Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Home About the Film Dance Timeline Behind the Dance Biographies Resources Lesson Plans Screensaver
Free to Dance Biographys
previous next
main bio page
Dudley Williams
Born: August 18, 1938
Occupation: dancer
Born and reared in New York City, Dudley Williams became interested in dance after observing classes at a local arts school while waiting for an uncle who was studying voice. He began training at age twelve with Sheldon Hoskins in Harlem, then attended New York's High School for the Performing Arts. Williams graduated in 1958 after winning a dance award and received a scholarship to the Juilliard School. He attended Juilliard at intervals for the next several years while taking time off to dance with various companies, including those of May McDonnell, Donald McKayle, and Talley Beatty. In 1961 Williams joined the Martha Graham Company. He also began to appear with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 1964 he left Martha Graham to become a member of Alvin Ailey.

Passionate leading performances in Donald McKayle's "Rainbow Round My Shoulder" (1959), Ailey's "Reflections in D" (1962), Lucas Hoving's "Icarus" (revived 1968), and Louis Falco's "Caravan" (1976) made Williams a central member of the company. He galvanized audiences with his virtuosity in performances of Ailey's 16-minute solo "Love Songs" (1972); his comic "backwoods huckster" role in Ailey's "Blues Suite" (1958); and his moving, deeply felt solo "I Want to Be Ready" in Ailey's renowned "Revelations" (1960). In 1984 he celebrated his 20th anniversary with Ailey in a gala performance at the City Center in New York City. In the early 1990s he remains a performing member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as well as a company teacher.

-- Thomas F. DeFrantz

Cohen-Stratyner, Barbara Naomi. BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF DANCE. New York, 1982.Goodman, Saul. "Dudley Williams." DANCE (November 1967): 58.

Source Citation: "Dudley Williams." ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Gale Group.