Wake County Public School System

Hall of Fame

ARTS

Charles “Chuck” Davis

A native North Carolinian, born and raised in Raleigh, and “larger than life” personality, Charles “Chuck” Davis is remembered by many as the founder and Artistic Director of Durham’s African American Dance Ensemble.

After graduating from John W. Ligon High School in 1954, Chuck served several years in the United States Navy and then went on to study theatre and dance at Howard University. His passion for African dance led him to continue his studies with Babatunde Olatunji, Eleo Pomare, and the Bernice Johnson Dance Company, before accepting a teaching position at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

By 1968, Chuck founded the Chuck Davis Dance Company in New York City. Less than ten years later he founded DanceAfrica, an annual celebration of African culture that has since inspired performances in cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; Columbus, Ohio; Washington D.C.; and Dallas, Texas.

His growing reputation as one of the foremost choreographers and teachers of traditional African dance techniques soon brought him back to his North Carolina roots, as he was recruited for the position of Artist-in-Residence by the American Dance Festival of Durham. Chuck’s desire to connect with the young people of Durham who shared his enthusiasm and discipline for dance was the fountainhead which sprung the African American Dance Ensemble in 1983.

Throughout his career, he traveled extensively to Africa to learn from leading artists, bringing dancers and musicians with him annually to study the origins of African dance. He served as a Governor appointed member of the Board for the North Carolina Arts Council, and he received countless awards for his outstanding service in the field of dance. His numerous honors include the North Carolina Fine Arts Award, the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine, two BESSIE Awards, the Kathryn H. Wallace Award for Artists in Community Service and DanceUSA’s Artist of the Year.

Chuck dedicated his life to the arts, keeping a full schedule of performances, guest artistic directorships, choreography projects, research, and international travel. Sadly, he passed away on May 14, 2017, just days before DanceAfrica was scheduled to open its 40th anniversary season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Chuck Davis was inducted into the Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame in 2019.