Bernard Johnson

New York Negro Ballet
Negro Dance Theatre: Guest (1956)

Bernard Johnson was born in Detroit where he began his ballet training and professional career. As a member of the New York Negro Ballet, Mr. Johnson was not only a dancer but also a costume designer. Johnson and his former wife Cleo Quitman, also a member of the New York Negro Ballet, toured the continent performing a blues and African act that they put together. He also appeared in Aubrey Hitchins’ Negro Dance Theater in 1956. Johnson also spent time on Broadway, at the Apollo, at City Center, and in other productions as a dancer, co-director, choreographer, and costume designer. Some of these productions include On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Fiorella, Showboat, and Ain’t Suppose to Die a Natural Death. Mr. Johnson became known as a fashion designer in the early 1970s, followed by a busy career as a costume designer for theatre, dance, and film. Mr. Johnson designed costumes for the New York City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, and several small modern dance companies. 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.

Bernard Johnson in Tony Charmoli’s Gotham Suite, 1954.


Répétition du premier ballet noir à la Scala, Getty Images
Bernard Johnson, 60, dancer, choreographer and designer, The New York Times
National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame: Celebrating 30 Years, by Lisa Schlansker Kolosek

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