Penrod Quits, McKayle In at UC Irvine

Choreographer Donald McKayle will join the UC Irvine faculty July 2 as a professor of dance, university officials announced Tuesday. In addition, James Penrod has resigned as chairman of the department, a position he has held since 1980. His resignation will take effect July 1, but he will remain on the dance faculty.

McKayle, a five-time Tony nominee who has also choreographed the Emmy, Oscar and Grammy shows, will begin teaching at UCI in the fall.

Born in New York in 1930, McKayle studied dance with Martha Graham, Karel Shook and Pearl Primus and later joined several modern dance troupes, including those of Graham, Anna Sokolow and Jean Erdman.

He danced in such Broadway musicals as “House of Flowers” and “West Side Story” and began choreographing for Broadway in 1965 with “Golden Boy,” for which he won his first Tony nomination.


His other Tony nominations were for “Raisin” (both for direction and choreography in 1974), “Dr. Jazz” (1975), and “Sophisticated Ladies” (1981).

McKayle also had his own dance company from the 1950s through the 1960s and has choreographed about 40 ballets.

He has taught at various institutions, including the Juilliard School of Music and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, both in New York City, and at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia (1970-75).

McKayle and his family live in Sherman Oaks but plan to move to Orange County in the near future.


Penrod said Tuesday of his decision to resign as chairman: “After 9 years, I think it will be good for this department to have another viewpoint.”

Penrod, 54, said the dance faculty “unanimously” recommended associate professor Nancy Lee Ruyter as his successor. But no official announcement has been made by the dean of fine arts, Robert Hickok.

Ruyter is a specialist in modern and ethnic dance and is director of the annual ethnic dance concert at UCI.

Penrod said he resigned to pursue “more intensive work on what I’m interested in, which is movement analysis.”

He plans to work on several books and pursue “several opportunities to choreograph out of state,” he said.