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Interview with Ajaibo Walrond: Harlem, New York

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Interview with Ajaibo Walrond

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Interview with Ajaibo Walrond: Harlem, New York
Additional title: Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image original documentation
Walrond, Ajaibo (Interviewee)
Webb, Carolyn (Carolyn Jeannette) (Interviewer)
Webb, Carolyn (Carolyn Jeannette) (Project director)
Niang, Mamadou (Videographer)
Mertz Gilmore Foundation (Presenter)
New York Public Library. Dance Division (Presenter)

African Dance Video Archive

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2015-08-09
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDF 6172
Dunham, Katherine
Fort, Syvilla
Destiné, Jean Léon
Dinizulu, Gus, 1930-1991
Jazzy Randolph Dancers
Apollo Theater (New York, N.Y. : 125th Street)
Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research
Dinizulu and His African Dancers, Drummers and Singers
Afro-Haitian Dance Company
Dance -- New York (State) -- New York
Dance, Black
Nightclubs -- New York (State) -- New York
Stripteasers -- New York (State) -- New York
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
Filmed dance
Filmed performances
Statement of responsibility: conducted by Carolyn Webb ; project director, Carolyn Webb.
Content: Widescreen.
Statement of responsibility: This interview was made possible by the cooperation of the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library.
Creation/production credits: Videographer, Mamadou Niang.
Performers: Interviewee, (Edward) Ajaibo Walrond ; interviewer, Carolyn Webb.
Venue: Videotaped during an interview at the Studio, New York, N.Y., as part of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation funded African Dance Interview Project 2015 August 9.
Funding: This recording was made possible by Mertz Gilmore Foundation.
Funding: African Dance Interview Project funded by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.
Physical Description
Born digital
Extent: 1 video file (88 min.) : sound, color
Ajaibo Walrond was introduced as a gifted and versatile dancer, choreographer, company director and costumer. Throughout the conversation he shares stories of people and places from his formative years as a Harlem kid in the mid 1940's to his present role as director for the Jazzy Randolph Dancers. Walrond discusses growing up in Harlem, New York, his artistic family, and his experience witnessing the club scene at 9 years old when he accompanied his cousin Arlene on her performance (recital) opportunities near the end of World War II. He describes the shows in the mid-40's as being an entertainment package with dance acts such as exotic shake, tap dance, and live music. He talks about the Harlem clubs, including Club Lido as well as private social clubs that sponsored dances. He also classifies the acts, talks about the exotic dancers, the shake dancer, and the MC (Master of Ceremonies) doubling as comedian or singer, and always having a live band. He defines the exotic dancer as sensuous and often having a specialty such as contortion and his personal interest in exotic dancing because the drums were featured in that act. The shake dancer worked with the entire band and the dancers walked through the tables to get tips. Walrond recalls entertainers of that period who were fixtures in Harlem, such as Red Fox. He talks about attending Frederick Douglass PS 139 Junior High School. He cites Buddy Johnson as a popular entertainer, Casey Colemen as a noted drummer, and the Apollo Theatre as having entertainment suitable for the whole family. He discusses the Lindy Hoppers of the Savoy at 139th Street, neighborhood cabarets including Smalls Paradise and the Apollo; attending a textile high school in Chelsea named, The Straubenmuller Textile High School; and shares his story of meeting Chita Rivera. Walrond discusses his experience in the Katherine Dunham School including teachers, Ms. Dunham, Walter Nicks, Carl Shook, and Buddy Phillips; and speaks of his special admiration for Syvilla Fort as a patient and effective teacher. He talks about the Negro Dance Theater with Tommy Gomez and Tally Beatty as an integral part of this ballet, modern, and jazz all male black dance company from 1954-55 with performances at Jacob's Pillow. Walrond performed with Dunham's Experimental Group under the direction of Syvilla Fort and he speaks of the good curriculum at the Dunham school with the ability to earn a degree with free tuition to service men via the GI Bill. This circle of black dancers including Esmay Andrews and Alice Brown (not yet married to Dinizulu), and many others who had long time interests in African dance and studied with Asadata Dafora. It was this group of dancers that led him to Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu. He began working with Dinizulu around 1956, performing with the Dinizulu African Dancers, Drummers and Singers at the World's Fair (African Pavilion) in Queens, New York in 1964 and 1965. The Civil Rights Movement further catalyzed interest in African Dance and Dinizulu's company was hired by Malcolm X to perform at his political events. Additional interest in African Dance occured when Les Ballets Africains de Guinée performed in NYC and also Dunham's show at her 42nd Street studio after her trip to Senegal. Walrond talks about Dinizulu's transformative trip to Accra, Ghana, and the new life and direction of the company upon his return; and his own two trips to Ghana, his experiences and his amazement at the sights, and opportunities to witness and learn from traditional and ritual events. Dinizulu's initiation into the Akan religion and how this influenced many company members to follow suit with the company becoming more centered around the Akan tradition. He shares some insight about the Egungun dance from a secret society based in Yoruba tradition, and the Gum Boot dance originating in South Africa. He exhibits two of his personal African garments, one a gift from Kimanti Dinizulu (Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu's son) after the elder Dinizulu passed away and the second purchased at the 1964 World's Fair. He speaks about his long time association with Jean-Léon Destiné and his Afro Haitian Dance Company; his current role as dance instructor at the Beatrice Lewis Senior Center in Harlem, and about Eugene Thompson who started the Jazzy Randolph Dancers. Walrond concludes this interview with talking about dancers advancing technically over the years since he began his studies in the 1940's, but that the meaning and essence of the movement is not as prevalent or as sought after as a goal for today's dancers.
Type of Resource
Moving image
RLIN/OCLC: 939531141
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20892443
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 00238ef0-c13c-0133-d323-60f81dd2b63c
Copyright Notice
© Ajaibo Walrond
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 2015: Created
  • 2024: Found by you!
  • 2025

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Ajaibo Walrond" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2015.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Ajaibo Walrond" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 1, 2024.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2015). Interview with Ajaibo Walrond Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Interview with Ajaibo Walrond, (2015)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=March 1, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Ajaibo Walrond