Abdel R. Salaam

Executive Artistic Director/Choreographer

After several years of artistic and spiritual service, Mr. Salaam was offered a commission in 1988 by the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, to help create the first African Episcopal Mass for the Church using African dance and music as a liturgical voice.This evolved into his work and company in their Annual St. Francis Day and Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice Celebrations, which continue to this day.During the 80’s, Mr. Salaam served as a delegate for the Artists for Ecology’s International Summit at the Sundance Institute in Utah; the Conference on Third World Arts and European Theater in Oxford, England; and the 12th Annual Festival for Peace in Moscow, Russia. He and his company also led the historic procession for Nelson and Winnie Mandela on their visit to New York in 1990. Years later, in 1997, he served as a cultural delegate to the Dance Umbrella/Dance Alive Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa through the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He also served as the Artistic Director for Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Annual Gospel Festival for four years.

Mr. Salaam received two 2 year Choreographers Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991-1993 and 1994-1996) as well as commissions from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Committee for Young Audiences,The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center, Aaron Davis Hall, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Additionally, Mr. Salaam’s awards and fellowships include: the Monarch Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance from the National Council for Arts & Culture (1993); the Silver Anniversary Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography, Teaching and Performance from Lehman College of the City University of New York (1994); Carla Sayrce Alumni Award in Dance Arts, Lehman College of the City University of New York (1989); Morani Shujaa Award in Black Studies, Lehman College of the City University of New York (1990); Dance Africa Award in Choreography, Brooklyn Academy of Music (1987 & 2007); American Choreographer of the Year nomination (1989); and Better Family Life Lifetime Achievement Award in Arts (2000). Mr. Salaam is a 2004 New York Foundation For The Arts Fellow and was appointed as a Tennessee Performing Art Center’s Artist in Residence from 2003 to 2007.

Mr. Salaam’s theatrical credits as a choreographer include: “Sundiata, the Lion King of Mali” directed by David Schecter at Theaterworks USA; “Measure for Measure” directed by Michael Rudman at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Delacorte Theater; and “Pecong” directed Dennis Zacek at the Newark Symphony Hall. As a director/choreographer, Mr. Salaam’s credits include: “Ju-Ju Man” at the Billie Holiday Theater in New York; “Ancestral Earths” at the Apollo Theater in New York; “Ebony Magic” at the Aaronow Theater in New York; “Sweet Saturday Night”; and “American Griot” at the Triplex Theater in New York. Mr Salaam was the director/choreographer for TUT: a dance oratorio performed at the New York Musical Theater Festival.

In television, Mr. Salaam served as choreographer for: “The Creative Spirit”, WNET Channel Thirteen; “Expressions in Black: Story of a People”, WABC; “The Caribbean Music Awards”, BET Global Syndication; “St. Francis Celebration” at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, WNET Channel Thirteen; “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters,” WNET Channel Thirteen; “Great Performances: Forces of Nature”, Telemundo, Mexico City; “Critics Choice: Abdel Salaam”, Galavision, Mexico City. As a performer Mr Salaam appeared on the Richard Pryor Show, Great Performances “The American Dance Festival”, WPIX Talk of the Town. Mr Salaam and FONDT were one of the featured  choreographers and dance companies in the first and third episodes of the WNET/PBS Emmy Award Winning Great Performances documentary, ” Free to Dance”, produced and directed by Madison Davis Lacy. He also served as an Associate Producer and assistant researcher on the history of the African Diaspora in the Americas for Mr. Lacy’s independent film company, Firethorn Productions. In recent years, Abdel served as a choreographer for the Conan O’Brien Show. In past years, he and his company have been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, The Today Show and WPIX Talk of the Town.

Mr. Salaam and his company were funded through the New England Foundation for the Arts/ National Dance Project to develop “Rhythm Legacy: The Living Books” which premiered in 2001 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater. The project was then awarded additional funding to tour the United States during its 2002-2003 season.

In 1979, Mr. Salaam received a Certificate of Study from the University of Ife in Nigeria for Yoruba Arts and Culture, and completed a special workshop series in Dakar, Senegal in Mandinke and Wolof culture. He has served on the faculties of the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC; The American Dance Festival at the Sejeung Performing Arts Center in Seoul, Korea; Lehman College of the City University of New York, and at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre as Guest Instructor in Choreography and the Influence of African Dance on American Modern Dance and Culture.

Mr. Salaam’s attended Herbert H. Lehman College as an undergraduate from 1968-1973 in their first B.F.A. in Dance Program. He received his additional Dance Education from Clark Center for the Performing Arts, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, The Chuck Davis Dance Academy, The Eleo Pomare Dance Center, The Fred Benjamin Dance Center, The American Dance Festival and numerous African Dance masters at home and abroad.In 2004, Mr. Salaam staged and choreographed “Katonga: Musical Tales from the Jungle” for Busch Entertainment Corporation at Busch Gardens/Tampa Bay in Florida. During its premier season and subsequent two following seasons, “Katonga” received the Entertainment Award for the Best Musical Show in the World within a theme park in 2004. In the fall of 2004. Abdel was commissioned by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center ( T.P.A.C.) and The Nashville Ballet to choreograph an original work on their company which was performed as a part of their Emergence Series in 2004. This work served as the template for the first act of his critically acclaimed fulllength ballet “Eclipse: Visions of the Crescent and the Cross”, which was performed at T.P.A.C. as the featured dance theatre work during Forces of Natures 2006-2007 touring Season. This was his second full length evening ballet funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Mr. Salaam is currently serving as the Artistic Director of Better Family Life’s Black Dance USA in St. Louis , Missouri as well as the Artistic Director of the Apollo Theater’s Annual Kwanzaa Regeneration Night, which be founded in 1981.He is also an artist in residence along with his company at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Harlem and currently one of the directors of the Harlem Children’s Zone/Forces of Nature Youth Academy of Dance and Wellness. His Arts Education experience spans a period of over four decades serving youth at home and abroad as well as teaching and raising a host of young artists who have gone on to serve the professional world of dance, arts education and human services. Salaam has been commissioned by the Apollo Theater as on of five choreographers to put an original work on Philadanco for the upcoming James Brown Project this Fall, directed by Otis Salid and can also be seen this Winter in the new 20th Century Foxlight feature film ”Black Nativity”, directed by Kasi Lemens.