Interview with Gus Solomons jr, October 22 and November 5 and 12, 2014

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Interview with Gus Solomons jr, October 22 and November 5 and 12, 2014
Solomons, Gus, jr, 1940- (Interviewee)
Beaman, Patricia (Interviewer)

Dance Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2014-10-22
Date Created: 2014-11-05
Date Created: 2014-11-12
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZMT 3-3034
Solomons, Gus, jr, 1940- -- Interviews
Veen, Jan, 1908-1967
McKayle, Donald, 1930-
Byrd, Donald, 1949-
Cunningham, Merce
Williams, Dudley, 1938-2015
De Lavallade, Carmen, 1931-
Abraham, Kyle, 1977-
Somma, Jason Akira
Cummings, Kay
Vaughan, David, 1924-
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Martha Graham Dance Company
Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance
Solomons Company/Dance
National Endowment for the Arts
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Paradigm (Dance company)
Spectrum Dance Theater
Witch of Endor (Choreographic work : Graham)
Harlem nutcracker (Choreographic work : Byrd)
Thin frost (Choreographic work : Solomons)
Being (Choreographic work : Cummings)
Scramble (Choreographic work : Cunningham)
Choreographers -- United States
Dance -- Study and teaching
Dance criticism
African American artists
Choreography -- Study and teaching
Dance in motion pictures, television, etc
Television. City motion space game
Oral histories
Bibliographic history: Title supplied by cataloger.
Venue: Recorded for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts October 22 and November 5 and 12, 2014 New York (N.Y.)
Funding: The creation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Physical Description
Born digital
Extent: 4 audio files (approximately 4 hr., 45 min.) : digital, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit
Streaming file 1, October 22, 2014 (approximately one hour and 24 minutes). Gus Solomons jr speaks with Patricia Beaman about his childhood, creating his own puppet theater, and performing with the Boston Children's Theatre; studying dance with Jan Veen at the Boston Conservatory during his college years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; his study of architecture and how that related to his childhood interest in drawing; very briefly, his experiences with racial integration and sexuality during his college years; meeting Donald McKayle and other modern dance teachers from New York through taking classes at the Boston Dance Circle; dancing in the musical entitled Kicks and Co! and, after the show closed, auditioning for Broadway shows; experiences that broadened his understanding of black identity and some instances of the racial discrimination he faced in New York while auditioning and looking for housing; daily life as a young professional dancer including first roommates and apartments and living costs; an anecdote about his job at an interior design firm while a scholarship student at the Graham School [Martha Graham Foundation for Contemporary Dance; later the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance]; classes at the school and being asked to join the Martha Graham Dance Company; other teachers and dance styles he tried at that time, including Richard Thomas [ballet] and Merce Cunningham; other dancers with whom he took classes; his role as the ghost of Samuel in Martha Graham's Witch of Endor; more about Graham and her company's dancers, including her choreographic methods and company rehearsals; Cunningham's inviting him to join the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1965; an anecdote about the blackout of 1965 and its effect on his juggling of performance dates for Graham's company and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; briefly, founding a rehearsal space with friends called Studio Nine; being a part of Cunningham's re-formed company and rehearsing the first work Cunningham made for it, How to pass, kick, fall and run; some of the ballet classes and teachers modern dancers studied with at that time; briefly, Robert Dunn's composition class; his back injury and his leaving Cunningham's company due to it; more on his injury and recovery, including an invitation by WGBH-TV Boston to make his own video dance, entitled CITY/MOTION/SPACE/GAME [City motion space game]; missing a Cunningham company rehearsal for the performance of his first dance, Four field for six; starting his own company, Solomons Company/Dance, and the rehearsal spaces he used; purchasing his own loft space in New York City; briefly, his income at that time and its sources. Streaming file 2, November 5, 2014 (approximately one hour and 29 minutes). Gus Solomons jr speaks with Patricia Beaman about his own choreography and founding his dance company [Solomons Company/Dance]; his economic circumstances, as a choreographer and dancer, during the 1970s; briefly, composers he has collaborated with including Mio Morales, Ken Schaefer, Toby Twining, and Walter Thompson; briefly his dancers' singing and otherwise contributing to the sound scores that accompanied his choreography, in particular in his work Gut boys [plus---in Opus pocus]; [variant title: Opus pocus]; his interest in dance on video; his being robbed in the street in Boston in 1970 and how this affected him personally and as a choreographer; briefly, his work Nōz; his choreographic inspiration for the series of dances called Steps; his interest from a choreographic viewpoint in systems and abstraction; incorporating the personal expressions of his dancers into his choreography starting in the mid-1980s; briefly, treating his depression; teaching full-time at Tisch [School of the Arts] starting in 1994, including his pedagogy on dance improvisation; his pedagogy on choreography composition and ways that his architecture training at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] influenced his teaching; his admiration of Bauhaus theater, Alvin Nikolais and Murray Louis, and his attending performances of the Nikolais Dance Theater; briefly, his admiration of an early piece by Lucinda Childs; his experience as a visiting artist at Cal Arts [California Institute of the Arts] and choreographing his dances Quad and Psycho motor works there; some places where he has created site-specific works; the concept behind an early solo he choreographed and his parody dance Fogrum; his pragmatic, as opposed to political, artistic viewpoint; briefly, his serving on the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] panel during the "NEA Four" controversy of 1990; briefly, his work as an NEA site visitor; becoming a dance reviewer and writing for Ballet News; the distinction he sees between dance reviewer versus critic, and his approach to reviewing dance performances; his approach as a mentor to choreographers including performance programs at Dance New Amsterdam; being a mentor in the New Directions Choreographic Lab at the Ailey [Alvin Ailey American Dance Center]; some of the choreographers he has mentored and their approaches to the Choreographic Lab, including Joanna Kotze; his thoughts on craft and inspiration, and the differences between a dance maker and a choreographer. Streaming file 3, November 12, 2014 (approximately one hour and 49 minutes). Gus Solomons jr speaks with Patricia Beaman briefly about his experience during the AIDS crisis; racial identity and politics in dance, including his thoughts on the Dance Theater of Harlem and Ralph Lemon; his views on Bill T. Jones' and Arnie Zane's choreography in the 1970s as compared with contemporary revivals of the same works; memories of dancing in Donald Byrd's Harlem nutcracker including Byrd as a director; briefly, staging his work Nameless root, Part II on Byrd's Spectrum Dance Theater and Byrd's making a duet for Solomons and Michael Blake; his duet with Kyle Abraham entitled: Dioscuri II, for the E-Moves series at the Harlem Stage; more on Harlem nutcracker; creating his first work for Paradigm (his new dance company), entitled: A thin frost, with Carmen de Lavallade and Dudley Williams; commissioning choreographers to make works for Paradigm including Geoffrey Holder, Wally Cordona, Johannes Weiland, and Richard Move; more on Paradigm including other company dancers; the filming of the documentary entitled Carmen & Geoffrey and his thoughts on filming dance; briefly, his collaborations with a former student, video artist Jason Akira Somma; his thoughts on current dance training in academia; the choreographic tools he teaches in his composition classes; changes in his teaching pedagogy over the years, including the influence of experiencing and recovering from his own injuries; studying acting with Peter Jensen and applying this training to various acting projects; his current projects including Black Mountain Songs at BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music] and Peter and the wolf with Isaac Mizrahi at the Guggenheim Museum [Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum]; briefly, performing in a production of Peter Pan, while in college, at the Wellesley Theater on the Green in Boston; his admiration of the movement vocabulary used in a recent work by his former student, Netta Yerushalmy; more on his acting classes; briefly, his response to the critics' reviews of his works over the years; performing with de Lavallade and Williams, especially in A thin frost; the use of text and movement in his work, including collaborating with Kay Cummings on Being; [prompted by Beaman, Solomons and Beaman play a word association game including references to his relationship with Merce Cunningham and Cunningham's work Scramble and Solomons' thoughts on other choreographers and artists including Pina Bausch, Twyla Tharp, and Jasper Johns]; his interest in being a mentor rather than a curator; aspects of his career of which he is most proud, including working with his students including Beth Gill, Eleanor Bauer, and Kyle Abraham; more on mentoring; dance compared with architecture. Streaming file 4, November 12, 2014 (approximately three minutes). Gus Solomons jr speaks with Patricia Beaman about his friendship with David Vaughan during Solomons' early years with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 913745310
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20729520
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 0e5d1dc0-b8cb-0133-3bb9-60f81dd2b63c
Rights Statement
The copyright and related rights status of this item has been reviewed by The New York Public Library, but we were unable to make a conclusive determination as to the copyright status of the item. 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.

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MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Gus Solomons jr" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2014.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Gus Solomons jr" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed February 26, 2024.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2014). Interview with Gus Solomons jr Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Gus Solomons jr, (2014)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=February 26, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Gus Solomons jr