Carolyn Adams was born in New York City and raised in Harlem. She studied at the Martha Graham School and attended Sarah Lawrence College. When she joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1965, she was the company's only black member and created roles in Taylor master pieces such as Esplanade, Airs, Arden Court, Cloven Kingdom, and Big Bertha. Adams was principal dancer until 1982 and distinguished herself in such Taylor classics as Aureole, Le Sacre du Printemps and Runes. Ms. Adams has performed and taught internationally, restaging and coaching Taylor works for major dance companies including American Ballet Theater, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet.
She has taught at the Juilliard School (1983-2010) where she is currently Faculty Emerita, The Paul Taylor School, the American Dance Festival, Purchase College, Tisch School of the Arts, Brown University, Sarah Lawrence College and others. She served as Director of Education at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival from 1991-1993; she is the Founding Artist Director of the New York State Summer School of the Arts School of Dance since 1989; and Co-Founded the Harlem Dance Foundation. Ms. Adams is a Faculty Advisor to the Ailey/Fordham BFA Juniors and teaches Taylor-based modern at The Ailey School. She also has served on panels for the New York State Council on the Arts, the NEA, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.