His Tony-winning choreography for "The Lion King" gave Garth Fagan a new claim to fame. But before and after he took that fruitful detour to Broadway, his artistic center was the company that bears his name: Garth Fagan Dance, which performs Thursday through Sunday at the Knight Theater.
The show will include a tribute to one of Fagan's mentors, the Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden. "Conjur Man," with music by early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton, is the rousing finale to Fagan's "DANCECOLLAGEFORROMIE." In an Observer interview in 2005, Fagan recalled when Bearden and another of his guiding lights, choreographer Alvin Ailey, buttonholed him at a New York party and gave him "a crash course in being a successful artist as a man of color."
The two urged him "to ignore and drive around racism and all the things that have afflicted minorities, whatever their race or religion, through the years. The bottom line is, do your work. Do it to the very best of your ability. Make sure it suits you. Follow that star."
Whether in his Bearden tribute or "Lion King," Fagan said, he aims for his work to sidestep dance's formalities and just communicate.
"I want my dancers to be people dancing, as opposed to dancers portraying people," he said. "So it's got a simple, unadorned look to it."
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. Tickets are $24-$49. Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.