Before Maya Angelou Was a Poet, She Was a Dancer

This week marks three years since brilliant and beloved poet Maya Angelou passed at the age of 86. And of course, we're taking the time to remember timeless works like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

But we also discovered something that makes us love Angelou even more—and gives us a new perspective on her writing. Before she became renowned for her poetry and memoirs, Angelou was a bonafide professional dancer, touring Europe in a production of Porgy & Bess, studying with Martha Graham and performing with Alvin Ailey (she was even one of Ailey's first partners!).




She was also a professional singer and recorded an album called "Calypso Lady," according to NPR. "I was known as Miss Calypso, and when I'd forget the lyric, I would tell the audience, 'I seem to have forgotten the lyric. Now I will dance.' And I would move around a bit," she said in a 2008 interview.

Of course, later in her career Angelou acted in various movies and television shows, including the mini-series Roots.



Sadly it doesn't look like any video footage of Angelou dancing exists. But we're sure she was as captivating onstage as she was in her writing.

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Friday Film Break: Kyle Abraham's "When We Fell" for New York City Ballet

For his third work on New York City Ballet, choreographer Kyle Abraham has created a quietly haunting new dance film called "When We Fell." Abraham told Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times that a peaceful winter residency at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park deeply influenced the material, and it shows in the work's spare beauty and elegant sense of calm.

Available for free as part of NYCB's digital season until April 22, the film was co-directed by cinematographer Ryan Marie Helfant. The cast includes India Bradley, Jonathan Fahoury, Christopher Grant, Claire Kretzschmar, Lauren Lovette, Taylor Stanley, KJ Takahashi and Sebastian Villarini-Velez.

February 2021