Charles “Baba Chuck” Davis, one of the premiere choreographers of traditional African dance in America, has died. He was 80.
“It is with Great sadness, and with the utmost love and respect to the Dancer for Peace, that we announce the transitioning of the one and only, BABA CHARLES “CHUCK” DAVIS,” the African American Dance Ensemble posted on its Facebook back Sunday, May 14.
Davis founded that company in Durham, North Carolina, in the 1980s. He also founded the Chuck Davis Dance Company in New York in the 1960s and remains one of the founding elders of Brooklyn’s famous troupe, DanceAfrica. The Brooklyn Academy of Music outlined Davis’ illustrious career on its website:
Davis founded the Chuck Davis Dance Company in New York in 1968 and the African American Dance Ensemble in Durham, NC, in 1983. He has been a panelist for several programs of the National Endowment for the Arts and is a recipient of the AARP Certificate of Excellence, the North Carolina Dance Alliance Award, the 1990 North Carolina Artist Award, and the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He has served on the board of the North Carolina Arts Council since 1991 and in 1992 he received the North Carolina Award in Fine Arts, the state’s highest honor. In 1996, Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble were awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Dance Residency Program, a three-year initiative launched in 1994 by the New York Foundation for the Arts and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1998 he received an honorary doctorate from Medgar Evers College; he has received honorary doctorates from several universities, all of which mean a great deal to him. Most recently, Chuck Davis and DanceAfrica were cited as one of “America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100” by the Dance Heritage Coalition.
WUNC reports that Davis was born on New Years Day in 1937 and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was an only child. He attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., for dance and theater.
Because his birthday was at the top of the year, he celebrated his birthday and Kwanzaa in downtown Durham, inviting the whole community to attend. That’s where he reportedly showcased his dancers and drummers in the African tradition.
“Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday and a cultural celebration,” Davis said in a 2010 interview. “The principles of it are principles that every ethnic group in the universe can relate to. It has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with religion.”
Davis liked to say he was an “edu-tainer,” and dressed in colorful, elaborate African attire wherever he went. He also gave hugs to one and all.
WRAL reports that Davis visited the continent of Africa more than 50 times in his lifetime, studying with the masters and bringing traditional African dances to the United States.
Dance on, Baba Chuck.