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Dudley Williams

( b. Aug 18, 1938 New York, New York, USA - d. Jun 03, 2015 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Dudley Williams was an East Harlem prodigy who dazzled Alvin Ailey company audiences as a leading dancer for more than four decades, performing into his 60s. Mr. Williams was dancing with the Martha Graham Dance Company when he was recruited by the choreographer Alvin Ailey as a last-minute replacement for an Ailey troupe member in 1963. He performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater until 2005, continued to dance with Paradigm, a trio of older dancers he formed with Carmen de Lavallade and Gus Solomons Jr., and taught at the Ailey School, on West 55th Street in Manhattan, until he died.

At 75, in 2013, Mr. Williams returned to the stage, at City Center, for an Ailey company New Year's Eve performance of "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham," the rousing finale of the troupe's classic "Revelations," which was choreographed by Ailey.

Mr. Williams's signature solo, "I Wanna Be Ready," was also from "Revelations," in a repertoire that included Ailey's "Reflections in D," "Love Songs" and "Blues Suite"; Donald McKayle's "Rainbow Round My Shoulder," Lucas Hoving's "Icarus," Louis Falco's "Caravan" and his role as Nelson Mandela in "Survivors."

Critics lionized him. In The New York Times, Anna Kisselgoff, the chief dance critic, wrote in 1984: "Mr. Williams manages to inject the smallest gestures with an understated but powerful poignancy. One of the finest American dancers of his era, he has carved a niche for himself as that rare performer who can dazzle technically without for a moment losing sight of the dance's dramatic resonance."

Dudley was dancing from a young age. He flopped at tap dancing and was taunted in the East Harlem housing projects for his devotion to dance, but he persisted, spending days at the movies with a friend watching dance films. When, as a 12-year-old, Dudley stopped to hear his uncle sing at Sheldon B. Hoskins's theater school, he peeked into a dance studio and decided to stay, paying for his lessons by hawking copies of The Amsterdam News.

After graduating in 1958, he formed a dance company called The Corybantes, which toured union halls and Army bases; danced with the May O'Donnell, Donald McKayle and Talley Beatty troupes; and studied briefly at the Juilliard School before transferring to Martha Graham's school on a scholarship. He was invited to join her company in 1962.

Mr. Williams said he had been planning to leave the Graham troupe eventually when Ailey asked him to replace a dancer who had quit his company just before a season in London. Mr. Williams danced with both companies for a few years, though he grew unhappy with the Graham troupe.

Working for Ailey was no cakewalk. Even so, Mr. Williams redefined human possibilities. He suffered a knee injury in the 1960s and was told he would never walk again, but he was back onstage in two weeks after a regimen of Pilates exercises. Most dancers stop performing professionally around 30. For Mr. Williams, that was not even the halfway mark. He pushed his slight 5-foot-8, 130-pound frame to its fullest.

"I feel that God has given me a gift," he said, "and if you don't use it, shame on you."

Source: The New York Times obituary 

ProductionsDate of Productions
Martha Graham and Dance Company
[Special, Dance, Original]
  • Performer: Dudley Williams
Cortege of Eagles
[Special, Dance, Original]
  • Performer: Dudley Williams [Astyanax]
A Time of Snow
[Special, Dance, Original]
  • Performer: Dudley Williams [A Scholar of Paris]
May 25, 1968 - 1968
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