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Donald McKayle



View A Remembrance

Professor Donald McKayle, recipient of honors and awards in every aspect of his illustrious career, has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition one of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the first 100.  His choreographic master-works, considered modern dance classics, GAMES, RAINBOW ‘ROUND MY SHOULDER, DISTRICT STORYVILLE, and SONGS OF THE DISINHERITED are performed around the world. He has choreographed over a hundred works for dance companies in the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe, and South America. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Cleveland Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble serve as repositories for his works. He was Artistic Mentor for the José Limón Dance Company. Ten retrospectives have honored his choreography. In April 2005, Donald McKayle was honored at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and presented with a medal as a Master of African American Choreography.

In 2001, he choreographed the monumental ten-hour production of TANTALUS, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in collaboration with the Denver Center Theatre Company.  Five Tony Nominations and Tony Awards have honored his choreography for Broadway musical theater: SOPHISTICATED LADIES, DOCTOR JAZZ, A TIME FOR SINGING, GOLDEN BOY, and for RAISIN, which garnered the Tony Award as Best Musical, and for which he received Tony nominations for both direction and choreography. For SOPHISTICATED LADIES he was also honored with an Outer Critics Circle Award and the NAACP Image Award. His most recent choreography for Broadway was showcased in IT AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT THE BLUES, which earned a Tony nomination for Best Musical.  He received an Emmy nomination for the TV Special, FREE TO BE... YOU AND ME.  His work for film includes Disney’s BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, THE GREAT WHITE HOPE, and THE JAZZ SINGER. His other media awards include a Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award for EVOLUTION OF THE BLUES and a Golden Eagle Award for ON THE SOUND.

In dance he has received the Capezio Award, the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award, the American Dance Guild Award, a Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival, the Heritage Award from the California Dance Educators Association, two Choreographer Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dance/USA Honors, an Irvine Fellowship in Dance, the Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, the Annual Award from the Dance Masters of America, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival, the Black College Dance Exchange Honors, the Dance Magazine Award, and the American Dance Legacy Institute’s Distinguished and Innovative Leadership Award, among others.For his work in education, he has earned the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching, University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award for Research, and he is a recipient of the UCI Medal, the highest honor given by the UCI.  At UCI he has been awarded the title of Claire Trevor Professor in Dance, an endowed chair, and is a Bren Fellow. Mr. McKayle has served on the faculties of numerous international forums and many prestigious national institutions including the Juilliard School, Bennington College, Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, the American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and was Dean of the School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts.


His autobiography, TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIES: My Dancing Life, published by Routledge was honored with the Society of Dance History Scholar’s De La Torre Bueno Prize.  A television documentary on his life and work, HEARTBEATS OF A DANCE MAKER, was aired on PBS stations throughout the United States.  His commissioned work MYSTERIES AND RAPTURES created on Cleveland San Jose Ballet was filmed and was also aired for public television.  He is honored by being part of the collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Donald McKayle has created over 250 concert works and television, film and theater works throughout the world.  He held the position of Professor of Dance at University of California, Irvine for 36 years. UPROOTED: PERO REPLANTADO of 2015 is yet another testament of his innovation in the art of dance as well as his ASH created immediately after 911.  In 2016 he created BITTERSWEET FAREWELL to the memory of the many friends he has lost and, in 2017, with his last work CROSSING THE RUBICON, Passing the Point of No Return, McKayle digs deeply in the suffering and tragedy of the Syrian refugees and honors the millions of people around the world who must migrate from their homes.

McKayle is survived by his wife Lea Vivante McKayle, daughters Liane McKayle, Gabrielle McKayle and son Guy McKayle.  His wife Lea created many costume designs and collaborated with McKayle on a multitude of works including WOMEN’S LAMENTS (3 solos).   He served at UCI as Professor/Choreographer/Teacher and Mentor to his most beloved students until his death on April 6, 2018.

Eleo Pomare

Choreographer and Artistic Director of the Eleo Pomare Dance Company for more than forty years, Mr. Pomare is widely recognized for his artistic contributions to American dance. Mr. Pomare is responsible for more than 115 choreographic works.

Three of his works have been documented by the American Dance Festival as masterworks and are archived as important achievements by African-American choreographers.  In addition to maintaining his own company, Mr. Pomare has choreographed works for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Maryland Ballet Company, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Cleo Parker-Robinson Dance Company (Denver), Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, the National Ballet of Holland, Balletinstituttet (Oslo, Norway), the Australian Contemporary Dance Company, the Ballet Palacio das Artes (Belo Horizonte, Brazil), and the Cincinnati Ballet. In 2004 Mr. Pomare was commissioned to choreograph a work honoring Taiwan's national hero, Nylon Cheng. The work, Tableau, was widely acclaimed throughout Taiwan along with two more of Mr. Pomare's works.

Mr. Pomare is a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of numerous other awards, including a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, the James Baldwin Award, and the Kennedy Center’s Masters of African-American Choreography Award.  He is an alumnus of the High School for the Performing Arts. He served for many years on the Executive Planning Committee of the International Association of Blacks in Dance. He was also on the Advisory Board of the American Dance Festival.

In 2011 an exhibit opened at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York.  It was called Eleo Pomare: The Man, The Artist, The Maker of Artists.

His archives will soon be at the Dance Collection of New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.


 Check out the exclusive interview on Eleo Pomare, interviewed by Michelle N. Gibson, plus photos of Eleo Pomare and video of Loris Anthony Beckles in Eleo Pomare's work!


Glenn Conner


For as long as I had known Eleo, there was Glenn.  After Eleo died, he became more passionate and particular about the Pomare legacy.  We knew very little about Glenn, as he was a very private man. These recollections are mostly from his nephew Steve, and niece Linda.

Glenn was the youngest of three children born to Eva Conner and their father Harry Conner during the Great Depression.  Betty was the oldest (1928), Ralph, was the middle child (1931) and Glenn was the baby (1938). Betty and Ralph not only went to school and participated in sports, and other extra-curriculars, but they also took care of little brother Glenn while their mother did any kind of work she could find in the small upper northeast Nebraska farm town of Wakefield which is about 45 minutes or so southwest of Sioux City, Iowa.  


When Glenn was in high school he was in the Wakefield High School Band and excelled in school.  He graduated from Wakefield High School in June of 1956. He attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, possibly graduating in 1960.


He taught for a while, and was in the seminary for a while.  We know he was in California when all the stuff was raging out there in the mid and late 1960s.  He met Eleo after a performance by the Eleo Pomare Dance Company. Later he worked for American Airlines in NYC as a ticket agent. After that he became involved in book publishing -children's books among other things, and an editor of textbooks.


The extended [Conner] family started having family reunions in Green River, Utah beginning in 1989.  Glenn attended those and reunions and was somewhat instrumental in really getting them going along with Betty and Ralph. Somewhere during that time he brought Eleo out to Utah to meet the entire extended family. And, as Steve said,  “let me tell you, even though their politics are largely different from Glenn's (and probably Eleo's) they were accepted and welcomed. To all of us, family is family and the most important thing there is... I never really knew how famous Eleo was... he seemed to be somewhat shy and reserved... just seemed like a very regular person.”


Some years after Eleo died (in 2008) Glenn moved to Omaha NE, to be nearer to his siblings.  He died in November last year.

A native of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Mr. Roumain is a choreographer, dance educator and actor. At the age of 15, he made his debut with the Chuck Davis Dance Company.  At 17 he was licensed to teach dance by the New York City Board of Education. Since that time he has performed as a soloist with the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, the Fred Benjamin Dance Company, Contemporary Dance System, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Dance Theater, the Jose Limon Dance Company, the Kazakh Hirabayashi Dance Theatre, the Joan Miller’s Dance Players and the Forces of Nature Dance Company.

Martial Roumain

(Artistic Director and owner of all rights to Eleo Pomare’s Dance Works)

Martial also served as assistant to Mr. Pomare at the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, Mr. Geoffrey Holder for Dance Theatre of Harlem and Ballet Hispanico productions and Joan Miller for the Joan Miller’s Dance Players.

Martial also served as Artistic Director of the Alpha-Omega Theatrical Dance Company.

His Broadway credits include: Treemonisha as a lead dancer, West Side Story as Chino, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Raisin, The Wiz, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Your Arms are too short to box with God as Judas, Timbuktu in the role of Munshi and lead dancer as the Bird of Paradise. Mr. Roumain performed in such operas as: The Medium as Toby, Ariadne August Naxos and Porgy and Bess at Metropolitan Opera House.

His Choreography has been seen on such companies as: the Chuck Davis Dance Company, the Mafata Dance company, Jubilation Dance Company, Joan Miller’s Dance Players, , Alpha-Omega Theatrical Dance Company, Ballet Guadeloupeen , Trinidadian Dance Theatre and such off Broadway productions of Carmencita, Marine Tiger, and Women, a benefit performance at the United Nations in support of the women of Dafur, Sudan. Mr.Roumain has also appeared on television and the big screen.

Mr. Roumain’s choreography has won first and second prize in European competitions. His awards include: Who’s Who Amongst Students in Universities and Colleges, Valores Destacados de 1980, Jewels of Haiti in celebration of Haiti’s bicentennial, and Outstanding Young Men of America.

He has taught throughout the United States, Canada, the West Indies, Europe, Australia, Africa, Japan and Taipei, Taiwan.

Mr. Roumain is a graduate of The Juilliard School.


Kathy M. Thomas

Ms. Thomas was a soloist dance/artist with the Eleo Pomare Dance Company from 1986 to 2018 where she doubled as assistant to choreographer Eleo Pomare and notator and reconstructor of his works. 


The American Dance Festival documented three of Eleo Pomare's works Ms. Thomas has notated and reconstructed (Blues for the Jungle, Las Desenamoradas and Missa Luba) as classics in the Black Tradition in American Modern Dance. 

Ms. Thomas has also reconstructed and notated Mr. Pomare's works on such companies as Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Cincinnati Ballet Company, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, the John Dewey High School Dance Ensemble (Dir. John Michael Goring) and the dance department at SMU. 


In addition to performing with the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, Ms. Thomas has also performed with choreographer Otis Sallid, the Fred Benjamin Dance Company, Black Pearl Dance Company and the Martha Graham Ensemble.

Donna Clark

Donna Clark is a native New Yorker who became interested in dance by first exploring all forms of the arts including music and drama. She developed as an artist as a member of the Alpha Omega Young Adult Workshop under the direction of Ronn Pratt and later Andy Torres. Simultaneously she studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance on a five-year full scholarship.  

Ms. Clark returned to her first love of musical theater with performances in the European productions of Black and Blue and Porgy and Bess; the national tour of The Wiz, and regional productions of Children of Eden, Play On!, and Latin Sol. Ms. Clark choreographed the production of "Café Society", performed at the TriBeCa Performing Arts Center in NYC, and is a performer and assistant choreographer of the ongoing production of Kentucky Avenue playing local and regional theaters.

Before becoming a principal dancer with Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, in addition to being the Company's Associate Director, Ms. Clark worked with several modern dance companies. These included Joan Miller's Dance Players, Michiyo and Dancers, Premiere Dance Theater, Gallman's Newark Dance Theatre, Eleo Pomare Dance Company and Shirley Rushing Danz, Inc. Ms. Clark holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Education from Baruch College, City University of New York.

As a long time artist of the Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, under the artistic direction of Enrique Cruz DeJesus, Ms. Clark has had the honor of performing and setting the work of Eleo Pomare. She has performed some his most celebrated works including Blues for the Jungle, Radeau (Raft), Tabernacle and most notably Narcissus Rising where Dance Magazine says In Clark's interpretation, the bold hip undulations as she rode her imaginary bike were more a dare of anger and danger rather than any sort of sexual seduction that might have been suggested by the black leather. And underlying all of this was a hint of pride that made every slow lean around a curve and even the quivering legs surrounding the bikes powerful engine a statement about control.


This was a woman proudly reveling in showing that she had the upper hand in all things on and off the bike.

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