The Dunham Legacy Revisited | Program Director

Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” -Paul Robeson

Reginald Yates, The Dunham Legacy Program Director, is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist, dancer, choreographer, community liaison, writer, curator, cultural historian, arts & education advocate, world mentor, and activist for indigenous and disenfranchised communities. His life work emphasizes the spiritual and life affirming attributes of art; and its propensity to heal, edify, and exalt our collective humanity as an agent and catalyst for progressive change and transformation. As an advocate for the unsung and displaced he has championed the work of numerous artists to assure their rightful place in history and has acted as an intercessor for the restoration of lost, fragmented, and forgotten works of art, especially regarding the sacred legacies of artists of African descent.

His academic and arts training exists in a continuum of incessant investigation. As a researcher, documentarian, and witness especially of the Griot and Djeli traditions of Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, the Caribbean and poignant voices of the African Diaspora, respectfully espousing the inherent belief that art and life is one. Yates’ early artistic studies consisted of masterful artists from Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Babatunde Olatunji, Charles Moore, Diane McIntyre, Martha Graham (representing the last generation taught by Ms. Graham), New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and descendants of the Ballets Russes.  Also, with cultural scholars from East and West Africa in advanced studies, at the eminent HBCU Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida State University.

Within a contemporary indium, he has worked extensively with legendary dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist Katherine Dunham, as a collaborator, facilitator, advisor, and cultural interpreter for the preservation of her work as well as notable scholars Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia of Ghana and the late Prof. F. Nii Yartey, who is revered as the father of Ghanaian contemporary African dance. Yates has also had enduring relationships with iconic cultural figures Joe Nash, Walter Nicks, Marie Brooks, Donald McKayle, Louis Johnson, and Baba Chuck Davis. In addition, he has held over fifty distinguished residences and appointments throughout the world with affiliations to the noted institutions of Alvin Ailey, The Juilliard School, New World School for the Arts, Barnard College, New York University, Lincoln Center, Hunter College, University of the Arts, Sarasota Ballet, The City College of New York, Radford University, University of Calabar Nigeria, The Academy of Arts Cairo Egypt, National Theater of Ghana, University of Ghana, Noyam African Dance Institute, and Ghana Dance Ensemble. He has also led significant arts and education initiatives for developing artists with major consultancy projects throughout the states of Florida, Pennsylvania, California, and Washington, D.C. Agencies he has lent his expertise to include Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Pew Charitable Trust, the James Irvine Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and National Initiative to Preserve American Dance. As a proponent of youth arts education, he is the Founding Chair and Visionary For the Pinellas County Center for the Arts Dance Division in St. Petersburg Florida, providing conservatory training to gifted young artists, many of whom have joined the ranks of prominent professional dance companies known and respected worldwide.

As a performer, Yates is well versed in several dance languages and as a lecturer and scholar. Mr. Yates has also presented at numerous festivals and conferences on three continents, including festivals in Africa, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. With multiple performances and workshops for Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, the Market for African Performing Arts, Abidjan Côte d’ Ivoire, Harvard University, STEPS with Contemporary Masters, Florida International University, Dance Africa Minnesota, Ballet Hispánico, Cleo Parker Robinson, Perry Mansfield, and 92nd Street.  During his tenure in West Africa, he acted as a Cultural Advisor and Assistant to the Public Affairs Office of the American Embassy in Ghana West Africa and as an international specialist in cultural policy and consultant for secondary and university education. In 2002 he conceived and directed the historic visit of celebrated artist and former Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Judith Jamison. She was the first American artist to be enstooled in Ghana as a Queenmother of the Arts in Accra and given the stool name of Naa Aquayehe Shika. The name is interpreted as “one who is a sacred treasure and held in high esteem.” A recipient of numerous distinguished honors and awards, Mr. Yates is a Fulbright Scholar, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow, and a recipient of multiple national and international fellowships, grants and awards in choreography, anthropological research, and advanced education. He is also a three-time choreography fellow through the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, a three-time fellow to the prestigious arts colony Yaddo, and a Philip Morris Residency Award Honoree. Significant commissions include The Juilliard School, the Orlando Opera, the Sarasota Ballet, Lincoln Center, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, commemorating their 40th anniversary.

Reginald Yates has been a three-time Director and performance curator for the Cultural Traditions Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow. “The Dunham Legacy Revisited ” is the second installment dedicated to the concentrated study and examination of her masterful work led by Mr. Yates. With eternal respect and gratitude, it’s dedicated to the indelible memory of Yates’ first teachers, Hattie and Roland Johnson Yates, his first dance teacher Dr. Beverly Barber and the major artists from 2002 who are now ancestors along with Ms. Dunham, most notably, Vanoye Aikens, Marie Brooks, Donald McKayle, Joe Nash, Walter Nicks, Marceline Freeman, Theo Jamison, and Jonathan Phelps. “You have Done your Work, Now take your Rest and Rightful Place” Nyame Nwu na Mawu. Axe’.

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