49 Facts About Pearl Primus


Pearl Eileen Primus was an American dancer, choreographer and anthropologist.


Pearl Primus' work was a reaction to myths of savagery and the lack of knowledge about African people.


In 1940, Pearl Primus received her bachelor's degree from Hunter College in biology and pre-medical science.


Once a spot became available for a dancer, Pearl Primus was hired as an understudy, thus beginning her first theatrical experience.


Pearl Primus discovered her innate gift for movement, and she was quickly recognized for her abilities.


Pearl Primus began her formal study of dance with the New Dance Group in 1941, she was the group's first black student.


Pearl Primus trained under the group's founders, Jane Dudley, Sophie Maslow, and William Bates.

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The organization trained dancers like Pearl Primus to be aware of the political and social climate of their time.


Amongst these influencers, Dafora's influence on Pearl Primus has been largely ignored by historians and unmentioned by Pearl Primus.


Pearl Primus explored African culture and dance by consulting family, books, articles, pictures, and museums.


Pearl Primus based the dance on a legend from the Belgian Congo, about a priest who performed a fertility ritual until he collapsed and vanished.


Pearl Primus described her as a remarkable and distinguished artist.


Pearl Primus continued to amaze audiences when she performed at the Negro Freedom Rally, in June 1943, at Madison Square Garden before an audience of 20,000 people.


In December 1943, Pearl Primus appeared as in Dafora's African Dance Festival at Carnegie Hall before Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune.


Over time Pearl Primus developed an interest in the way dance represented the lives of people in a culture.


Pearl Primus was intrigued by the relationship between the African-slave diaspora and different types of cultural dances.


Pearl Primus fully engulfed herself in the experience by attending over seventy churches and picking cotton with the sharecroppers.


Pearl Primus made her Broadway debut on October 4,1944, at the Be n Theatre.


Many viewers wondered about the race of the anguished woman, but Pearl Primus declared that the woman was a member of the lynch mob.


Pearl Primus' work continued to push boundaries as she re-developed another one of her debut pieces, Hard Time Blues.


Pearl Primus choreographed this dance to a song by folk singer Josh White.


Pearl Primus believed that when observing the jumps in the choreography, it was important to pay attention to "the shape the body takes in the air".


In 1946, Pearl Primus continued her journey on Broadway was invited to appear in the revival of the Broadway production Show Boat, choreographed by Helen Tamiris.


Pearl Primus appeared at the Chicago Theatre in the 1947 revival of the Emperor Jones in the "Witch Doctor" role that Hemsley Winfield made famous.


In 1947 Pearl Primus joined Jacob's Pillow and began her own program in which she reprised some of her works such as Hard Time Blues.

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Pearl Primus was so impressed with the power of her interpretive African dances that he asked her when she had last visited Africa.


Pearl Primus then became the last recipient of the major Rosenwald fellowships and received the most money ever given.


On December 5,1948, dancer Pearl Primus closed a successful return engagement at the Cafe Society nightclub in New York City before heading off to Africa.


Pearl Primus was so well accepted in the communities in her study tour that she was told that the ancestral spirit of an African dancer had manifested in her.


Pearl Primus mastered dances like the war dance Bushasche, and Fanga which were common to African cultural life.


When Pearl Primus returned to America, she took the knowledge she gained in Africa and staged pieces for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.


In 1974, Pearl Primus staged Fanga created in 1949 which was a Liberian dance of welcome that quickly made its way into Pearl Primus's iconic repertoire.


Pearl Primus took these traditionally long rituals, dramatized them, made them shorter, and preserved the foundation of the movement.


Pearl Primus learned a plethora in Africa, but she was still eager to further her academic knowledge, Pearl Primus received her PhD in anthropology from NYU in 1978.


Pearl Primus taught at New Rochelle High School, assisting with cultural presentations.


Pearl Primus learned more about African dance, its function and meaning than had any other American before her.


Pearl Primus was known as a griot, the voice of cultures in which dance is embedded.


Pearl Primus found her creative impetus in the cultural heritage of the African American.


Pearl Primus gained a lot of information from her family who enlightened her about their West Indian roots and African lineage.


The stories and memories told to young Pearl Primus, established a cultural and historical heritage for her and laid the foundation for her creative works.


Pearl Primus' extensive field studies in the South and in Africa was a key resource for her.


Pearl Primus made sure to preserve the traditional forms of expression that she observed.


Pearl Primus was a powerhouse dancer, whose emotions, exuberance, and five-foot-high athletic jumps wowed every audience she performed for.


Pearl Primus preserved traditional movements but added her own style which includes modified pelvic rotations and rhythmic variations.


Pearl Primus's work has been reimagined and recycled into different versions by contemporary artists.

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Pearl Primus married the dancer, drummer, and choreographer Percival Borde in 1961, and began a collaboration that ended only with his death in 1979.


Pearl Primus focused on matters such as oppression, racial prejudice, and violence.


Pearl Primus's efforts were subsidized by the United States government who encouraged African-American artistic endeavors.


Pearl Primus died from diabetes at her home in New Rochelle, New York on October 29,1994.