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Free to Dance Dance Timeline

1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech at the historic March on Washington on August 28 -- the civil rights movement's watershed event. Eleo Pomare leaves Kurt Jooss' school in Germany, where he is studying, to return to America at the urging of friend, writer James Baldwin to attend the march.

The National Guard descends on Cambridge, Maryland to end race riots.

Katherine Dunham choreographs the Metropolitan Opera's production of "Aida."


1965 - Gus Solomons, jr.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The civil rights movement launches major voter registration campaigns. In the Los Angeles ghetto of Watts, six days of rioting erupts.

Katherine Dunham is "technical cultural advisor" to the government of Senegal.

Rod Rodgers becomes director of dance for Harlem's Mobilization for Youth.

Gus Solomons, jr., an architecture graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joins the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Agnes de Mille choreographs "The Four Marys" for American Ballet Theatre. Carmen de Lavallade performs the principal role, with Mary Hinkson, on loan from Martha Graham's company, and a young Philadelphia dancer making her New York debut -- Judith Jamison.


1966 - Las Desenamoradas"
Violence erupts as Martin Luther King, Jr. launches his civil rights campaign in Chicago.

Eleo Pomare premieres "Blues for the Jungle" at the 92nd Street YMHA. An edgy, unflinching depiction of ghetto life, "Blues" is part of an eclectic repertoire filled with dance dramas, like "Las Desenamoradas," adapted from Garcia Lorca's THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA, and abstract works like "Missa Luba," motivated by the fusion of Catholic ritual and Congolese images.

The first Negro Arts Festival in Dakar, Senegal features numerous African-American artists, including the AAADT.


1967 - Chuck Davis
A "long hot summer" of race riots rock major U.S. cities, including Newark, New Jersey and New York City.

The AAADT, America's cultural ambassadors, make an extensive State Department-sponsored tour of the African continent.

The Chuck Davis Dance Company is formed by a man described as "a leading force in African-American dance." Davis' career includes works choreographed for Olatunji Dance Company (1962-66) and Eleo Pomare (1966-68).

Katherine Dunham opens a dance school in East St. Louis, Illinois.


1968 - Rod Rodgers
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. A wave of violence sweeps black sections of major U.S. cities.

Rod Rodgers, former Erick Hawkins dancer, performs "Tangents," blending Hawkins' flowing style with African percussive rhythm and ritual dance.

Eleo Pomare, Rod Rodgers, and others form the Association of Black Choreographers.

The Harlem Cultural Commission launches Dancemobile and takes performances by Pomare, Rodgers, and others to the city streets on a flatbed truck during long hot summers. The response is tremendous.

Jeraldyne Blunden's Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DC/DC) is launched showcasing major choreographers and teachers, including James Truitte and Thelma Hill, master teachers of the Lester Horton Technique, Billy Wilson, and more.

1969 Alvin Ailey's popularity propels the AAADT from performances in the Clark Center's 300-seat matchbox theater to the 3,000-seat Brooklyn Academy of Music.