| Charles Rudolph Davis was born to Annie and Tony Davis of
Raleigh, North Carolina, and began dancing with his friends at an early age. After
graduation from J. W. Ligon High School in Raleigh, Davis served two years
in the Navy, received nursing training at George Washington University
Hospital, and studied theater and dance at Howard University before going
to New York in 1958 to study dance.
A large man, 6 5' and weighing over 200 pounds, Davis became interested
in traditional African dance in part through his anger at depictions of
Africans in the mass media. After his move to New York City, he danced
with the companies of Klara Harrington, Olatunji, Raymond Sawyer, Eleo
Pomare, Bernice Johnson, and Joan Miller. In 1968 he organized his own
dance troop, the New York-based Chuck Davis Dance Company, which until
1987 was a leading exponent of traditional African dance in America.
Davis' choreography was informed by nearly annual trips to Africa. While
maintaining a busy schedule of teaching, lecturing, and choreographing,
Davis found time to study with master teachers of various African dance
styles, including Momodou Job of Senegal, Ibrahiem Camara of Guinea, Rose
Marie Giraud of the Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and American-born Nana
Dinizulu and Pearl Primus.
In 1980 Davis returned to North Carolina where he founded the
African-American Dance Ensemble and the Alayanfe Children's Dance Company
in Durham. In 1977 Davis created the DanceAfrica festival, an annual event
celebrating African dance held at New York's Brooklyn Academy of
-- Julinda Lewis-Ferguson