Martha Graham Dance Company (1974-1975)
Twyla Tharp Dance (1975-1988)
American Ballet Theatre: Soloist (1988-1990)
Shelley Washington was born in Washington DC on November 3, 1954 and grew up in a military family.
Washington trained at Interlochen Arts Academy, the Juilliard School, and Wolf Trap Academy.
After dancing with Martha Graham Dance, Washington joined the Twyla Tharp Dance Company at age 20, in 1975. When Tharp began working with Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre, she brought along four dancers, including Washington, who joined as a soloist and rehearsal director. Washington, ABT’s second Black female soloist, remained at ABT from 1988 to 1990. She again acted as rehearsal director for Tharp’s “Cutting Up” tour in 1993.
Washington still serves as a répétiteur of Tharp ballets, working with companies all over the world, such as The Dutch National Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Birmingham Royal Ballet, and many more.
In a 2008 Dance Magazine article, Wendy Perron stated that Washington “ignited the kind of torrent of energy that’s needed to dance Tharp’s ballets.”
Washington appeared in the 1977 movie Hair and performed in and was dance captain for the 1985 Broadway production of Singing in the Rain.
In 1999, Washington worked for The Royal National Theatre’s production of A Darker Face of the Earth, choreographing and serving as movement director.