Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Dance Is Who I am"

      The talent of Clover Mathis was spotted by Alvin Ailey in a dance class at Spelman College in Atlanta in 1967. He spent the next 2 & 1/2 years with the Dance Theater of Harlem, then toured with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) beginning in 1971. Here is my interview.
Clover Mathis, Dancer & Choreograher

MOLLOY: How long did you tour with Alvin Ailey's company?

MATHIS: I toured with AAADT in Eastern and Western Europe, the United States and Canada for about 3 years.

MOLLOY: Whom do you admire?

MATHIS: I love the quote by Duke Ellington that goes "Each man prays to God in his own language and there is no language God does not understand".  I agree with him whole-heartedly. However, the noun God does not reflect my awareness of the Source. As a Spirit Warrior and wanna-be Taoist, I would say there is no language  the Great Spirit does not understand.

MOLLOY: Can you say that the world of the arts, dance in particular, has satisfied your hunger for a spiritual connection?

MATHIS:  Dance is not what I do. Dance is who I am. For a long time I was estranged from the culture of dance. I did not like the direction concert dance has taken. I neither took class nor attended any performances. This has changed for me however.  I primarily listened to what my body was saying...I realized I wanted to dance again.

MOLLOY: Are you available for choreographic commissions or private lessons? If I google your name there are three pages of references. Now that you have begun to write your memoirs, we can look forward to reading those?

MATHIS: I keep to myself. I did engage in a performance series recently in the Mission District in San Francisco. The location was the Dance Mission, and the group was Labayen  Dancers. (See photo below) If I was comfortable with the dance company leadership, I would consider working again in my field.

MOLLOY: You also speak of listening to James Brown.

MATHIS: As a  younger man, I was aware of the stigma about male dancers, but when I listened to Brown I recall the lyric about "You've got to live for yourself, yourself and nobody else". Rudolf Nureyev had defected to the West in 1961, and he had a virile, graceful style of dancing that had changed the general perception of male dancers. I was affected by his professional prestige.

MOLLOY: I went to Portland, Oregon with my mother to watch Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn perform "Swan Lake" in 1960. The audience went nuts. I still have the program, it was from one of the final tours of The Royal Ballet from London. The whole country was open to new art and artists. It was an exciting time.

Peggy Molloy and Clover Mathis first worked together as dancers in the Danny Sloane Modern Dance Company in Boston, MA.
Clover Mathis can be reached through his talent managing agent with Http://

1 comment:

Alicia said...


This is an awesome blog! I love how you actually got to interview one of your dearest friends about something that you love to do as well. I really liked how Mathis discussed how he knew how male dancers were perceived but then told us how hearing just a line from James Brown's song changed his attitude and inspired him. The pictures are also a nice touch! Thank you for sharing!

Alicia Cox