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Garth Fagan Dance Celebrating more than 50 Years of Dance Excellence

Garth Fagan Dancer, John Crimm

Garth Fagan Dance will be celebrating their 53rd anniversary this year starting with performances in December. The local and nationally acclaimed dance company will kick off celebrations December 8th through December 10th with live performances and renditions from guest performers Wynton Rice and LeTiger Walker.

The event, "Home Showcase," will be held at Monroe Community College Theatre in the Robin and Timothy Wentworth Arts Building.

In addition to Rice and Walker, performers will include curated pieces of Fagan favorites and premieres from Norwood “PJ” Pennewell and Natalie Rogers-Cropper, hailed as the next chapter in the remarkable legacy of Garth’s dance artistry

Fagan and his dance company are no strangers to the Rochester community. The organization was founded by Garth Fagan in 1970 in Rochester, NY. He is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. His calling and career in dance began as a teenager touring with a national dance company from Jamaica. Fagan’s first major performance was at the inauguration for Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Alongside Fagan, over the years, has been a number of co-laborers including Trinidad native, Natalie Rogers-Cropper, the current Director. Rogers-Cropper joined the group in 1989.

Antiqua native, Sharon Skepple, joined in 1988. She is now retired from the establishment.

Steve Humphrey of Anne Arbor Michigan is Fagan’s principal and only original dancer currently active in Garth Fagan shows.

Norwood Pennewell of Schenectady, New York joined the group in 1978. Pennewell and Humphrey has been Fagan’s accompanying teachers and influencers who have helped to build the highly successful academy.

“Together they have contributed greatness, ministry and life through dance,” says Rogers-Cropper.

Throughout the years Garth Fagan Dance has performed 660 cities, 6 continents and 24 countries such as Australia, Africa and New Zealand and that is just to name a few. This alone tells a part of a story and vision that this legend had and brought into fruition.

Fagan has been considered an “irreplaceable dance treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition.

“(Fagan) has made a significant impact on dance as an art form, demonstrated artistic excellence, enriched the nations cultural heritage, demonstrated the potential to enhance the lives of future generations and shown itself worthy of national and international recognition,” the organization said in an online statement.

“This goes hand in hand with his mission which is to foster awareness, advance and nurture. One of the most beautiful facts about the Garth Fagan Dance is, that I have read is as follows: The internationally acclaimed company has taken it’s rightful place as a black legacy dance company with a message that shows people of color are worthy, capable and interested in telling stories that affect people of all colors and backgrounds. This alone speaks volumes of who Garth Fagan is and the passion he has for dance and people.”

Garth Fagan Dancer, Gabrielle Samuel

Fagan has been acknowledged for his work and dedication with many awards throughout his career. He is a 5-time winner of the “Bessie” award—a New York Performance Award. In addition, he is a recipient of the Tony, Helpmann and Olivier awards.

In 1998 he was presented with the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Estair Award. He was a recipient of the Laurence Olivier Award in 2000, the Ovation Award in 2001 and the Helpmann Award in 2004. He was also inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame in April of this year.

Other accomplishments include his major role in the choreography in the stage performances, the Lion King. He has countless acknowledgments and accolades that has and will follow him for decades to come.

Some of the programs the Garth Fagan School offers is The Garth Fagan Dance School, Fagan Institute at East (partnered with the Rochester City School District), Dance 2B classes (program for at- risk youth), and The GFD Summer Movement Institute (provides access to educational opportunities/career fields in the arts and The Garth Fagan Student Dance Ensemble (Youth from 12-18 years)

They also offer internships for local college and university students.

Garth Fagan and the Garth Fagan Dance staff offer great opportunities to anyone interested in dance. The school is located at 50 Chestnut Street in downtown Rochester, NY.

Community members are encouraged to come out and show your support for arguably one of the most influential dance ministries locally and nationally.


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