Graham Johnson

First Negro Classic Ballet
New York Negro Ballet

Johnson with Bernice Harrison. Photo courtesy of the Huntington Library, Joseph Rickard Papers.
Graham Johnson was a member of the First Negro Classic Ballet, in addition to being one of the company’s seven directors. Johnson’s repertoire with the company included Cinderella (1948), Harlot’s House, Little China Figure (1947), Symphonic Etudes (1948), and Tales from the Vienna Woods. He frequently performed with fellow star Bernice Harrison. He appeared with fellow company members in the November 1953 issue of Ebony Magazine.
After the company’s debut performance, ballet critic Ronald D. Scofield praised Johnson for his “virile strength, agility, and imagination.”
He choreographed Raisin’ Cane, which was “a story about Southern sugar-cane farmers that integrated the romance of classical music with jazz elements and a style that incorporated African-American themes” and featured music by Claudius Wilson.
When the company disbanded, Johnson joined New York Negro Ballet. He appeared in the film version of An American in Paris.
Johnson moved to France and then Spain and according to rumor, eventually became a monk.
Graham Johnson and Bernice Harrison


Joseph Rickard papers, Online Archive of California
Dance Moves: An African American Ballet Company in Postwar Los Angeles by Kenneth H. MarcusBallet in Black: Louis Johnson and African american Vernacular Humour in Ballet, Thomas F. Defrantz
Vaulted Ambitions: Stories From Where We Were to How We Got Here, Stage Raw
San Bernardino Sun, Volume 58, Number 307, 19 August 1952

See also:

Ward Flemying founds Ballet Americana/New York Negro Ballet, MoBBallet
The First Negro Classic Ballet is Founded, MoBBallet
First Negro Classic Ballet Company debuts, MoBBallet

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