Pearl Primus’ Leap Year

What if this were a Leap Year? Anyone with a birthday on February 29 would tell you that it hangs in there somewhere every year, even without a date on the calendar. Black History Month would have an extra day and Women’s History Month would have to wait. Instead, we’ll let Pearl Primus, dancer extraordinaire, leap across the gap for us. Later this spring, we’ll be publishing The Dance That Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus, written by Peggy and Murray Schwartz, who were friends and colleagues with access to conduct more than a hundred interviews with The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus: Peggy and Murray Schwartz family, friends, and fellow artists about Primus. Offering an intimate perspective on her life and exploring her influences on American culture, dance, and education, the Schwartzes trace Primus’s path from her childhood in Port of Spain, Trinidad, through her rise as an influential international dancer, an early member of the New Dance Group (whose motto was “Dance is a weapon”), and a pioneer in dance anthropology.

Primus traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, Israel, the Caribbean, and Africa, and she played an important role in presenting authentic African dance to American audiences. She engendered controversy in both her private and professional lives, marrying a white Jewish man during a time of  segregation and challenging black intellectuals who opposed the “primitive” in her choreography.

Pearl and Alphonse Climber, 'Folk Dance', Pearl Primus Collection, American Dance Festival Archives





As part of the 92nd Street Y’s Fridays at Noon program, the Schwartzes will appear on April 29, 2011 to celebrate the publication of their book, and, along with special guests, to honor Pearl Primus with performances of three of her solos. Mark your calendar now for the special occasion.









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