Bernard Johnson (1936-1997) was a dancer, costume designer, director, choreographer, and teacher who amassed an extensive list of credits working in television, film and Broadway hits such as “Raisin in the Sun.” In 1991, on the recommendation of University of California-Irvine dance professor and choreographer Donald McKayle, Johnson was recruited as the first UCI professor of costume design for dancers, obtaining an appointment as an assistant professor of dance. It was there in 1995 at UCI that Gleich, who at the time was a visiting artist in residence, met Johnson. Johnson would go on to design costumes for Gleich’s ballet Secret Combinations. Johnson, who died two year later in 1997 at the age of 60, is now the feature of an exhibition and article at UC-Irvine. The article features one of the designs Bernard made for Gleich’s ballet.
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One of the best collaborations I had was with Bernard Johnson in 1995 at the University of California-Irvine. His designs worked so well for the dance, both in terms of the dancers’ movements and the vision for the work. His use of colour and fabric created contrasting sections of my dance with subtlety and simplicity.
When I was a young choreographer doing one of my first commissions Bernard made me feel at ease. Little did I know of his background working with celebrities and on major theatrical productions. He was a lovely man and talented designer who left us too soon.