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Thu, 07.18.1946

Dianne McIntyre, Dancer born


*Dianne McIntyre was born on this date in 1946.  She is a Black dancer, choreographer, and teacher.

Dianne McIntyre was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Dorothy Layne McIntyre, the first African American woman to be licensed by the Civil Aeronautics Authority and Francis Benjamin McIntyre.  At the age of four, McIntyre began studying ballet under the tutelage of Elaine Gibbs after seeing Janet Collins in the Metropolitan Opera Company's Cleveland production of Aida. As a teenager, she studied modern dance with Virginia Dryansky.  In 1964, McIntyre graduated from John Adams High School before attending Ohio State University.

There, she first studied French with plans to become a linguist with the United Nations, but she became a dance major during her third year after taking a dance history course with Shirley Wynne.  In 1966, McIntyre attended the American Dance Festival. While taking graduate courses at Ohio State University, the head of the dance department, Helen P. Alkire put McIntyre's name up for a position at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where McIntyre was then hired.  There, she choreographed for a year before moving to New York City in 1970.  

In New York, McIntyre studied under Viola Farber and Gus Solomons Jr. among others. At a workshop with Anna Sokolow, the Nikolais Dance Theater, Judith Dunn, and Bill Dixon she found herself drawn to the connection between dance composition and avant-garde jazz and free jazz.  She began to attend the rehearsals of jazz musicians, such as the Master Brotherhood, where she taught herself how to move to jazz. Her frequent attendance at the Master Brotherhood rehearsals earned her the nickname the "Cancer Dancer," because she was born in July.  Under the mentorship of Louise Roberts, the director of the Clark Center, McIntyre founded the Harlem studio and company, Sounds in Motion, in 1972.  

She then held concerts at the Cubiculo Theatre and Washington Square Church while supporting her endeavors out of her own pocket. During this time, she worked part-time at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in the dance collection. Upon advice from others, McIntyre began applying for grants in order to fund her project when Sounds in Motion joined the National Endowment for the Arts dance-touring program.  Sounds in Motion performed at venues such as the Joyce Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as touring in Europe as the only modern dance studio to be found in Harlem. The studio was a space where what McIntyre termed "the culture crowd," a label that included not only dancers and musicians, but scholars, activists, and artists from all fields, could gather and engage in furthering movement of Black consciousness.  Many students who studied under McIntyre at the Sound in Motion studio went on to accomplish much in their own right, including Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women.  

McIntyre closed Sounds in Motion in 1988 to pursue independent work. As a freelancer, McIntyre choreographed the Broadway productions of Mule Bone (1991), the original and revival of Paul Robeson (1988 and 1995 respectively), and King Hedley II (2001). Off-Broadway, McIntyre also choreographed Obie Award winner Ntozake Shange's Spell #7.   Her choreography has also been featured on television in HBO's Miss Evers' Boys (1997) and in the 1998 film Beloved.  PBS profiled McIntyre in their 2001 three-part documentary, Free to Dance.   In 2011, McIntyre choreographed for the film Fun Size. In 2012 she choreographed Crowns at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.  

McIntyre has been a guest artist and teacher at numerous institutions including the American Dance Festival, Jacob's Pillow Dance, and the Bates Summer Dance Festival.  She has also been on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College.  In 2013, Barnard College's Africana Studies Program and Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies hosted a two-day conference titled The Worlds of Ntozake Shange. At the event, McIntyre and Shange discussed their work together and the legacy of their collaboration.  In 2014, McIntyre returned to Barnard to hold a movement workshop for a course on Ntozake Shange's work and influence.

In the fall of 2014, McIntyre will be choreographing a new Choreopoem by Shange to be premiered at the Brooklyn and Kelly Strayhorn Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has won numerous honors for her work including an Emmy nomination, three Bessie Awards, and a Helen Hayes Award. She is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the Dramatists Guild of America.   

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