Rochester's Roots: Garth Fagan Dance

Nikki Rudd
Updated: February 04, 2020 12:17 PM
Created: February 04, 2020 06:20 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — February is Black History Month. All month long News10NBC will be celebrating Rochester's Roots. We're looking into the contributions of black leaders and visionaries and that includes a world-renowned choreographer. 

News10NBC's Nikki Rudd sat down with a local legend who changed the world of modern dance: Garth Fagan. 


Mr. Fagan was born and raised in Jamaica. He moved to the U.S. to go to college. In 1969, he was invited to join the faculty of The College at Brockport. A year later he started his own dance company.

"Some people say you are a trailblazer," Rudd said. 

Mr. Fagan laughed and responded, "I try. I try. I try to come up with something different and something new and something fresh."
 His dance company has performed all over the world. 

"Garth Fagan Dance is my treasure," Fagan said. 

This year marks 50 years since he founded the dance company. 

"I just tried to get a facelift, and they said, 'Oh no! Too much damage! Nothing we can do!'" Fagan joked. 

 He jokes about his age, but what he's done through the years in Rochester is truly remarkable. He's most well-known for his work on "The Lion King." Fagan won a Tony Award for choreographing the Broadway show. 

"Lion King has been in every language you can imagine all over the world," Fagan explained. 

"The Lion King" was definitely a high point in his career, but for Fagan a nine-week tour in Africa was something he'll never forget.

"Every place we went they wanted to claim us that we were from their tribe," remembered Fagan. 

"He put modern dance in a whole different category," said Natalie Rogers-Cropper.

Rogers-Cropper has been with Garth Fagan Dance for more than 30 years. She's a principal dancer and Garth Fagan School Director. She says she knew the moment she saw Garth Fagan Dance she wanted to be part of it.  

"I thought this was the greatest movement that I had ever seen," said Rogers-Cropper. "There was nothing like it on the planet, and he's still doing it at 80 which is remarkable. How he does that? I don't know."

 Fagan continues to inspire young dancers. 

 "I mean, I have no words," Anna Lee said. "I'm very thankful." 

 Lee is a 20-year-old from Walworth. She joined Garth Fagan Dance last year. 

"This company is just very different from any company I have seen," Lee said. 

"I still get nervous when I see him because I'm still like, he's done all this. He's done all this, and I'm trying to walk in his path," Jordan Cowan said. "Every night when he walks in I still get nervous and it knocks me off of my counts sometimes."

 There's also the Garth Fagan School of Dance where hundreds of kids get to learn from the legend. 

After 50 years, he's not done yet. 

 "I work hard at it. I cherish it, and I'll keep it going as long as I'm around," Fagan said. 

You can celebrate Valentine's Day with a compelling performance and dinner as Garth Fagan discusses his most beloved and famous duets. "Evening of Duets" is coming up Friday, February 14th, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. at the Garth Fagan Dance Studio Theatre.

Click here for details and ticket information. 

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