Winfield, Hemsley (1907–1934) By Paris, Carl
An early initiator of Black modern dance, Hemsley Winfield first gained recognition as an actor and director of the New Negro Art Theater in New York City. Galvanized by his success, Winfield founded the New Negro Art Theater Dance Group in 1931. Like other emerging African-American exponents of the new dance, including Edna Guy, Alison Burroughs, Ollie Burgoyne, and Charles Williams, Winfield consciously drew on the philosophy of the New Negro movement, which promoted the use of art to advance racial consciousness and heritage during the Harlem Renaissance. Despite his premature death at age 26, Winfield set a significant starting point for Black modern dance at the crossroads of the Harlem Renaissance, American modernist primitivism, and the emergent modern dance movement. In so doing, Winfield modeled new possibilities for male dance artists, along with his contemporaries Harald Kreutzberg and Ted Shawn.