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In loving memory of Frank William Shawl

December 27, 1931 - October 4, 2019

Frank William Shawl, beloved dance artist, educator and co-founder of Berkeley’s 61-year-old Shawl-Anderson Dance Center died peacefully at his home on Friday, October 4th, 2019 at the age of 87.


Frank Shawl was the co-founder with Victor Anderson of the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center. Frank was a beloved and highly respected teacher, performing dancer and choreographer in the Bay Area for more than 55 years. The Shawl-Anderson Dance Company was an active dance repertory group in the 1960s and ’70s and spawned many of today’s prominent dance artists.


Shawl was known for his capacity to appreciate life, art and people in a way that made each feel unique. His gracious, friendly, loving, supportive, and generously expansive way of moving through the world radiated light all around him throughout his life, even up to his last day.


A native of New Jersey, he began performing in New York while still in his teens. He appeared in numerous Broadway and network television shows as a dancer and singer and toured throughout the United States and Canada. He appeared in concert with Charles Weidman and for over eight years with the May O'Donnell Dance Company. He returned to New York in the role of assistant to Ms. O'Donnell, as well as having taught, directed, and performed in Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands. Ms. O’Donnell’s impact on Shawl’s style, philosophy, pedagogy and person was a lasting influence throughout his work as a choreographer, artist and educator.


In 1958, he and Victor Anderson, whom he had met performing in O’Donnell’s company, moved to the Bay Area to found Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, a school for adults and children that embraced the welcoming spirit of inclusivity that was a hallmark of O’Donnell’s ethos and pedagogy. Six decades later, the Center is the thriving legacy of that ethos. As Berkeley’s oldest performing arts institution, it is a vital hub of dance in the East Bay, and continues to transform lives through movement, reaching more than a thousand dancers, aged 2 to 92 each week.


Frank Shawl is the son of Frank Shawl and Ann Renard. He is survived by his sister Margaret M. Maralla of Wayne, NJ, his niece and nephew Kathy and Ralph Vitaro of Kinnelon, NJ, his nephew and niece Matthew & Darla Tullo of Wayne, NJ, his aunt Margaret Hallar of Greenville, SC, and great nieces and nephews Michelle Nieves, Leo Nieves, Nick Vitaro, Erica Tullo, and Jenna Tullo.

Care was provided to Shawl in his last years of life by a loving team of professionals: Cheryl Griffin, Caregiver Manager, and caregivers Carla Charles, Gwendolyn Gaston, Evelyn Johnson, William Lancelot Macias and Andrea Strauss. The team affectionately dubbed Shawl “Sir Frank.”

A memorial celebration took place in Berkeley on Thursday, November 7th attended by hundreds of friends, family, former students, and dance colleagues. 


His family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Frank Shawl Legacy Fund at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center. Gifts in honor of Frank Shawl will support and expand his legacy of dance, expression, artistry and community through residencies, performances and capital projects for generations to come.

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