On the 53rd Anniversary of the founding of the Garth Fagan Dance, Founder and Creative Director Garth Fagan announced to his board that while he will continue to choreograph new dances, he is stepping away from leadership of the company, and has hand-picked his successors.
Natalie Rogers-Cropper, a long-time Principal Dancer, has been chosen by Fagan to be Executive Director and School Director. Norwood “PJ” Pennewell, long-time Principal Dancer and Choreographer will accept Fagan’s invitation to take on the position as Artistic Director. Both Pennewell and Rogers-Cropper are nationally recognized Bessie Award winners, and served as assistant choreographers and co-rehearsal directors of the Tony Award-winning Broadway and international musical sensation, “The Lion King,” choreographed by Garth Fagan.
Fagan stressed that he will remain active with the company in an artistic capacity. His new title will be Founder and Distinguished Artistic Director Emeritus.
“I am so proud, so happy, so honored to have these two talented people that I have known, worked with, laughed with, cried with, celebrated with for…decades…to now be taking my legacy, my artistry, my DANCE, my HEART, forward into tomorrow,” Fagan said. ”I am grateful beyond measure.”
Fagan is the recipient of the 1998 Tony Award®, the 2000 Laurence Olivier Award (London, UK) and the 2004 Helpmann Award (Australia) for best choreography in a musical as well as the Drama Desk Award, the Astaire Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for his work in The Lion King. Mr. Fagan was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where he received the Prime Minister’s Award, a Special Gold Musgrave Medal for his “Contribution to the World of Dance and Dance Theater” and in 2001, he received the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander. For more than 50 years he has toured the world with Garth Fagan Dance. On television, the company has appeared on “Great Performances,” “The Tonight Show” and the Academy Awards®.
Fagan forged his own dance language and technique from Afro-Caribbean, ballet and post-modern dance, and has choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Jose Limon Company, the New York City Ballet and others. In addition, he choreographed Joseph Papp’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and directed & choreographed the Duke Ellington street opera, Queenie Pie at the Kennedy Center. A Chancellor’s Award-winning Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of the State University of New York, his awards include the 2001 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award, a Bessie Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow. In 2001 he was the recipient of the Golden Plate Award and inducted into the American Academy of Achievement. He was selected in 2012 as an “Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by The Dance Heritage Coalition. In 2017, Mr. Fagan received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Guild.
“I have known Garth Fagan since his earliest days at SUNY Brockport where he was a young professor and I was his student. I have been privileged to travel alongside him as the company videographer, and now Board Chair, for over 50 years. I have had a front row seat to the growth, the innovation and the lives changed because of this remarkable and visionary man—whose contributions to the world of dance cannot be measured," said Garth Fagan Dance Board Chair Carvin Eison. "His legacy is a treasure that he has chosen wisely, very wisely, to pass along at this stage of life when it is still his decision to make. And a very wise decision it is. As Chair of the Board, and as his friend, I offer a standing ovation to his enduring commitment to the future of Garth Fagan Dance."
Rogers-Cropper is a Juilliard School graduate and principal dancer with Garth Fagan Dance since 1989. With 34 years of dedication, she taught Fagan Technique™ globally for over three decades and received the Women of Excellence Award in 2021 for her leadership and achievements in business and dance.
Pennewell joined Garth Fagan Dance in 1979 and has been the quintessential Garth Fagan dancer as well as Fagan's assistant and muse. As a principal dancer with Garth Fagan Dance, he has been a key figure in the company's global presence. As Fagan's assistant and choreographer, Pennewell has a 44-year performance history, choreographed 11 works for the company, and is praised for his innovative approach rooted in Fagan Technique™.
“PJ Pennewell and Natalie Rogers are two of the most talented, creative and supportive artists I have ever worked with," Julie Taymor, Tony Award-winning director of “The Lion King” said. "As assistant choreographers to Garth for “The Lion King” they were instrumental in helping Garth create a whole new form of choreography for Broadway. Their experience in dance education and choreography in addition to their dedication to Garth’s artistic vision guarantees that his legacy will live on through their leadership.”