Alex Smith, Jr.
Alex Smith, Jr. was born in Montgomery, AL. His parents, both veterans of the Montgomery bus boycott, migrated to Brooklyn, NY when he was 3 years old. He has resided in Brooklyn ever since that time. Smith is the Executive Chairman of Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC). This association began in 1988, when it’s then executive director, Melvin Davis hired Smith to assist in re-branding the image of THPAC. It turned into a long term business relationship with THPAC which continued until the untimely death of Melvin Davis in May of 1995. At this point Smith was asked by the THPAC board to consider becoming the executive director. He accepted the position along with choreographer Marshall Swiney, who became artistic director of THPAC.
Under Smith’s continuing tenure at THPAC as Executive Chairman, over 300 artists have been presented in performance including: Ron Brown, Camille Brown, George Faison, Louis Johnson, Marlies Yearby, Fred Benjamin, Urban Bush Women, Dance Theater of Harlem and Philadanco, among many others; seven new programming formats have been added; THPAC’s Life Time Achievement Awards were established; new relationships with performance venues at Long Island University and the Actors Fund Arts Center were formed; a development dept. for THPAC was established; new in-house works for THPAC entitled Audre Lorde In Motion, Ramp to Paradise and The Gospel According to THPAC were produced; the administrative staff and THPAC boards were restructured; the relocation of THPAC’s headquarters was accomplished. At present, Smith is spearheading the production of a documentary on THPAC’s 42 years on the dance scene as well as laying out a digital archival structure for THPAC in association with the NYPL at Lincoln Center. On October 18, 2016 Smith was the recipient of the Bessie Award for outstanding service to the field of dance. Smith is a Brooklyn College graduate with advance graphics design/photography studies from the School of Visual Arts. He is a graphics designer and a visual fine artist.
WALTER RUTLEDGE, Associate Artistic Director and Choreographer in Residence, is a native of New York City. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance degree from Temple University and received dance and drama scholarships from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Philadelphia Dance Company, Maria Piscator Foundation and Harkness House for Ballet Arts.
A Jerome Foundation scholarship allowed him to study advanced choreography at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, resulting in the premiere of his piece at the Roundhouse Theatre in London in 1987.
Walter performed with both the Harkness Dance Theatre (youth company) and the Harkness Ballet in New York in the early 80s. He was also the school administrator and company manager/lighting designer for the Far East tour of the Harkness Ballet.
In 1983, Walter became Ballet Master, Associate Artistic Director and Choreographer in Residence with the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre (NBCDT). During his tenure he choreographed over twenty-five ballets.
Walter relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1993, where he founded STARRS (Satellite Teaching of the Arts to Regional and Rural Students) to give dance and theater opportunities to youth in the "low country" (the coastal region south of Charleston, including the Sea Islands). Over the next five years, STARRS established training sites statewide, with over 2000 students.
Walter was also primary dance instructor at Benedict College and Artistic Director of its Harold Odom Dance Theatre (HODT). In 1996, he co-conceived and choreographed a gospel musical, Bible Stories, using dancers from HODT.
Returning to New York in 2000, Walter joined the renowned Boys Choir of Harlem (BCH) as instructor, choreographer, set and lighting designer, stage and production manager. His choreography for BCH premiered in Nagano, Japan, accompanied by a full orchestra conducted by Seiji Osawa.
Walter resumed his roles as Associate Artistic Director and Choreographer in Residence of the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre when it was revived in 2004 by Sheila Rohan, Nanette's sister. For its inaugural ballet he created On The Block (after Bearden), a work-in- progress inspired by The Block, the six-panel collage by the renowned American artist Romare Bearden. Rutledge has also served as the artistic advisor to Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center since 2011.