elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Bernard Johnson (December 12, 1936 - January 22, 1997)

Bernard Johnson (born December 12, 1936 in Detroit, Michigan), a dancer, choreographer and fashion and costume designer, died on Jan. 22 at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. He was 60 and lived in Manhattan. He was survived by his companion, George Bergeron. Bergeron was assistant to Johnson for ''New Jack City" (1991).

The cause was complications from pneumonia, his family said.

Mr. Johnson was something of a Renaissance man in dance. He trained in ballet in Detroit, where he was born and where he began his professional career. While still a teen-ager, Mr. Johnson performed in New York City with Ward Flemyng's New York Negro Ballet and designed costumes for the company. He also appeared with Aubrey Hitchins's Negro Dance Theater in 1956.

Mr. Johnson danced in musicals on and Off Broadway, including the Broadway production of ''On a Clear Day You Can See Forever'' and City Center productions of ''Fiorello'' and ''Showboat.'' He performed in modern and jazz dance groups, among them Dancellington, which he directed with Mercedes Ellington and for which he designed costumes.

He also performed with Cleo Quitman, his former wife, in a cabaret act that toured Europe and was featured at the Apollo and in the Catskills during the 1960's. He danced in the 1980 Off Broadway revue ''Stompin' at the Savoy,'' and directed the Off Broadway musical ''Back in the Big Time'' in 1986.

Mr. Johnson choreographed the Broadway and national tour productions of ''Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'' in the early 1970's, the 1975 film ''The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings,'' and acts for Melba Moore, the Manhattans and shows at the Apollo, Madison Square Garden, the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Cafe Versailles in New York. His choreographic credits also included commercials and two command performances for King Hassan II in Morocco in the early 1990's.

Mr. Johnson became known as a fashion designer in the early 1970's and had a busy career in recent years as a costume designer for theater, dance and films. Trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which honored him in 1980, Mr. Johnson created stylish, witty and vividly colored costumes that were as slyly suave as his dancing.

His Broadway design credits included ''Waltz of the Stork,'' ''Eubie,'' ''Guys and Dolls,'' ''Bubbling Brown Sugar'' and ''Raisin.'' He also designed costumes for several productions by the Negro Ensemble Company, starting in the late 1960's, and the AMAS Repertory Theater. Other Off Broadway credits include productions at the American Place Theater, South Street Theater, Lincoln Center Repertory Company and Crossroads Theater.

Mr. Johnson designed costumes for the New York City Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Hispanico and several small modern dance companies, as well as the 1985 revue ''Sweet Saturday Night.'' His films included the 1990-91 ''New Jack City,'' and his television credits included costumes for ''The Merv Griffin Show,'' and specials for Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. He created stage wardrobes for Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, the Isley Brothers, Ashford and Simpson, and many rock and jazz musicians, as well as for shows by Judy Garland and Josephine Baker.

Mr. Johnson was a member of the Black Film Makers Hall of Fame. He taught jazz dance in Moscow in 1992 under auspices of the American Dance Festival. At the time of his death, he was a professor of dance and costume design at the University of California at Irvine.

Source: www.nytimes.com/1997/02/01/arts/bernard-johnson-60-dancer-choreographer-and-designer.html

Further Readings:

Black Comedy - 9 Plays: A Critical Anthology with Interviews and Essays by Pamela Faith Jackson and Karimah
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; 1st US ed. edition (April 1, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1557832781
ISBN-13: 978-1557832788
Amazon: Black Comedy - 9 Plays: A Critical Anthology with Interviews and Essays

This first-of-its kind collection includes a wide range of works, from an early examination and critique of American society after World War II to plays that reflect socio-political concerns that kept pace with historical events, like the sit-in demonstrations, the bus boycotts, black nationalism, and the women's liberation movement. A hybrid of comedic forms including satire, farce, comedy of manners, romantic comedy, dark comedy, and tragicomedy are presented through vernacular language, stand-up performance art, masks, broad humor, as well as the minstrel show. Essays, articles and interviews complement this critical edition.

More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics

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Tags: gay classics, lgbt designers

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