Dyann Robinson was born in 1942 in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was graduated from St. Joseph Catholic School and Tuskegee Institute High School. She began her theatre career with dance lessons, from her second grade teacher who was a Dominican Sister. She made her stage debut, in Tuskegee, as a member of Jessie Gibson’s Gibsonian Dance Troupe, which toured African American schools and colleges in Alabama and Georgia. Miss Robinson holds a B.A. degree in Dance from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a M.F.A. degree in Drama from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She has taught dance since she was a teenager, teaching together with her sister Clintonia in their Robinette School of Dance located in the basement of the family home. Miss Robinson has taught dance at Howard University in Washington, DC, at the Dance Theatre of Boston, at The National Center for African American Artists in Boston, at The Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City, for the City of Tuskegee Department of Cultural Affairs, at Auburn University, in Auburn, Alabama, as Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre, and for her own Tuskegee Repertory Theatre, Inc., in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Miss Robinson has performed in dance companies throughout this country and abroad. She and dancer/choreographer Mike Malone toured the country as The Concert Ballet Duo. She founded The Chamber Dance Group in Washington, DC. She was a member of the Dance Company of The National Center of African-American Artists, in Boston, Mass., a member of Maurice Bejart’s Ballet of The Twentieth Century, based in Brussels, Belgium, and a member Billy Wilson’s Dance Theatre of Boston. Miss Robinson was a member of the original Broadway cast, and assistant to the choreographer, Billy Wilson in the hit musical “BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR”. She has subsequently staged numerous professional companies of that show in this country and in Europe.
In 1980, Miss Robinson returned home to Tuskegee, and was appointed Director of the City of Tuskegee’s Department of Cultural Affairs by Mayor Johnny Ford. As part of the Department of Cultural Affairs, she formed and directed The Tuskegee City Dance Theatre School and Company. Dancers from the school and company were to become the core of the cast of a production of “BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR”, which Miss Robinson staged for the Tuskegee Department of Cultural Affairs, and which was performed to great acclaim, in 1988 and ’89 in Tuskegee, and at the prestigious Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery, Alabama.
When The Department of Cultural Affairs was discontinued in 1989, Miss Robinson began a 13 year tenure, as a full-time member of the faculty of the Department of Theatre at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. As Associate Professor of dance and theatre, she taught dance and directed dance and theatre productions creating six original full-length dance/dramas for the Department of Theatre. She concluded her career at Auburn, by serving for 2 years as the Theatre Department’s first Scholar-In-Residence. In that capacity, she wrote and directed her last play at Auburn, the highly acclaimed, “STRANGE FRUIT, THE STORY OF AN ALABAMA LYNCHING”.
Determined not to give up her dream of founding a theatre company in her hometown, Miss Robinson founded The Tuskegee Repertory Theatre, Inc. School and Company in 1991. In 1996 she purchased the downtown Tuskegee Post Office building, and opened it as The Jessie Clinton Arts Centre in order to house the offices, and the teaching/ rehearsal/performance space for the school and company. The Jessie Clinton Arts Centre has become the home of what has now become a full fledged theatre company, The Tuskegee Repertory Theatre, Inc., directed by Miss Robinson, who writes or co-writes the company’s original plays, which she also directs, choreographs, and in which she sometimes performs as a dancer and/or as an actress.
Thus far, other than the musical “PURLIE” based on the play by Ossie Davis, the company repertoire consists only of plays written, or co-written by Miss Robinson. The plays co-written by Miss Robinson include both the musical and the play, “RUN JOHNNY RUN” (The Story of Johnny Ford, the First African American Mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama) which Miss Robinson co-authored with Johnny Ford, “REVOLT IN STORYLAND” (The Musical) adapted by Miss Robinson from “REVOLT IN STORYLAND (The Play) by Marie Moore Lyles. Miss Robinson has written “LONELY EAGLES” (THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN MEET JOSEPHINE BAKER), a two-character, true story drama with music and dance, in which she co-stars as Josephine Baker, with Johnny Ford as Lt. Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr.; “MOTON ,A MOMENT OF CRISIS”, (The Story of the Creation of the Veterans Administration Hospital for Negroes in Tuskegee, Alabama); “THE WIVES OF BOOKER T.”, the story of the three wives of Booker T. Washington; “GENESIS” (A Rap Opera), with an original electronic score by Tuskegee native, Milton C. Davis, Jr.; “REMEMBERING “SAMMY” (The story of Sammy L. Young, Jr., the Tuskegee Institute student, who was the first college student killed in the Civil Rights Movement.); “THE COTTON CLUB COMES TO ‘SKEGEE” , a musical fantasy in which performs from the famous Cotton Club are magically taken into the future to Tuskegee, AL a place where they can perform for people of all races; “TOBY’S MY BROTHER & BEETHOVEN TOO!!”, Beethoven, Alexander Dumas pere, and Aleksander Puskin, are inspired by the bravery of a slave revolt in Alabama, led by a slave named Toby , “SNIPE’S WORLD” The Characters in the art work of local artist, James ”Buddy “Snipe, come to life; “ROYAL SISTAHS”, a one woman play about three powerful, ancient, Black African Queens, and one female pharaoh; “THE BROKER” The Story of Lewis Adams, the True Founder of Tuskegee University, “TOUSSAINT” The Story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Father of the Haitian Revolution, and “TUSKEGEE RISING” , a musical play comparing Tuskegee to the Phoenix, “flying high in the sky; finding new life, and wings, when it’s left to die.”
Miss Robinson was the recipient of The Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s 1996 Pioneer Award, and is the subject of an Alabama Public TV documentary entitled THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF DYANN ROBINSON, which is part of a series called the ALABAMA EXPERIENCE. Miss Robinson is a recipient of a 2001 Governor’s Arts Award, presented by The Alabama State Council on The Arts. In the year 2002, she was appointed a member of The Alabama State Council on The Arts, and served a six year term.