Arthur L. Hall, the beloved dancer, choreographer, and master teacher, died of colon cancer July 6, 2000, in Camden, Maine. He was 66. Born April 18, 1934, in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Ms. Sally Yancey Hall and Joshua Milton, he was reared by his mother and grandmother Ms. Emma Yancey on Beale Street and later in Washington, DC, where at age 16 he had his stage debut in the chorus of the National Negro Opera Company’s production of The Ordering of Moses.
He moved to Philadelphia in 1951, studying dance over the years with John Hines, Marion Cuyjet, Melvina Taze, Syvilla Fort, Joseph Nash, Leigh Parham, Walter Nicks, John Kow Mensah Eshun, F. Saka Acquaye, Obediah Craig, Lavinia Williams, and Percival Borde. He was a principal dancer with the seminal West African Cultural Society in the early 1950s, a company directed by Mr. Acquaye which included Ione Nash, Bobby Crowder, and George Williams, among others who have had a profound influence on the appreciation of West African culture in America.
After a stint in the army, stationed in Germany, he founded and for thirty years directed the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble. Major productions include African Sketches, the ultra-modern Bechlch for the Theatre of the Living Arts, the nationally broadcast Repertoire Workshop: MOJUBA!, Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, the television show Africa’s Children, the full-length ballet Orpheus, A City Called Heaven, Aida, Fat Tuesday and all that Jazz, Eulogy for John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Oba Koso, Tickle the Rain, Urhobo Water Spirit Festival, Paul Robeson: All American, Harambee, Ahimsa: nonviolence, Requiem, Ile Ife Philadelphia Maine, The Rhythm of Life, African Harvest for the World, and Accent Ghana.
Arthur Hall was the director of the Model Cities Cultural Arts Program in Philadelphia. He was the founder and director of the Ile Ife Black Humanitarian Center on Germantown Avenue, where classes in the performing and fine arts continue to this day. He was the founder and director of the Ile Ife Museum, also in North Philadelphia, which from its inception was a Mecca for everyone interested in West African art. He founded the People to People Dance Company in Camden, Maine, and was the founder and director of the nonprofit Ile Ife Films and the Arthur Hall Collection in Searsport, Maine.
At one time or another over the past forty years, Mr. Hall has been on the faculty of the Sidney King School of Dance, Philadelphia Community College, Young Audience of Eastern Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, the Vermont Governor's Institute for the Arts, Bates Dance Festival, and the American Dance Festival. From its inception in 1971, he was a panel member and movement specialist for the Movement Education Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. For over thirty years he has maintained an active schedule of master classes and as an artist-in-residence in schools and institutions across the country and abroad, most notably the Friends Schools of Philadelphia, the Arizona school system, and the schools of New England. He has performed and taught in association with exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others, and conducted master classes for teachers and for the national dance companies of Ghana, Zaire, and Mozambique, as well as for Muntu Dance Theater of Chicago and dancers in Haiti, Brazil, Kenya, and South Korea.
Arthur Hall has received numerous awards and special recognition as an artist and as a teacher from the Cities of Philadelphia, Memphis, New Orleans, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and from the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Perhaps more significantly, he has received thousands upon thousands of individual awards and special recognition from school administrators, teachers, dancers, therapists, artists, parents, and little children, from sculptures to citations to T-shirts to crayon drawings inscribed I love you.
He is survived by all of us whom he has inspired and influenced so profoundly over the years and by three aunts, Gracie Dawson, Katie Wade, and Annie Rose, all of Memphis, an uncle Thomas Yancey of Stanton, Tennessee, and many cousins. Funeral arrangements include scattering his ashes on Camden Harbor in Maine, on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, and on the Mississippi River in Memphis. Memorial services and performances are being planned for Maine, Philadelphia, Memphis, and Arizona. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Arthur Hall Education Fund administered by the Maine Arts Commission, c/o Nancy Salmon, 25 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333. Eulogies and personal remembrances can be found on Arthur Hall’s website at www.ileife.org.
14 July 2000
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