Donald Byrd is a TONY nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer and Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater. His career has been long and complex and his choreographic and theatrical interests are broad. The New York Times describes him as “a choreographer with multiple personalities … an unabashed eclectic.”
From 1978 – 2002, he was Artistic Director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company, founded in Los Angeles and later based in New York, that toured extensively, both nationally and internationally. He has created over 100 modern and contemporary dance works for his own groups as well as for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), among others; has choreographed for classical companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Aterballetto, MaggioDanza diFirenze, and Oregon Ballet Theater
His non-dance company work has been with some of the most prestigious theater and opera companies in the U.S., including The New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, the Intiman Theater, Center Stage, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera and New York City Opera. He counts among his numerous collaborators an eclectic mix of distinguished artists including Peter Sellars, Anna Deveare Smith, and the late Max Roach.
His many awards and prizes include a Masters of Choreography Award from The Kennedy Center; a Fellowship at The American Academy of Jerusalem; a James Baldwin Fellow of United States Artists; and the Mayor’s Arts Award for his sustained contributions to the City of Seattle. In addition, he has received numerous grants and awards from many national foundations to support his projects and productions including Rockefeller Foundation, New England Foundation, Map Fund, Jerome Foundation, Seattle Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts; as well as local and national government agencies including 4Culture, The Office of Arts and Culture and The National Endowment for the Arts.
Mr. Byrd has served as a Seattle Arts Commissioner, sat on many boards including Dance/USA and Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts), as well as served on numerous panels including the National Endowment for the Arts. He regularly teaches around the country and has been a Cultural Envoy for The U.S. Department of State, and was a fellow at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue based at Harvard. In 2013 he and Spectrum Dance Theater toured South Asia (Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) as part of DanceMotion/USA, a joint partnership between the State Department and The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) that presents the best of American dance to international audiences. Recently he returned from a second visit to Bangladesh where he was engaged for a month long collaboration with SHADHONA’ – A Center for the Advancement of South Asian Culture and the US Embassy in Dhaka. Currently, in addition to his work at Spectrum he serves on Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) the nation theatrical union for professional directors and choreographers) Diversity Task Force as well as the SDC Journal–Editorial Board of the Peer Review Section. Also, he just completed his three-year term as a member of the Tony nominating committee.