Peggy Schwartz to be honored with Dance Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award

AMHERST, Mass. – Peggy Schwartz, professor and director emerita of the dance program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and chair of the Five College Dance  Department, will receive the National Dance Education Organization’s (NDEO) Lifetime Achievement Award at the group’s annual conference Oct. 26 in Miami.

NDEO calls the lifetime achievement award its most prestigious award, “given for exemplary leadership, scholarship and/or artistry, and philanthropy or service to dance education.”

Schwartz retired in 2011 following the publication of the definitive biography of dance legend Pearl Primus, The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus(Yale University Press,2011), which she co-authored with her husband, Murray Schwartz, former dean of the UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Since then, she has continued to lecture, conduct seminars, coach and present the choreography of Pearl Primus in colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Among those applauding Schwartz’s award were former students like Stacey Swan, who said, “I am so lucky to have been her student. It was her passion for yoga, movement and wellbeing that encouraged me along my path as a movement/yoga educator. I thank her for being an inspiration, and for sharing her light with the world.”

Michael Thelwell, professor emeritus in the W.E.B. Du Bois department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst posted a message saying, “The ancestors are wide awake. I shall pour libations in thanks for you. Well deserved. One heart.”

Since 1965, when Schwartz developed a rhythm and movement program for the Head Start pilot program in Berkeley, Calif., she has published, lectured, conducted workshops and consulted in dance education, curriculum design and national standards in dance, as well as in Primus’ work. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rochester, a M.S. in education from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Master of Arts in liberal studies in dance and movement studies from Wesleyan University.

From 1977-83, Schwartz served as the founding chair of the dance department at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, a magnet school for grades 5-12, and in l983 she joined the Five College Dance Department to develop a dance education program. 

In 1994, Schwartz was named Massachusetts Dance Educator of the Year and received a Presidential Citation from the National Dance Association in 1995.As chair of the Five College Dance Department, she facilitated the first National College Choreography Grant and commissioned Jawole Willa Jo Zollar to create a new work, “Walking with Pearl,” for which Zollar received a Bessie Award.

Schwartz’s last major project at UMass Amherst was the Sankofa Dance Project: Celebrating African Roots in American Dance in 2009.

In November, both Schwartz and her husband will lecture at the Shanghai Jiao Tung University Centre for Life Writing. Schwartz will discuss “The Intentions of Biography: Constructing the Story of Pearl Primus, Dancer, Teacher, Anthropologist.” Murray Schwartz will also lecture on “Authorizing Shakespeare: Problems of Biography.”