derived from real-life narratives coupled with in-depth research, McIntyre has conceptualized and directed her own “dance-driven dramas” that have appeared in both dance and theater venues. Notable works are "Just Yesterday" (2010), "Open the Door Virginia!" (2006, Virginia civil rights), "Daughter of a Buffalo Soldier" (2005), and "I Could Stop On A Dime and Get Ten Cents Change(1996 and based on her father's life stories).

McIntyre's work has also been featured on large and small screens including the feature films, Beloved(Harpo/Disney) and Fun Size (Paramount)She choreographed HBO's award-winning film, "Miss Evers' Boys, for which she received an Emmy nomination. In addition, she was the choreographer for the television features,"Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper," and "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf."

Works Influenced by Jazz and a Creative Culture

Early in her career, McIntyre became captivated by “free Jazz” music, the thrust of  its power, it’s defiance and improvisational elements. This music has been one of her “teachers.” She has been privileged to collaborate with numerous celebrated musicians including Olu Dara, Lester Bowie, Max Roach, Butch Morris, Sharon Freeman, Cecil Taylor, Don Pullen, Hannibal, Ahmed Abdullah, Kysia Bostic and Hamiet Bluiett. Along with her mentors, her fellow dancers and collaborative composers, McIntyre acknowledges the influence of the following directors and playwrights with whom she has worked: Marion McClinton, Regina Taylor, Des McAnuff, Jonathan Demme, Douglas Turner Ward, August Wilson, OyamO, Ntozake Shange, Avery Brooks, Rita Dove, Joe Sargent, Rick Davis, Woodie King Jr., Irene Lewis, Oz Scott and Rick Khan.

McIntyre's recent and upcoming projects include: Philadanco!, a McIntyre solo with Odetta recordings, James Baldwin Festival at New York Live Arts, a solo for Roxane D’Orleans Juste of the Limon Dance Company, Dance St. Louis new choreography, "lost in language and sound," a new choreopoem by Ntozake Shange; and a solo performance at New York Live Arts with yMusic ensemble in association with Bill T. Jones.

Header Photo Credit: Victor Jouvert from Fly: Five First Ladies of Dance @ The Painted Bride Art Center

Journey to Memory Falls

Dianne McIntyre Three Colored Girls