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
Dianne McIntyre
Born: July 18, 1946
Occupation: dancer, teacher, choreographer
One of the most important black woman dance artists to emerge during the 1970s, Dianne McIntyre has developed a distinctive body of work that features an idiosyncratic use of music, a dynamic movement style, and important choreographic explorations of the lives of African Americans.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, McIntyre began studying ballet with Elaine Gibbs at age four. Always choreographing, she developed her first production at the age of seven. As a teenager, she studied modern dance with Virginia Dryansky. She received a B.F.A. in dance from Ohio State University under Helen Alkire and studied there with Vickie Blaine, James Payton, Lucy Venable, and guest artists Anna Sokolow and Viola Farber. After moving to New York City in 1970, she danced with Gus Solomons Company/Dance for two years. Then, supported by Clark Center director Louise Roberts, McIntyre began her own company of dancers and musicians. From 1972 to 1988, she directed her company and school, Sounds in Motion, in Harlem, New York City.

Collaborating with musicians in the vanguard of their field, McIntyre led the company in performances in the major dance venues of the United States, including the Joyce Theater, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Kennedy Center, as well as in Europe. Signature choreography for the company includes: "Take-Off from a Forced Landing" (1984), based on her mother's stories as an aviator; "Life's Force" (1979), a lively interaction of bold music and moves; "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (1986), based on the Zora Neale Hurston novel; and "Mississippi Talks, Ohio Walks" (1984), nightclub vignettes of dance with Olu Dara's Okra Orchestra. Sounds in Motion studio became a Harlem institution in the 1970s and 1980s, due to the creative excellence of the company and its school, and served as a gathering place for musicians, poets, and visual and theater artists. There, through dance classes and choreographic showcases, McIntyre mentored many who became cutting-edge dance artists.

In 1988 Dianne McIntyre dissolved Sounds in Motion to pursue an independent choreographic career. She has continued memorable dance/music projects with Olu Dara, Lester Bowie, Don Pullen, Hannibal, and others. Her dance works have also been set on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, the Cleo Parker Robinson Ensemble, Philadanco, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and numerous college groups. She has been a guest teacher at countless university programs and for the American Dance Festival, Jacob's Pillow, and the Bates Summer Dance Festival. In 1991 McIntyre researched and re-created Helen Tamiris's 1937 masterpiece, "How Long, Brethren?," arousing renewed interest in the choreographer's work.

Since the mid-1970s McIntyre has choreographed extensively for the theater: "Mule Bone," "Paul Robeson," and "King Hedley II" for Broadway; "Spell # 7" for off-Broadway; "King, The Musical" for London's West End; and scores of works for regional U.S. theater, including "Miss Evers' Boys," "Crowns," and "Polk County." McIntyre's association with theater has led her to create and direct dance-based plays that have appeared in both dance and regional theater venues -- many commissioned by George Mason University's Theater of the First Amendment. These works include "I Could Stop on a Dime and Get Ten Cents Change" (1996), based on her father's experiences as a youth in Cleveland; "Open the Door, Virginia!" (2005), the poignant Brown v. Board of Education story in Virginia; and "Daughter of a Buffalo Soldier" (2005), about a pioneer dance artist at Karamu House in Cleveland. She has also directed works by other playwrights.

McIntyre's choreography has also appeared on the large and small screens: in the feature film BELOVED and on television in LANGSTON HUGHES: THE DREAMKEEPER and FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF. In addition, she choreographed HBO's award-winning MISS EVERS' BOYS, for which she received an Emmy® nomination.

Dianne McIntyre, a 2007 John S. Guggenheim Fellow, has received many national grants, artistic commissions, and awards for her work.

-- Veta Goler
Dunning, Jennifer. "A Tribute to a Choreographer Evokes Memories of Her Motion." NEW YORK TIMES, May 22, 2006.
Foster, Susan Leigh. DANCES THAT DESCRIBE THEMSELVES. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002.
Goler, Veta. "A Beacon for the People: The 1960s and Dianne McIntyre." In IMPOSSIBLE TO HOLD, ed. Avital Bloch and Lauri Umansky. New York: New York University Press, 2005.
----. "Moves on Top of Blues." In DANCING MANY DRUMS, ed. Thomas F. DeFrantz. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.
Johnson, Robert. "Dance is Getting Jazzed Up." NEWHOUSE NEW SERVICE, June, 1999.