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dX Rewind: Donald Byrd's Pandemic Lessons (From September 2, 2021)

This episode originally aired on September 2, 2021. | Donald Byrd first shared his observations with Vivian and Marcie in late summer, 2021. Now that vaccinations have allowed his company, Spectrum Dance Theater, to start performing for live audiences once again, we wanted to give our listeners the opportunity to revisit this powerful conversation.

In March 2020, Seattle-based choreographer Donald Byrd and his Spectrum Dance Theater were getting ready to debut a multi-faceted work about race and climate change. When the COVID pandemic shut down arts venues around the globe, creators like Byrd were left to figure out how they'd be able to keep making their art.

In the process of his professional reinvention, the 72-year old Byrd learned some valuable personal lessons about resilience, patience, and the value of human kindness.

"After you're knocked down, get up. Get up! Don't just lie there!"--Donald Byrd

Images from The Harlem Nutcracker, courtesy Spectrum Dance Theater.

Donald Byrd, credit Gabriel Bienczycki


Donald Byrd is a Tony-nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award-winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer. He has been the Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle since December 2002. Formerly, 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 both nationally and internationally. He has created dance works for many leading companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, and Dance Theater of Harlem, among others, and worked extensively in theater and opera.

His many awards, prizes, and fellowships include the Doris Duke Artist Award; Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Cornish College of the Arts; Masters of Choreography Award, The Kennedy Center; Fellow at The American Academy of Jerusalem; James Baldwin Fellow of United States Artists; Resident Fellow of The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center; Fellow at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, Harvard University; and the Mayor’s Arts Award for his sustained contributions to the City of Seattle. He was recently named a 2019 Doris Duke Artist Awardee.

Donald Byrd received the 2016 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award, which is funded by the Raynier Institute & Foundation through the Frye Art Museum | Artist Trust Consortium. The award supports and advances the creative work of outstanding artists living and working in Washington State and culminates in a presentation at the Frye Art Museum.

For more on Spectrum Dance Theater and upcoming performances of The Harlem Nutcracker, visit:


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