Biographical/historical: Jeff Duncan began his dance training in college after seeing performances by the American Ballet Theatre, Martha Graham, and José Limon companies. Initially, he wanted to be a concert pianist before realizing his dream to become a dancer. Duncan went on to study with Alwin Nikolais and José Limon. In 1953, He became an assistant for Dorothy Humphrey at the 92nd Street Y. After studying dance, Duncan became the principal dancer with Anna Sokolow for 12 years, before starting his own dance company, the Jeff Duncan Dance Company, in 1956. Between 1964 and 1975 Duncan’s main goal was to promote emerging choreographers. He started the Dance Theater Workshop, where he choreographed many shows, including Diminishing Landscape and Statement. The company eventually moved to the Jerome Robbins American Theater Lab, which still exists today.
Duncan helped a collective of choreographers - among them Martha Clarke, Deborah Jowitt, Linda Tarnay, Elizabeth Keene, Kathryn Posin, Lenore Latimer, Wendy Perron, Cliff Keuter, Kei Takai, Judith Dunn, Rudy Perez, James Cunningham, Frances Alenikoff, Ze'eva Cohen, and Tina Croll. In 1977, Duncan expanded his role as promoter and teacher of dance. He accepted a position to teach dance at the University of Maryland and directed its resident touring company, Impetus, while managing to perform and produce in New York. During this time, he received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Creative Artists Public Service Guild, the American College Dance Festival Association, and a Fulbright Fellowship in 1988 for his work in Mexico. In the final months of Duncan’s life, he performed his signature work La Mesa Del Brujo. He died from complications of AIDS in 1989.