|George Faison was born in Washington, D.C., where he
attended Dunbar High School. While in high school, he studied dance with
the Jones-Haywood Capitol Ballet and Carolyn Tate of Howard University.
Faison entered Howard to study dentistry in 1964, but left in 1966, after
a performance by the Alvin Ailey company inspired him to pursue a career
Faison moved to New York City in 1966 and became an immediate success
in the dance world. That same year, he was chosen as Lauren Bacall's dance
partner in a television special. Faison joined the Alvin Ailey American
Dance Theater in 1967 as a dancer and remained through 1969. He left Ailey
to begin his own group, George Faison Universal Dance Experience, in 1971.
The company's roster of dancers included Debbie Allen, Renee Rose, Gary
DeLoatch, and Al Perryman. Faison served as dancer and choreographer,
creating original work for the company. One of Faison's best-known works
is "Suite Otis" (1971), set to the music of Otis Redding. The dance
is for five couples and combines elements of ballet and contemporary
dance. Faison also created pieces with a historical and political bent,
among them works inspired by the memory of Malcolm X. "Poppy" (1971)
dealt with the problem of drug addiction.
Faison made his choreographic debut on Broadway with the show "Don't
Bother Me, I Can't Cope" in 1972. In 1974 he choreographed "The
Wiz," the successful all-black musical retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ Faison won a Tony Award for his choreography, the first for an
African American in that category. By the mid-1970s the George Faison
Universal Dance Experience had disbanded, and Faison was choreographing
music concerts for such artists as Stevie Wonder; Earth, Wind & Fire;
and Gladys Knight and the Pips. This was in addition to his work in
musical theater. Faison has choreographed more than 30 plays and
musicals, including the short-lived Broadway musical "1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue" (1967) with music by Leonard Bernstein; a Radio City Music Hall
production of "Porgy and Bess" (1983); and "Sing, Mahalia, Sing"
(1985) at the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia. Faison has also worked in
television, and in 1989 he conceived and produced a television special
COSBY SALUTES AILEY for the 30th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey
American Dance Theater. He won an Emmy Award for his choreography of the
HBO special THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY, which aired in 1991.
-- Zita Allen