Donald Byrd a TONY nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer, became Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater in December 2002. 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), Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Aterballetto, MaggioDanza diFirenze, and Oregon Ballet Theater.
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. His non-dance company work has been with some of the most prestigious theater and opera companies in the U.S and abroad, including The New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, the former Intiman Theater, Center Stage, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, New York City Opera, Dutch National Opera and the Israeli Opera. He counts among his numerous collaborators an eclectic mix of distinguished artists including stage director Peter Sellars, writer/actor Anna Deavere Smith, and the late great jazz drummer Max Roach.
The New York Times describes him as “a choreographer with multiple personalities … an unabashed eclectic.” Mr. Byrd is equally at home creating cool, abstract pure dance works such as his 2012 work LOVE set to the complete cello suites of Benjamin Britten and the 2011 Euclidean Space set to the music of Amon Tobin, virtuoso sound designer and influential electronic music artist; to his theatrical narrative driven pieces like the ‘carny’ Petruschka and storefront Miraculous Mandarin, his revisionist versions of iconic early 20th Century ballets. Yet he is also known for creating lovely valentines to 19th Century classical repertory including The Harlem Nutcracker (1996) and The Sleeping Beauty Notebook (2005). As well as imaginative choreographic tributes to jazz legends and composers including In A Different Light (2000) set to the lesser known piece of Duke Ellington, Burlesque (2002) created to early recordings of Louis Armstrong, and Jazz Train (1998) to commissioned scores by Vernon Reid, Geri Allen, and the late great Max Roach. These works along with The Harlem Nutcracker with its score by Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn and David Berger were critical and audience successes and toured extensively.