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Donald Byrd on Confronting the Uncomfortable Skip to main content

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Donald Byrd on Confronting the Uncomfortable

Master choreographer and Doris Duke Artist Donald Byrd speaks to dance’s power to engage people around society’s most difficult and unsettling issues. Often referred to as a “citizen artist” for his ability to craft works that stimulate dialogue through powerful, timely stories and moving social commentary, Byrd is seen here rehearsing "Greenwood," his fifth commission for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, with the company's dancers. The work's title references the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that happened in the city's segregated Greenwood District.

A TONY Award nominee and Bessie Award winner, Byrd has created more than 100 contemporary dance works for his own groups as well as for Ailey, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), among many others. Among his more recent projects for Spectrum Dance Theater, where he has been artistic director since 2002, was a cycle of three evening-length works that sought to inspire thoughtful discourse around a post-9/11, globalized America. Other productions that showcase his ability to navigate complex societal issues through dance include “Interrupted Narratives/War,” which tells stories from the war in Iraq; “The Theater of Needless Talents,” which focuses on the artist victims of the Holocaust; “H.R 3244,” a response to human trafficking; and “Strange Fruit,” which considers racial terrorism and lynching during the Jim Crow era.