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Garth Fagan

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Garth Fagan by Annie Lennox

Garth Fagan is widely recognized as one of the best and most dynamic choreographers working in America today. The company he has built, Garth Fagan Dance, based in Rochester, New York, reflects his commitment to an original vision for dance. Fagan was born in Jamaica in 1940, and began studying dance there while in high school, benefiting from a training that embraced both modern dance and Caribbean forms. He came to the United States in 1960, and in the late 1960s he was invited to teach dance at the State University of New York's Brockport Campus. In 1970, his work with underprivileged students in nearby Rochester inspired him to start a company in that city with dancers who had no previous training. He responded to skepticism about this undertaking by giving his company the tongue-in-cheek name Bottom of the Bucket, BUT…Dance Theatre. The company and Fagan's work soon became celebrated for the dancers' exceptional strength, grace, and technical prowess, as well as for Fagan's innovative choreography, which fused elements of modern dance, ballet, and Afro-Caribbean forms. Fagan's acclaim spread far beyond Rochester through his choreography for the smash Broadway hit The Lion King in 1997, and through international tours by the company and collaborations with artists like jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Having celebrated its 40th year, Garth Fagan Dance reflects the vitality and breadth of its founder's artistry and his dedication to expanding opportunities and audiences for dance in America.

Pictured above: Portrait of Garth Fagan by Annie Lennox. Throughout his career Fagan has been a "trailblazer," Kate Mattingly writes, developing a unique choreographic language and building a company with previously untrained dancers in a location far from major dance communities. (Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.) 

TereLyn Jones and Sade Bully in Garth Fagan's Lighthouse/Lightning RodPictured right: TereLyn Jones and Sade Bully in Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in September, 2012. The work was a collaboration between choreographer Garth Fagan and composer Wynton Marsalis, who previously joined forces in 1991 to create the widely celebrated Griot New York.


Essay by Kate Mattingly -- Selected resources for further research




Nicolette Depass, Vitolio Jeune and Natalie Rogers in Garth Fagan's Lighthouse/Lightning RodVitolio Jeune in Garth Fagan's Lighthouse/Lightning Rod

Pictured above: Nicolette Depass, Vitolio Jeune and Natalie Rogers in Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, with scenic design by Alison Saar. Pictured right: Vitolio Jeune in Lighthouse/Lightning Rod. Garth Fagan's training method involves rigorous daily technique classes but also stimulates and engages dancers' creativity by encouraging them to read and discuss books and look at visual art. "The grace and athleticism of Fagan's dancers are almost superhuman," Kate Mattingly writes: "They exude stamina, perseverance, and dedication. Their fusion of sharpness and clarity, flight and rhythm is one of a kind." (All photos courtesy of Garth Fagan Dance Company)