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Celebrate the Legacy of Garth Fagan Dance

By Tracie Isaac

Panel discussion after PRELUDE preview (L to R) Carvin Eison, Garth Fagan, Norwood Pennewell, William J. Ferguson II, Natalie Rogers-Cropper, Karen (TBD will get in AM) of WXXI Photo by Tracie Isaac.

For more than 50-years, choreographer Garth Fagan has immersed his life into the world of dance and creating dancers.  Coming to the silver screen is a documentary titled PRELUDE l The Legacy of Garth Fagan Dance which will premiere on Friday, September 16 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.  Additionally, the opportunity to experience Garth Fagan Dance in-person is available by attending the dance company performances “At Home With Garth Fagan Dance” during the Rochester Fringe Festival at the Garth Fagan Dance Studio located at 50 Chestnut Street, from September 14 until the final performance on September 24, 2022.

The hour-long documentary PRELUDE produced by WXXI explores Mr. Fagan’s life and career of being Founder and Artistic Director of Garth Fagan Dance.  He is hailed as “a trail blazer” and “One of the great reformers of modern dance.”  Three of Fagan’s long-time disciples are tasked to bring his technique and legacy to the next generation:  William J. Ferguson II, Natalie Rogers-Cropper, and Norwood Pennewell.

Originating from Jamaica, West Indies, Mr. Fagan began dancing while in high school with Ivy Baxter’s Jamaican National Dance Company.  He came to the United States to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology in 1960 at Wayne State University in Detroit but he continued dancing.

In 1997, Garth Fagan’s choreography was launched into the spotlight with the Broadway production of Julie Taymor’s The Lion King.  The documentary is a compilation of reflections on what that experience meant to the choreographer and his close collaborators. Viewers will witness several years of Fagan’s work through archival video of rehearsals, performances, and interviews.  The film looks at the evolution of the virtuoso and his company of dancers who shared his vision and mastered his technique.

Mr. Fagan’s choreography is primarily for Garth Fagan Dance but only four other dance companies in the world, which include the Alvin Ailey American Dance, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Limon Dance Company and New York City Ballet, who are among the leading companies have performed his works. He is internationally known for his Tony award winning choreography for the phenomenal Broadway hit The Lion King, which is still running after 25-years and has been seen around the world by over 100 million people. 

A key message shared by Mr. Fagan is how he was able to build a multi-cultural dance company based in Rochester with his development of the Fagan Technique™, which fuses modern dance, the vitality of Afro-Caribbean movement, the speed and precision of ballet with the risk-taking experimentation of postmodernism.

The importance of having this documentary preserves and archives the experiences of Mr. Fagan, a living Jamaican-American dance treasure and his work in his own words.  This documentary also captures the persona of Mr. Fagan and the “family-like” bond that is generated between the choreographer and the dancers. Valuable reflections from the dancers who committed their lives to his dance company and others who revere his work ethic and technique because they have had the experience of other techniques but can testify to the brilliance of the Fagan Technique™. 

Interviews from key industry icons such as The Lion King director Julie Taymor, Kennedy Center award-winning dancer and former Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey Company Judith Jamison, SUNY Brockport Dancer Professor Emeritus Jacquie Davis, and many others provide a multifaceted view of all stages of Fagan’s illustrious career and a look at the next generation of Garth Fagan Dance.

For more information on the documentary PRELUDE l The Legacy of Garth Fagan Dance visit and for tickets to see Garth Fagan Dance