In Memoriam: Julian Swain, 1924-2011
By Susan Johnson
The Rock River Times was saddened to learn of the passing of Julian Swain, illustrious performer and teacher in the entertainment industry, on April 19, 2011. His career as a dancer, singer and choreographer began in his teens.
A native of Chicago, he was born Dec. 18, 1924, and attended Stephen A. Douglas Elementary School and Wendell Phillips High School. At Chicago’s Southside Community Arts Center, Swain met artists such as Margaret Goss Burroughs and Gordon Parks. He took lessons with dancers Lester Goodman, Lucille Ellis, Wilbert Bradley, Sammy Dyer, Tommy Gomez and Jimmy Payne. Swain performed with Carmencita Romero in the Annual Artists Ball at the Savoy. In 1940, he traveled with Romero and danced in Toronto before learning about African dance in New York from Assadata Dafora of Senegal.
When he returned to Chicago, Swain worked under choreographer Lon Fontaine at the Beige Room. Later, he became choreographer and lead dancer at Chicago’s Club DeLisa, but gained his greatest notoriety as a member of the Co-Op Trio with Peter Green and Ann Henry. The Co-Ops performed with top acts like Count Basie and in venues like Larry Steele’s Club Harlem in Atlantic City, N.J., and Arthur Bragg’s Idlewild Review in Michigan.
Swain performed ballet and modern and ethnic dance, and in 1971, he founded the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre at Malcolm X College. As a singer and actor, he performed in various musical revues and revivals including Okoro H. Johnson’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Randall Johnson’s Le Stardust Revue, A Tribute to Duke Ellington, Chuck Hoenes’ Best of the Hit Paraders and Sugar.
Swain also performed in Carlos Santana and Michelle Branch’s The Game of Love video. He was a dance panelist for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and participated in Dance Africa. He received the Black Theatre Alliance Award, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley honored him with the 2004 Chicago Senior Citizen Award.
He had also been affiliated with Bill Doll of the Greater Rockford Barbershop Chorus and sang with the Tag-A-Longs, a local quartet. Swain also collaborated with Carl Cole on producing the CD In Tribute. In October 1993, the African-American Arts Alliance presented Swain with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the arts and his fine example for young people. He continued to perform even into his 80s, and was an inspiration to many, both in and out of the entertainment field.
From the April 20-26, 2011, issue
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