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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Frank Shawl

Shawl Image

Frank Shawl (1931- ) is a dancer, choreographer and master teacher in the contemporary modern dance genre. A former dancer in commercial television and for the May O’Donnell Dance Company in New York City, Shawl co-founded the Shawl-Anderson Dance Studio in Berkeley, California where he has trained and mentored several generations of Bay Area dancers and choreographers.

Shawl started making up dances as a child and continued to dance in high school as an extracurricular activity. As a teenager, he went to New York to find a dance teacher, and was spotted by a French couple who took an interest in the young dancer. His first audition and engagement was at the Roxy Theatre in New York, which he refers to as “theater boot camp.”  At age 17, he met May O’Donnell, a Martha Graham-trained dancer, with whom he kept in touch with until her death in 2004. He joined her company as a dancer in the 1950s and also began work on television shows after moving to New York City, where he shared inexpensive quarters with other dancers. He later traveled to Las Vegas where he performed in live shows, also traveling to Los Angeles to work on the Red Skelton Show, and back to New York City for the Perry Como Show.

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