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Former Madisonian John Crim living out his dream in New York as professional dancer with Garth Fagan Dance Company

John Crim in ‘Contact Fours’ at the Joyce Theater (Photo by Steven Pisano)

“I’ve always had a dream of making it big in a big city and just having my name out there and I’m so grateful that Garth Fagan Dance has really shed light on my talents and has really been the catalyst for my spiritual, emotional, and professional growth,” professional dancer John Crim tells Madison365.

“It’s really a dream to be able to do my art and pay the bills doing what I love,” Crim adds. “Especially coming out of the time of COVID where everything was so unstable to finally have some stability in my life … it is a blessing. I’m really grateful for the blessings that have come my way and I just hope that I continue to grow and evolve with Garth Fagan Dance and have more opportunities to dance, and more opportunities come my way.”

John Crim featured in the New York Times
(Photo: Dawn Crim)

While the 23-year-old Crim was once a student at Leopold Elementary, Cherokee Heights Middle School, and Madison West High School, he is now living out his dream on a much larger stage. Last November, he was featured in The New York Times where he was pictured and praised for his performance at the 472-seat Joyce Theater, a performance venue located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  

“That was a complete surprise to be featured in the New York Times,” Crim says. “It was my first time at the Joyce [Theater] and it was the company’s first time coming back to the Joyce after COVID. COVID kind of put a number on us all and in the arts and it stopped everyone in its tracks. So it was just nice to be able to grace the Joyce [Theater] stage once again.”

Garth Fagan
(Wikimedia Commons)

Crim, who lives in Rochester, N.Y., says he is excited about being part of the Garth Fagan Dance, a dance company that was started by Garth Fagan, the Tony Award-winning choreographer of “The Lion King” and a legendary figure in the world of American dance. Garth Fagan Dance celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago during the pandemic.

Fagan developed the Garth Fagan Technique, which is deeply rooted in Afro-Caribbean influences that are reflective of his Jamaican heritage and “utilizes characteristics like the loose, torso-centered movement of Afro-Caribbean dance, the speed and agility of ballet, the polyrhythms of African music and dance and the loose backs of post-modern dance.”   

Crim is now in his third year as a professional dancer at Garth Fagan Dance Company. “We just got back from our tour traveling to Chautauqua and a little bit of New York City here and there,” he says. “So we’ve been performing our pieces like ‘Prelude,’ which, just got nominated for a Bessie Award.”

The New York Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work by independent dance artists in New York City for 39 years. “Prelude” was also nominated for the 66th Annual NY Emmy® Awards.

“’Prelude: The Legacy of Garth Fagan Dance’ is a documentary that basically follows me and one other dancer in the company, Sabrina [Cmelak], through our time of auditioning for Garth Fagan,” Crim says. “And just what a joy that was and our growth, our evolution, and it also delves deep into the history of Garth Fagan, as a choreographer, as an artist, as a human, and, just kind of his vision for the past 50 years … and 50 years to come.”


The 6’6″ Crim is very tall for a dancer and is well aware of the demand it can take on a body.

“My parents blessed me with the tall gene,” Crim laughs. “Dancing definitely is demanding. You’re asking your body to kind of do the impossible things. You’re asking for it to be as flexible as possible, as well as being as strong as it possibly can to create the beauty that is dance. Through practice, through tons of rehearsals, through yoga classes, and through massages here and there, you definitely have to keep your instrument in tune. Through that practice, you start to get a rhythm and you start to invite a certain amount of growth.”

John Crim performs ‘Contact Fours’ at the Joyce Theater. (Photo by Steven Pisano)

As a historic Black legacy company, Garth Fagan Dance has paved the way for many new and very deserving dance companies of color. While dance has traditionally been rather white, it is seeing more diversity.   

“Traditionally the dance realm and dance space has not been that diverse, but through through feats and leaps and bounds of talented dancers of color, we’ve really broken barriers, especially in the past 20 years,” Crim says. “Dance has definitely evolved from what it once was to where it is today. But we still have so much to grow. There’s still so much to do and I’m ready for it.”

As a teenager who once performed as a dancer in the Overture Center’s Rising Stars talent search in downtown Madison, Crim is now performing all over the world.

“My goals really are to keep growing and keep going at it with all the power I can and, hopefully, keep getting better. No one really saw any of this coming, right?  I don’t think any of us in the company really dance to get an award … we just try our hardest every single day in the studio,” Crim says. “You keep up with your instrument and you make sure that your instrument is in tune, your body is in tune, and your mind, spirit, and soul are really aligned and, hopefully, we keep going strong.

“Good things have been coming my way and I’m very grateful for the abundance I’ve been blessed with,” Crim adds.