DATE OF BIRTH: November 29, 1919
PLACE OF BIRTH: ..., Trinidad
  • Hunter College, New York, USA (BA in Biology, 1940)
  • New York University (MA in Education, 1959; Ph.D. in Dance Education, 1978))
  • CAREER:                                Primus moved with her family to New York, USA, when she was two years old. After completing Hunter College, she joined the New Dance Group in 1943 and, on October 4, 1944, made her Broadway debut at the Belasco Theatre. She later formed her own dance company in 1946, but continued to appear in shows such as "Showboat," in New York, and "Emperor Jones," in Chicago. In 1948, she received the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to study dance for 18 months in Central and West Africa where she became known as "Omowale" (child returned home). She later studied and danced in southern USA and the Caribbean. In 1953, Primus visited Trinidad and was reunited with Beryl McBurnie. She also met Trinidadian dancer Percival Borde whom she married in 1954. In 1959, Primus travelled to Liberia where she worked with the Liberian National Dance Company in creating "Fanga," an interpretation of a Liberian invocation to the earth and the sky. Her lifetime choreographed works include:
    • 1943 - African Ceremonial
    • 1944 - The Negro Speaks of Rivers
    • 1945 - Strange Fruit; Hard Time Blues
    • 1979 - Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore
                                                           In addition to dancing and choreographing, Primus directed a Performing Arts Center in Liberia, and taught at Hunter College. From 1984 to 1990, she was a professor of Ethnic Studies and an Artist-in-Residence at a consortium of five Massachusetts colleges.
    • Honorary Doctorate, Spelman College, Atlanta, USA
    • The First Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Chair for Distinguished Teaching at the ADF
    • Distinguished Service Award from the Association of American Anthropologists
    • Meritorius Award from Lincoln University
    • Liberian Government Star of Africa
    • 1991 - U.S. National Medal of Arts
    DIED: October 29, 1994, in New Rochelle, New York, USA
    Compiled by Ronald C. Emrit