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Pearl Primus: Dancer and Choreographer (1919–1994)
Pearl primus was born in 1919 in Trinidad to Emily and Edward Primus.
Primus attended Hunter College. from there Primus graduated with a degree in Biology in 1940. While in graduate school Primus was exposed to the dance scene during one of her tenures as an understudy at the National Youth Administration. in 1943, Primus made her first debut as a professional dancer by performing an African Ceremonial that she choreographed herself. After performing poetry for a few years in a local integrated nightclub, Primus found success when he show was moved to Broadway.
In 1946, after performing in a revival of “Showboat” and “ the Emperor Jones” Primus founded her own dance company. Her dances were often described as being primitive. Primus was praised by dance critics for her daring physical triumphs and her movements.
The majority of the dances that Primus did were based on the works of black writers and told the stories of the rising racial issues of her time. her interpretations included “The Negro Speaks of rivers” by Langston Hughes, “Strange Fruit” by Lewis Allen and “Hard Time” by Josh White. her dancing got her a grant which allowed her to study dance in Africa and the Caribbean.
Primus believed in solid research and prided herself in learning everything that she could about African and Caribbean dance. She spent much time in West and Central Africa learning and studying their dance techniques.
In 1991, George H.W. Bush honored Primus with the national Medal of Arts Award. She also received the Star of Africa from the Liberian Government and Woman of the Year Award from the National Council of Negro Women’s Scroll of Honor.