Choreographer Donald McKayle: Mining the video archives for two career touchstones


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Donald’s McKayle’s history as a dancer and choreographer stretches back to the late 1940s, and as he turns 80 Tuesday, his dance-making efforts continue. In my story about his life and work, here and in the Calendar section, one of the themes that emerges is the range of entertainment fields in which he has worked -- in addition to modern dance, he has choreographed for Broadway, movies and television, as well as being a dance educator.

Critical consensus, including McKayle’s own estimation, is that his biggest impact piece of choreography is the stirring “Rainbow Round My Shoulder” from 1959. The 10-minute excerpt above from near the time of the piece’s creation conveys its emotional wallop.


After retiring as a dancer, McKayle transitioned to Hollywood in the late 1960s to choreograph for movies and television. In 1969, at the behest of Diana Ross, the 39-year McKayle again donned dancer’s togs to briefly return and partner Ross in a number he choreographed to ‘Soulful Strut.’ This clip, from the ‘Hollywood Palace’ broadcast, has an extensive lead-in sequence from comedian Soupy Sales; McKayle and Ross’ number begins about 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the video:

-- Christopher Smith

Donald McKayle retires from UCI but not from dance

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Donald McKayle has retired, but his work dances on at UC Irvine