In her five decade career, Bessie Award winner Buglisi has made an indelible impact on the field of dance. In 2022, she received the Juilliard President's Medal presented by President Damian Woetzel, who cited her leadership and vision as a "model of citizen artistry". Renowned for highly visual, imagistic dances that use literature, history and heroic archetypes as a primary source, Buglisi’s ballets are sweeping, passionate and always rooted in a strong physical technique. She is a prolific choreographer creating more than 100 ballets for Buglisi Dance Theatre and commissioned worldwide including Suspended Women on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Ninfee for the Richmond Ballet; her full-length The Four Elements for the NY Flamenco Festival presented in Madrid, Sadler’s Wells, London and New York’s City Center; Splendor for Juilliard New Dances; Commission for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival; Ananda Shankar Performing Arts Company, India; the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble, China; the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Joyce Theatre, Prague International Festival, Charlotte Ballet, Joyce Trisler Danscompany, Teatro Danza Contemporanea di Roma for which she was a co-founder in 1969; American Repertory Ballet, Ailey II, and Ice Theatre of New York.
Her “bewilderingly beautiful” ballet Threshold had its Italian premiere in Milan with Carla Fracci's Italian Ballet Company at the Teatro Nuovo and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Opera House. Buglisi, with Foreman, premiered their full-length ballet Runes of the Heart at Lincoln Center in 1994, followed by invitations to the Kennedy Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and The Joyce Theater where Buglisi Dance Theatre performs its NYC seasons. In 2001, she created Requiem to the soaring music of Gabriel Fauré, a transcendent experience and amplification of the human spirit. Anna Kisselgoff raves in The New York Times of the ballet’s “powerful images, stunning...extravagant and beautiful”. Breaking new ground, Buglisi collaborated with Venezuela’s leading environmental artist Jacobo Borges to create her trilogy Blue Cathedral, Rain, and Sand.
She has collaborated with composers Paola Prestini (Jeffery Zeigler and Helga Davis), Jeff Beal, Tan Dun, Glen Velez, Jennifer Higdon, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Libby Larsen, Daniel Brewbaker, Reza Vali; Andy Teirstein; cellist, Maya Beiser; Flamenco Guitarist, Gerardo Nunez, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra and Singers; lighting designers Clifton Taylor and Jack Mehler; Wendall Harrington, Head of Projection Design at Yale School of Drama; Willa Kim, costume designer and collaborator for Bear to the Wall; mannequin maker Ralph Pucci; and Italian artist Rossella Vasta on the Table of Silence Project 9/11, a site-specific ritual for peace performed at Lincoln Center by 158 dancers and nine musicians, and seen via live stream across the U.S. in 45 states and worldwide in 235 countries and territories. For her contribution in uniting the dance community through the Table of Silence, Buglisi was named a “New Yorker for Dance” by Dance/NYC and received Proclamations from Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio
During her 30 year association with the Martha Graham Dance Company, Buglisi was a Principal Dancer for 12 years, performing the classic roles and those created for her by Miss Graham. She danced in Ms. Graham’s honor on the nationally televised CBS Presentation of the Kennedy Center Honors and the PBS film An Evening of Dance and Conversation with Martha Graham. Buglisi’s duet “Sospiri” was performed by the Martha Graham Company at New York City Center (1989). Coached by Jane Sherman, she performed Ruth St. Denis’ solos internationally including Lyon Biennale De La Danse and on film in Trailblazers of American Modern Dance, and The Spirit of Denishawn.
A master teacher committed to arts-in-education, she received commissions by the U of Richmond, CSU Long Beach and Santa Barbra, George Mason University, SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance, Interlochen Arts Academy and Summer Festival, FSU at Tallahassee, the State Ballet College of Oslo, Ailey/Fordham University B.F.A. Program, Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Juilliard School’s Emerging Modern Masters Series, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival’s Contemporary Traditions Program, Boston Conservatory of Music, Randolph-Macon College and the National Dance Institute, New World School of the Arts, among others. She also conducted educational residencies with performances at the Mahaffey Theatre and Palladium Theater in St. Petersburgs.
In 1970, she founded the first school of contemporary dance for the community of Spoleto, Italy and was the Master Artist-in-Residence at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has taught for the Dance Aspen Festival from 1990-95, the Julio Bocca Center in Argentina, the 97-98 Victoria College Melbourne, the Chautauqua Institute and Festivals, and Prague International Dance Festival.
She is Chairperson of the Graham Technique Department at The Ailey School for 33 years and faculty since 1987, served on the faculty of The Juilliard School 91-05, The Martha Graham School since 1977 and guest teaches at the famed Performing Arts High School (alumna), Steps on Broadway Contemporary Masters Series, and Peridance Capezio Center. She was named Honorary Chair for the Marymount Manhattan College ‘05 Gala and served as panelist for the Heinz Awards and the New Jersey State Council for the Arts. She served as a Grand Marshal of the 2013 Dance Parade in NYC.
Buglisi’s repertoire is archived in the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Awards and honors include: 2022 Juilliard President's Medal presented by President Damian Woetzel, Bessies Awards 2020 Special Citation Honoree for the Table of Silence Project, 2016 Fini Italian International Lifetime Achievement Award, 2014 Kaatsbaan International Playing Field Award, American Dance Guild Award for Artistic Excellence, Fiorello LaGuardia Award for Excellence in the field of Dance, The Gertrude Shurr Award for Dance, Altria Group’s 2007 Women Choreographer Initiative Award, National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, commissioning grants from the Harkness Foundation for Dance and The O’Donnell-Green Music & Dance Foundation, and challenge grants from the Arnhold Foundation, among others. Ms. Buglisi served for three terms on Dance/USA’s Board of Trustees as Chair, Artistic Directors Council (2010-2013). Buglisi has been featured on the cover of Dance Teacher magazine, in articles for Dance Spirit, Dance Magazine, and as an Arts & Leisure feature in The New York Times.
Photo (c) Bill Biggart