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Garth Fagan to be Celebrated at SUNY Brockport, His First Artistic Home

Image: Garth Fagan will be celebrated at Garth Fagan Legacy Day at SUNY Brockport on Wednesday, March 13, 2024

With his retirement recently announced, and a documentary about his eponymous dance company winning Emmy Awards and other accolades, Wednesday, March 13, 2024, will be Garth Fagan Legacy Day on the campus of SUNY Brockport. After a day of classes led by Garth Fagan Dance company members, the public is invited to a screening of Prelude: The Legacy of Garth Fagan.

The screening, along with additional remarks and recognition, as well as a work presented by the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble, and an announcement about the new Garth Fagan Legacy Award, will begin at 7 pm in Hartwell Dance Theater in Hartwell Hall on the Brockport campus.

The event is free, but tickets must be reserved. Given the limited number of seats available, there is a limit of two tickets per person. Tickets are available online at, by phone at (585) 395-2787 or at the Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office, 180 Holley Street, Brockport.


One of the driving forces behind Garth Fagan Legacy Day and the establishment of the award is Jacqueline Davis, professor emerita and former chair of the Department of Dance. Davis and a fellow former professor in the dance department, Irma Pylyshenko, went to college with Fagan. When Rose L. Strasser, the founder of the Department of Dance, was looking for someone to bring in to teach a limited summer session for pre-freshmen, Davis and Pylyshenko thought of their college friend and encouraged Strasser to bring Fagan to Brockport. Strasser—and everyone else who ever entered his orbit—“recognized Fagan for his strengths not only as a teacher, but as an artist,” according to Davis. That initial summer program was a great success.


Davis recalled that “Garth’s standards were high, for sure. They were instilled in him by his father and he, in turn, instilled them in his students and company members. When his company was on tour, there was no lounging around hotel rooms after a rehearsal or a performance. Garth would make sure that his company went to museums, studied local architecture, went to other performances. He wanted them to be as well-rounded as possible; to be immersed in all the arts. That is why this Legacy Award is not specifically geared for dancers, per se. It is for any student—graduate or undergraduate—who shows a passion for dance. It could be a journalist who, during their time at Brockport, has written passionately about dance. Or costumers. Or scenic designers. As long as they have proven their passion and commitment to dance, they would be eligible.”


The $10,000 award, which will be given annually has been funded by several anonymous donors, all of whom have been tremendous fans and supporters of Garth Fagan Dance through the years. It will be available to all graduating students starting with the Class of 2025.


Davis is proud to recall how her friend, whose success has propelled him into international, award-winning fame, still has a soft spot for SUNY Brockport. “He made sure to include a conversation we had seated in front of Hartwell Hall, the home of the Department of Dance, in the documentary. He is also extremely grateful to former Brockport president Albert Brown for nurturing him and his nascent company—originally called “Bottom of the Bucket, But…”—that he saluted Brown with a memorial brick placed on a path adjacent to the campus’ Alumni House.

“Garth came here, and flourished, because he was a good teacher, not just to build a dance company of his own. That he was a good teacher is proven when he is out on tour and after a performance people will come up to him and he remembers them. They are alumni who remember the standards that he instilled in them. In his classes he could be a demanding taskmaster, but he motivated his students, and not every professor can do that," Davis said to be clear on why Fagan is being honored Fagan with both this day-long celebration and this award.


“Garth Fagan developed a dynamic technique, on which he created some of the world's most extraordinary dance works," said Carlos R. Jones, current chair of the Department of Dance. "From the dance studio to the rehearsal hall to the highest performance stages, his contributions are undeniable.”



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