Donald McKayle has died, a dancer and choreographer so gifted that he went from a complete novice at 16 to dancing with Martha Graham and José Limon two years later; by 21 he’d formed his own modern dance company, with personnel including Alvin Ailey, Arthur Mitchell and Eliot Feld. McKayle was a dance captain for Jerome Robbins in “West Side Story” and became the first black director and choreographer of a Broadway musical, “Raisin” in 1974, nominated for Tonys in both spheres. (“Raisin” won Best Musical.) He choreographed for Leslie Uggams on television, Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte on tour, and twice for the Academy Awards – all because, at 16, he was mesmerized by the Afro-Caribbean dancer Pearl Primus, and suddenly knew what he had to do with his life. (Esta McKayle)

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