Garth Fagan bows out as dance company leader

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Garth Fagan is stepping away from the leadership of Garth Fagan Dance, a company he founded 53 years ago.

Fagan passes the baton to Natalie Rogers-Cropper, a principal dancer. Rogers-Cropper will take the role of executive director and school director. He also invited Norwood “PJ” Pennewell, another principal dancer and choreographer, to become artistic director.

Garth Fagan (Photo by Matt Wittmeyer)

“I am so proud, so happy, so honored to have these two talented people that I have known, worked with, laughed with, cried with, celebrated with for … decades … to now be taking my legacy, my artistry, my DANCE, my HEART, forward into tomorrow,” Fagan says. ”I am grateful beyond measure.”

He will continue to choreograph new dances and expects to remain active with the dance company in an artistic role. Fagan’s new title is founder and distinguished artistic director emeritus.

Garth Fagan Dance’s new leaders are nationally recognized for their talent. Rogers-Cropper and Pennewell are Bessie Award winners and served as assistant choreographers and co-rehearsal directors of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show “The Lion King.” Fagan choreographed the musical, which has drawn international attention.

Julie Taymor, Tony Award-winning director of “The Lion King,” points to Pennewell and Rogers-Cropper’s work with the show and in helping Fagan create a whole new form of choreography for Broadway.  

“Their experience in dance education and choreography in addition to their dedication to Garth’s artistic vision guarantees that his legacy will live on through their leadership,” Taymor says.

Carvin Eison, board chairman of Garth Fagan Dance, who was Fagan’s student at SUNY Brockport, calls it a privilege to have traveled with the dance company as its videographer.

“I have had a front-row seat to the growth, the innovation and the lives changed because of this remarkable and visionary man—whose contributions to the world of dance cannot be measured,” Eison says. “His legacy is a treasure that he has chosen wisely, very wisely, to pass along at this stage of life when it is still his decision to make. And a very wise decision it is.”

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Fagan’s list of accolades is a long one–in addition to a Tony award in 1998, honors include the 2000 Laurence Olivier Award (London, UK) and the 2004 Helpmann Award (Australia) for best choreography. 

He was selected in 2012 as an “Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition. In 2017, Fagan received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Guild.​

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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