Dance Icon Dies
Legendary dancer, choreographer, teacher and historian Arthur Hall died Thursday, July 6, 2000, from cancer. He was 66. Mr. Hall combined traditional African dances with modern dance. He was initiated into the Akan priesthood by High Priestess Nana Okomfohene Akua Oparebea in 1974. He received the name of Nana Kwabena Afo and the title Asonahene. He served as the chief priest of the Asona Aberade Shrine [the first officially recognized African shrine in the United States]. Memorial services for Mr. Hall [are being arranged].
Arthur Hall, legendary dancer, Choreographer, teacher and historian, died on Thursday, July 6, 2000, at his home in Camden, Maine. The cause of death was cancer. Mr. Hall was 66.
Mr. Hall was best known to Philadelphia audiences for his outstanding team called the Arthur Hall Dancers.The troupe became a fixture in Philadelphia theaters in the 70s and 80s and moved to national circles as well. The Ile Ife Cultural Arts Center in North Philadelphia was also a gift that Mr. Hall gave to the city.
Mr. Hallís artistic vision began to blossom during his teenage years when he [was in] the chorus of the National Negro Opera Company in Washington, DC.
He moved to Philadelphia in 1950 and began studying with Marion Cuyjet, Joe Nash and John Hines, among several other dance masters.
Later he was principal dancer with the West African Cultural Society founded in Philadelphia by Ghanaian artist F. Saka Acquaye. This company evolved into the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble and continued to perform for the next 30 years until Mr. Hall left Philadelphia at the end of 1988.
Mr. Hallís artistic vision combined traditional African dances with modern dance. He studied Katherine Dunham technique with Syvilla Fort in New York and Caribbean dance with Lavinia Williams in Haiti. In 1967, as the Afro-American Ensemble of the Theatre of the Living Arts, Mr. Hall presented MOJUBA! on CBSís Repertoire Workshop, the first television program to be broadcast nationally completely in color.
From 1968-74, Mr. Hall was cultural arts director of the cityís Model Cities program. Working with First Pennsylvania Bank and Philadelphia National Bank, he founded and directed the Ile Ife Black Humanitarian Center on Germantown Avenue in 1969.
This was the first community arts center in America to be established by a dance company. The Ile Ife Museum of African Art was established in 1972.
In addition to the art centers, his several stage productions and his choreography, Mr. Hall is also widely respected as a master teacher. He taught dance and movement to thousands of students over a -year period. He had an active schedule of master classes for teachers across the country.
Mr. Hall also taught at the Sidney King School of dance and was for a time director of the dance department at the Philadelphia Community College. From 1977 to 1980, he taught dance at Dartmouth College and produced the acclaimed Eulogy for John Coltrane.
Mr. Hall was particularly fond of Maine, and after the death of his mother in 1995, moved there permanently. He had first performed in the schools there in 1977 and in 1981 founded the People-to-People Dance Company of Camden.
The High Priestess Nana Okomfohene Akua Oparebea initiated Mr. Hall into the Akan priesthood in 1974. He received the name Nana Kwabena Afo and the title Asonahene.
He was responsible for upholding the Asona and Aberade royal family traditions. Mr. Hall served as the chief priest of the Asona Aberade Shrine. These traditions are from the country of Ghana where Mr. Hall traveled several times, the first being in 1974.
Memorial services for Mr. Hall are [being planned]. His body was cremated shortly after his death on July 6 and the remains were returned to his family in Tennessee.
Mr. Hall is survived by three aunts, an uncle and numerous cousins. all of Tennessee.
Contributions may be sent in Mr. Hallís name to the Arthur Hall Education Fund, c/o Nancy Salmon, Maine Arts Commission, 25 State House Station, Augusta ME 04333.