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Charles Rudolph Davis
Born: January 1, 1937
Occupation: dancer, choreographer, instructor
Charles Rudolph Davis was born to Annie and Tony Davis of Raleigh, North Carolina, and began dancing with his friends at an early age. After graduation from J. W. Ligon High School in Raleigh, Davis served two years in the Navy, received nursing training at George Washington University Hospital, and studied theater and dance at Howard University before going to New York in 1958 to study dance.

A large man, 6 5' and weighing over 200 pounds, Davis became interested in traditional African dance in part through his anger at depictions of Africans in the mass media. After his move to New York City, he danced with the companies of Klara Harrington, Olatunji, Raymond Sawyer, Eleo Pomare, Bernice Johnson, and Joan Miller. In 1968 he organized his own dance troop, the New York-based Chuck Davis Dance Company, which until 1987 was a leading exponent of traditional African dance in America. Davis' choreography was informed by nearly annual trips to Africa. While maintaining a busy schedule of teaching, lecturing, and choreographing, Davis found time to study with master teachers of various African dance styles, including Momodou Job of Senegal, Ibrahiem Camara of Guinea, Rose Marie Giraud of the Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and American-born Nana Dinizulu and Pearl Primus.

In 1980 Davis returned to North Carolina where he founded the African-American Dance Ensemble and the Alayanfe Children's Dance Company in Durham. In 1977 Davis created the DanceAfrica festival, an annual event celebrating African dance held at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music.

-- Julinda Lewis-Ferguson

Emery, Lynne Fauley. BLACK DANCE FROM 1619 TO TODAY. 2nd rev. ed. Princeton, N.J., 1988, pp. 305306.
Stearns, Marshall, and Jean Stearns. JAZZ DANCE : THE STORY OF AMERICAN VERNACULAR DANCE. New York, 1968.

Source Citation: "Charles Rudolph Davis." ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Gale Group.