100 Dance Treasures

Chuck Davis Menu

Chuck Davis, Photo by Bruce R. Feeley Pictured: Chuck Davis in performance at the 1999 American Dance Festival. Davis became artist in residence at ADF in 1982 and founded the African American Dance Ensemble in Durham in 1984. (Photograph by Bruce R. Feeley; courtesy of the American Dance Festival Archives.)

Chuck Davis (1937- ), performer and artistic director, began dancing professionally after college graduation, appearing with Olatunji Dance Company and with the Afro-Cuban ensembles of Eleo Pomare and Bernice Johnson, among others. Inspired by the Sierra Leone National Dance Company at the 1964 New York World's Fair, he pursued African themes in his choreography for the Chuck Davis Dance Company, founded in 1968, and took the troupe to Nigeria in 1977 to perform during the first of many visits. In 1980 Davis was invited by the American Dance Festival to be in residence with ADF's Community Service Program in Durham. Four years later the African-American Dance Ensemble was formed with musicians and dancers identified or trained through Davis's outreach efforts. "Peace, love, respect for everybody" is both the characteristic aesthetic and interactive mantra that ends all performances, celebrating traditional African art as a resource to encourage multicultural understanding. Davis also leads group visits to West Africa to experience direct contact with dances that are deeply integrated into the fabric of village life.

Learn more in Chuck Davis, an essay by Lisa Traiger.