Doris Duke Artist Awards

Donald Byrd

Choreographer and Theater Artist

Seattle, Washington

Donald Byrd, a 2019 Doris Duke Artist in the dance category, is a masterful choreographer often referred to as a “citizen artist” for his ability to craft works that stimulate dialogue through powerful, timely stories and moving social commentary. A TONY Award nominee and Bessie Award winner, Byrd has created more than 100 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 many others. Among his more recent projects for Spectrum Dance Theater, where he has been artistic director since 2002, was a cycle of three evening-length works that sought to inspire thoughtful discourse around a post-9/11, globalized America. Other productions that showcase his ability to navigate complex societal issues through dance include “Interrupted Narratives/War,” which tells stories from the war in Iraq; “The Theater of Needless Talents,” which focuses on the artist victims of the Holocaust; “H.R 3244,” a response to human trafficking; and “Strange Fruit,” which considers racial terrorism and lynching during the Jim Crow era.

From 1978 to 2002, Byrd was the artistic director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company. He has also previously served as Seattle Arts Commissioner. He regularly teaches around the country and has been a cultural envoy for the U.S. Department of State and a fellow at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue based at Harvard. Currently, in addition to his work at Spectrum, he serves on the Diversity Task Force and the SDC Journal-Editorial Board of Pier Review Section for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).

Byrd has been recognized with many awards and prizes, including a Masters of Choreography Award from The Kennedy Center; a Fellowship at The American Academy of Jerusalem; a United States Artists Fellowship; The James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award and the Mayor’s Arts Award for his sustained contributions to the city of Seattle.  

See the other 2019 Doris Duke Artists