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Interview with Fred Strickler

Interview with Fred Strickler, 2019.
Strickler, Fred

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StatusVol/DateFormatAccessCall NumberItem Location
1 of 2AudioSupervised use *MGZMT 3-3477 1 of 2Performing Arts Research Collections - Dance
2 of 2AudioSupervised use *MGZMT 3-3477 2 of 2Performing Arts Research Collections - Dance


Additional Authors
Zee, Steve
Online resource (8 audio files (approximately eight hours and 36 minutes)) : digital +
  • Streaming file 1, February 10, 2019 (approximately one hour and two minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about how it was that he was born (on August 5, 1943) in Mount Clemens, Michigan; growing up with his extended family in his maternal grandmother's house in Columbus, Ohio; his father and how he abandoned the family when Strickler was four; his relationships with his family members including anecdotes about his siblings and his grandmother; his family's expectations of academic excellence for him and his siblings; his grandmother's recognition that dance would be the path out of their neighborhood; his original ambition to be a teacher; revisiting his old junior high school as a guest teacher; his early experiences with music as a listener, a musician, and a choir member; reminiscences about the large and lively family gatherings at his grandmother's house; his introduction to dance through his sister's tap dance classes, at Jimmy Rawlins' school; the physical layout of the school; beginning tap dance classes and later ballet as well; his memories of Jimmy Rawlins; his first professional performances; Jimmy Rawlins as a teacher including his use of syllabi.
  • Streaming file 2, February 10, 2019 (approximately one hour and two minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about Jimmy Rawlins' classes including Rawlins' perfectionism; Jimmy Rawlins' television show, The Jimmy Rawlins Show, on which Strickler and his sister also performed; teaching classes and doing odd jobs at Rawlins' school in exchange for lessons; Rawlins' wife, Hazel; Rawlins' school as the center of his life when he was a teenager; practicing by himself at the school and with his grandmother in the family kitchen; reminiscences about Jorg Fasting and his ballet classes, including anecdotes about him and his accompanist, Louise Pfister; exploring his sexuality during this time and later in college; his family's reaction to his coming out; his debt to Jimmy Rawlings for having acquired his foundation as a dancer and performer; professional engagements while a teenager including his performing with the Columbus Players [Players Theatre Columbus] and at the Jewish center [Jewish Community Center] in Bexley; his having acquired a good education at public schools in spite of the poverty of his neighborhood; his recognition since his youth of the relationship between music and dance; his perception of tap dancing as a type of melodic music in itself; more on Jimmy Rawlins as his first dance mentor; Jimmy Rawlins' very limited use of improvisation; his first experience with improvisation in tap dancing, around 1980 with the Jazz Tap Ensemble.
  • Streaming files 3 and 4, February 10, 2019 (approximately two hours and 13 minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about matriculating at Ohio State University in 1961; becoming involved in modern dance through his friendship with Janet Wynn; taking class with Sharon Kinney; his first choreography classes (based on Louis Horst's pre-classic and modern dance forms), taught by Helen [P.] Alkire; his instant affinity for modern dance including his strengths and weaknesses as a performer; performing in summer stock musicals including with Lenny-Debbin [Inc.] to pay for school; how modern dance changed his perception of dance as a type of entertainment to that of an art form; some thoughts on the origins of modern dance including the unspoken requirement that choreographers have an individual style; the divide between his artistic life and his awareness of the socio-political currents of the time (early-to-mid 1960s); guest artists who gave master classes when he was at college including Jack Moore, Judith Dunn, Anna Sokolow, and José Limón ; other teachers, Jim [James] Peyton and Vera (Vickie) Blaine; his first performance in New York City, with Vickie Blaine at the 92nd St. Y; other dancers on that program at the 92nd St. Y. including Lucinda Childs and Gus Solomons jr; changing his major at college from mathematics and literature to dance including his mother's reaction; touring United States military bases with a production of Stop the world, I want to get off, and pursuing graduate studies at Ohio State University; the circumstances of how Christena Schlundt hired him to teach modern dance at University of California, Riverside; his life in California, in particular Bella Lewitzky's enormous role in his professional life; Bella Lewitzky as a teacher, artist, and human being; touring with Bella Lewitzky's company [Bella Lewitzky Dance Company] in the United States and in Europe; his self-assessment as a dancer; teaching full time at academic institutions and working full time with Bella Lewitzky; his reasons for leaving her company, in June 1975; her humanity, including how she helped him at a time of great personal distress; his work for the (1976) film Lipstick; how much he learned from his years with Bella Lewitzky; his view of her choreography; the dance ensemble Eyes Wide Open Dance Theatre, including its origins and founding members; the ensemble's first performance, at the Los Angeles Music Center including the work Tarzan Sprites; the ensemble's collaborative and experimental nature; his own, often experimental, choreography at this time including his innovative use of lighting and music; reasons for the eventual dissolution of Eyes Wide Open Dance Theatre; reminiscences of his colleague Gary [Bates] including their performing together in Patrick [Scott's] work Proximity; reflections on his experience with Eyes Wide Open Dance Theatre and his long involvement with modern dance.
  • Streaming file 5, February 11, 2019 (approximately one hour and 52 minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about how Eyes Wide Open Dance Theatre collaborated with Lynn Dally and her dancers to create Pacific Motion Dance Studios; Camden Richman, who introduced him to jazz tap; performing with Camden Richman at a concert in San Francisco; meeting Foster Johnson who taught new steps to him, Camden Richman and Lynn Dally; building on what they had learned to perform an all-tap show they called Riffs; reuniting for a second show, as the Jazz Tap Percussion Ensemble (later the Jazz Tap Ensemble); the musicians in the Ensemble including Tom Dannenberg; the filmmaker [Christian Blackwood] and his documentary [Tapdancin']; the Ensemble's engagement with Dance Theater Workshop including the noted tap dancers who came to see them; the modern dance, non-vaudevillian aesthetic of the performance; the Ensemble's subsequent hiring of an agent and going on tour; the styles and backgrounds of some other tap dancers at the time including Brenda Bufalino; the tap dance renaissance including the emergence of the Copasetics and renewed interest in learning tap dance; the collaborative nature of the Ensemble's creative efforts; his working methods including the extent to which his modern dance background influenced his tap dancing choreography; the favorable reception of the Ensemble's performances in France; his and Linda Sohl-Donnell's [later Sohl-Ellison] continuing to study with Foster Johnson; the influence of the varying backgrounds of the Ensemble members and musicians on the work they created; financial aspects of the Ensemble; the inter-group dynamics; how his self-doubts have contributed to his development as a dancer; his concept of an artist including experiences that led to feeling that he (finally) was one; returning to Columbus, Ohio, with the Jazz Tap Ensemble and reuniting with Jimmy Rawlins (his mentor and Lynn Dally's father); touring with the Jazz Tap Ensemble; his own choreography and his creative process; his preference for mapping out movements and creating movement for the arms; his experience choreographing Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto [a formal symphonic work for a tap dancer and orchestra] for the Jazz Tap Ensemble including Morton Gould's reaction to the premiere performance; afterwards, dancing this work, nationwide, for over 25 years; performing Tap Dance Concerto with Sam Weber and Lane Alexander and the Long Beach Orchestra.
  • Streaming file 6, February 11, 2019 (approximately 26 minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto including some of the dancers who have performed (their own versions) to it; some of his more memorable performances of this work, including at the Capitol Lawn mall [West Lawn] in Washington, D.C.; the challenges Tap Dance Concerto presented for the musicians; his impressions of Morton Gould including as a pianist; the abrupt departure of Camden Richman and the musicians from the Jazz Tap Ensemble; an anecdote about promotional videos that had been made of the Ensemble at this time; reconstituting the Ensemble to perform existing engagements; continuing to perform with Lynn Dally and new members, including Linda Sohl-Dannell [later Sohl-Ellison] until his departure from the Ensemble in 1986; his various professional activities after leaving the Ensemble; Sam Weber and Terry Brock, who joined the Ensemble after Strickler left.
  • Streaming file 7, February 11, 2019 (approximately 51 minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about his professional activities after leaving the Jazz Tap Ensemble including his collaborations with (among others) Althea Waites, Ray McNamara, and his pick-up groups Fred Strickler & Friends, Fred Strickler & Friends--New Ideas on Tap, and the Leo Trio; his Where I live concerts, performed in his studio at his home; some of the works in this series including Speaking in tongues, Spinning, Djembe rap, Tone poem, and Quotation marks; Daniel Nagrin and his influence on Strickler; the experience of performing in his studio for a small group of people; working with the taiko drummer Reverend Tom [Shuichi Thomas] Kurai; more on his work Quotation marks, which is set to Steve Reich's "Clapping music"; the upcoming, 2019 Soul to Sole [International Tap] festival in Austin [Texas], which will include the honoring of seven female tap artists; Linda Sohl-Ellison and their professional relationship including his having frequently performed in her company, Rhapsody in Taps (originally LTD/Unlimited Dance Company); Christy (Wyant) Hernandez including how he came to be her teacher; other students whom he feels he has influenced [ends abruptly; continues on streaming file 7].
  • Streaming file 8, February 11, 2019 (approximately one hour and 10 minutes). Fred Strickler speaks with Steve Zee about musicians he has worked closely with, in particular Ray McNamara; his career as a teacher at academic institutions, in particular at the University of California, Riverside; his parallel career, as a performer and choreographer; the various dance forms he taught, from folk dance to choreography; arranging for his students to perform at local schools; teaching children dance as compared with watching them perform; his view of dance as a way of life and how this has permeated his career as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher; his focus on movement for movement's sake and the physicality of dancing rather than symbolism or meaning; Christena Schlundt and the expansion of the program that became the Department of Dance (at University of California, Riverside); his progress up the academic ladder, eventually being appointed a Distinguished Professor; his success as a performing artist as a crucial factor in his success in the academic sphere; his arts-advocacy activities including his participation in NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] grant decisions; his collaborative YouTube video project entitled Master Tap Dance Teachers in America; why he calls himself a "dance artist" rather than a dancer; his thoughts on his future as a dancer and otherwise; the worldwide dissemination of tap dancing; his putative advice to young people; his gratitude to his family.
Alternative Title
  • Dance Oral History Project.
  • Dance Audio Archive
  • Oral histories.
  • Sound recordings.
  • Interview with Fred Strickler conducted by Steve Zee on February 10 and 11, 2019, for the Dance Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Fred Strickler's home in Riverside, California.
  • For transcript see: *MGZMT 3-3477
  • Title supplied by cataloger.
  • Sound quality is excellent.
Access (note)
  • Transcripts may not be photographed or reproduced without permission.
Funding (note)
  • The creation and cataloging of this recording was made possible by a bequest from Carl Schlesinger.
Call Number
*MGZMT 3-3477
Strickler, Fred, interviewee.
Interview with Fred Strickler, 2019.
Playing Time
Type of Content
spoken word
Type of Medium
Type of Carrier
online resource
Digital File Characteristics
audio file
Restricted Access
Transcripts may not be photographed or reproduced without permission.
Recorded for the Dance Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 2019, February 10 and 11 Riverside (Calif.).
The creation and cataloging of this recording was made possible by a bequest from Carl Schlesinger.
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Added Author
Zee, Steve, interviewee.
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