Dancer With a Star
Famous dancers and choreographers from around the world gathered on Thursday, March 8 to honor Professor Donald McKayle with a star on the Claire Trevor School of the Arts Walk of Fame for his lifetime work as a dancer, choreographer and teacher.
Acclaimed dancers and choreographers graced the red carpet in front of the Irvine Barclay Theatre as an evening of celebration was getting started. The black-tie event was in full swing as valet waited on incoming guests and velvet ropes guided hundreds into the lobby.
Chancellor Michael Drake and dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Joseph Lewis, said a few words of congratulations as Professor McKayle was presented with his award.
The second star on the Claire Trevor Walk of Fame now belongs to Professor McKayle for his 60 years of hard work. For over half a century, Professor McKayle has touched many through his dedication. The year and a half planning for Thursday’s long-awaited event was assembled by many eager to help celebrate the famous Donald McKayle.
“You [McKayle] gave us a lens through which we could find ourselves,” award-winning choreographer, dancer and actress Debbie Allen said as she introduced the start of the show. “You gave us a reflection of ourselves that helped us find a path through many decades of challenge and creativity and discovery and accomplishment.”
Renowned dancers and choreographers from various dance companies such as, The Wooden Floor, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, praised Professor McKayle with several contemporary and jazz performances. Professor McKayle himself choreographed many performances of the night such as “Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder,” “Levee Blues,” “Upon the Mountain,” “Angelitos Negros,” and premiering for the first time, “The Americas: North and South.” Dance companies from around the nation, such as the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, Philadanco, and Dallas Black Dance Theatre, also contributed to the 15 performances commemorating Professor McKayle.
“He is very inspirational,” third-year UC Irvine dancer said, Danielle Dunmire. “His was the first choreography class I ever took. I was very nervous but he was such a great professor.”
Professor McKayle has choreographed over 90 pieces for dance companies around the globe. Amongst the various states in America, McKayle has also made his mark in South America, Canada, Europe and Israel.
His role as a major figure in the world of dance fell in line with his large role in the African American community. Professor McKayle has received countless awards among the African American community such as, Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival and the NAACP Image Award. He has also received a medal of honor from the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as a Mast of African American Choreography.
After seeing McKayle’s, “Games,” dean of performing arts Sylvia Turner said she was set on, “keeping a professional connection [with McKayle],” because contrary to what many believe, “the dance world is actually very small.”
The Dance Heritage Coalition has named Professor McKayle, “One of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.” His works, such as, “Games,” “Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder,” “Songs of the Disinherited,” and “District Storyville,” are considered contemporary classics and are taught around the world.
Other than being performed on stage, Professor McKayle’s well-known work is presented through his autobiography titled, “Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life,” and a televised documentary, “Heartbeats of a Dance Maker.”
Although at the age of 82, McKayle is officially retired from teaching and walks with a cane, the professor still remains active on the UC Irvine campus. Even though he is no longer dancing or teaching, his work will forever be remembered as future dance students and faculty pass by the Claire Trevor Walk of Fame.