NAME: Wilson, Lester

BIRTH DATE/LOCATION:
13 April 1942

DEATH DATE/LOCATION:
14 February 1993, Los Angeles, age 50


  • identification & bio
  • key contact
  • human repositories
  • video documentation
  • photographic documentation
  • movement notation
  • production materials
  • oral history
  • personal papers
  • immediate needs
  • other relevant information
  • overview of works
  • bibliography
  • back to introduction
  • back to index of choreographers


  • IDENTIFICATION AND BIO:
    Known as a wildly creative film choreographer, Lester Wilson studied modern dance with Lucas Hoving, Mary Hinkson, and Donald McKayle at the Juilliard School, and at the Martha Graham school. Bob Fosse noticed him and cast him in a Lincoln Center revival of Pal Joey, but in addition to acting he also danced as a member of the Ailey, McKayle, and Talley Beatty companies. After a sojourn to Paris, Wilson returned to the U.S. in the early 1970s and made his way to the West Coast, where he began working in television, music videos, and nightclub/concert choreography. His film work includes assisting Herbert Ross on Funny Lady (1975), the Afrocentric cult-classic Sparkle (1976), and, along with Jeff Kutash, Jo Jo Smith, and Deney Terrio, Saturday Night Fever (1977). He was also Ann Margaret's choreographer for nearly a decade. Wilson died of a heart attack—he had undergone a quintuple bypass at the age of 37—but he was a major contributor to the fight against AIDS, notably in choreography created for AIDS Project/L.A.

    KEY CONTACT PERSON(S)/EXECUTOR OF ESTATE:
    Michele S. Simmons, dancer and friend from high school
    P.O. Box 27729
    Los Angeles, CA 90027
    323-663-8414
    dancedc@pacbell.net

    Zak Reed, former lover

    HUMAN REPOSITORIES OF THE WORK
    (name and contact info, relationship to the artist and the work, assessment):

    None identified.

    VIDEO DOCUMENTATION
    (location, format, condition, assessment):

    Many videotapes are held in the collection of the Academy of Dance on Film.

    PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION
    (location, format, condition, assessment):

    At the Academy of Dance on Film, Los Angeles, several photographs of Wilson are archived, including: an 8x10 of "Great Day" from Funny Lady; ten 8x10's of Wilson in rehearsal, mostly full-body portraits; and three contact sheets.

    MOVEMENT NOTATION
    (location, type [including notes taken by dancers], assessment):

    None identified.

    PRODUCTION MATERIALS
    (scores, sound recordings, set/costume designs):

    None identified.

    ORAL HISTORY:
    See Yoshioka citation below.

    PERSONAL PAPERS
    (location of newspaper clippings, printed programs, press releases, notes, files, diaries; assessment):

    Clippings file at Academy of Dance on Film.

    IMMEDIATE NEEDS
    (archival assistance? storage? other?):

    Search for video documentation of AIDS benefits at Academy of Dance on Film.

    OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION:
    Zak Reed reports that Wilson worked on benefit performances for AIDS Project/L.A., notably an APLA Labor Day L.A. event for which Wilson restaged a Marvin Gaye ("I Want You") number originally created for the Motown 25th Anniversary Special.

    LIST OR OVERVIEW OF WORKS
    (title, premiere date, music, production notes, performers):

    See information regarding APLA benefit above.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY:

    • Billman, Larry. 1997. Film Choreographers and Dance Directors: An Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia, with a History and Filmographies, 1893 through 1995. Jefferson, N. Carolina: McFarland & Company. 528-529.
    • Yoshioka, Adele. 1986. "An Interview with Lester Wilson" (5 September).
     
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